How to clear the fog, and make New Year's Resolutions with Guts and Grace.
The year 2016 has sprung into being, and it will, in a blink, cease to be. As all things, it is impermanent. We relish one moment at a time. This is all there is. To be with this unfolding, moment by moment, with peace within ourselves, is the greatest possible gift. We don't really need anything more from this life, but to be with it, and to be present.
Why, then, is it so compelling, somehow, to envision something into being? We know that in the midst of everything simply rising and falling away, the human experience can be made more beautiful by our conscious imagining, and being willing to invest our precious energy to manifest our specific vision. It clears the fog to do so. The trick is to chart the course while simultaneously growing our capacity to lost, and to be with the unknown.
We resolve, we commit, because it is within us to do so. It is an amazing phenomena; a stunningly beautiful part of being human. And this time of year, when we feel the tide of millions of other humans setting their minds to something, we are particularly poised to commit.
To set a resolution, to formulate and commit to a goal can be an act of courage or an act of folly depending on who we are when we go about it. In my humble opinion, there are 5 particular ways to go about it that help to ensure that the process be sane and guarantee growth.
1. LOVE YOURSELF. Commit first to loving yourself as you already are, and commit to loving yourself ever more deeply, regardless of the outcome of any goal-setting process. The deepest goal, the goal that transcends all others, is to meet ourselves with love. Love is the only force that ensures growth.
2. BE FLEXIBLE. Be sure that your commitment to what you are resolving is met with an equal willingness to recieve life as it comes, moment by moment.
3. BE SENSITIVE TO REALITY. Be sure that your commitment honors the reality of your commitments, especially those to the people you love. You have already made resolutions, whether they were conscious or not; honor what you have already created. Keep your integrity, and stay true to all that is beautiful in what you have already manifested. Don't throw babies out with bathwater.
4. BIG PICTURE FIRST. Know your deepest intention before setting specific goals. Your sankalpa, your intention, and your adhikara, your studentship, who you truly are, is more important than the specific acts that you resolve to execute. For instance, I am committed to who I am first, and I create the possibility of becoming more of myself-- specifically the qualities of Sukkha, Moksha, and Viveka. Sukkha is spaciousness at center, and sweetness. Moksha is freedom; the total and complete freedome of knowing who I truly am, of meeting the world as it truly is. And Viveka is discernment. I seek to employ greater discernment in perception and in making choices: I want to be clear and thoughtful about what I need and do not need, what I want to be around and what I don't, what I consume and do not consume, what I speak and do not speak.
5. COMMIT TO ACTION. We cannot not act. The Gita teaches us this. We must choose what actions to take, for in not choosing, we are also making a choice. Once adhikara and sankalpa feel clear, set goals for clear action. Don't be foggy. Know exactly what seeds you are putting in the ground. Be willing to be specific, but not rigid. Commit to timelines. For instance: (these are not mine) I will write one page per day, I will practice meditation 20 minutes daily, etc.
And Another Thing.
Remember: action falls into three categories. So when writing out resolutions, look at life's different demands as part of this triad of karmas. Even the most mundane resolution has its place, and the most sublime does as well. We are healthiest when we feel the value of taking care of our lives in small, boring, trivial ways, AND when we allow ourselves to have gigantic dreams.
The following are the three categories of action:
Nitya Karmas: The necessary acts: those actions that are generally not glamorous but must be done, in order that this organism or that of your dependents thrives. They can be pleasurable but often require discipline. Think: flossing, parent-teacher conferences, excercise, preparing healthy food, mentally cleansing (meditation/therapy/journaling) and attending to your health in general.
Naimittika Karmas: The ceremonial acts: those actions that build the community over time. They can be very pleasurable, or they can be a hassle. Sometimes they can cause you to confront very difficult emotions. Think: birthday parties, weddings, graduations, funerals, rites of passage.
Kama Karmas: The acts that bring enduring pleasure and ensure our deepest possible education and evolution. These acts also often require discipline, or some motivation, to undertake, but once they are underway, they have immense momentum, and are more fulfilling than perhaps any other acts. Think: writing your book, taking an improv class, designing a quilt or a kitchen or an intentional community or a garden, doing a vision quest, learning to ride horses again, going on a yoga retreat.
A good process around New Year's resolutions can provoke deep inner evolution, and let light stream in. Make it beautiful, and make it fun!