Happy New Year! It does seem a somewhat arbitrary marker – this particular calendar day and it seems to me that the solstice would provide a more grounded, natural moment to reflect on the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next – but some time to take stock is better than no time. In the busy-ness of everyday life finding the time to think about what we have recently experienced and what we want to experience in the coming months can be challenging. So having a nationally recognized marker for the end of the old and the start of the new can give us the prompting and the opportunity we may need to reflect.
For many years I spent my New Year in quiet contemplation with a friend undergoing a process we ambitiously named “The Reckoning”. We would go somewhere peaceful and loosely write a number of columns to help us reflect on the year. There would be things I was proud of having done, things I regretted not doing (or doing!), relationships (in three columns – those I found really rewarding, those I found unrewarding and those in the middle), things that I felt the desire to experience in the coming year, and anything else that seemed appropriate at the time. It was comforting to chart the waters about myself at that moment in time and to set some kind of direction for the coming year.
I find that taking the emphasis away from the predominant “resolutions list” changes the quality of reflection away from things I “should” or “must” change to things I want to let go of or move towards. Rather than being propelled by the desire to NOT do something, which I have to forevermore battle against, I am drawn to what I actually want. This way an organic motivation is awakened, so I no longer need to set my own unsteady willpower against the task at hand.
The specific goals are often less important than the experience I’m looking to have in achieving the goal. If we take weight as an example, what might I be looking for if my goal was to lose ten pounds? Underneath the specific weight loss lies a qualitative experience that I imagine I will feel if I lose ten pounds. What I’m really looking for is the experience of feeling more comfortable with my body. Using this approach I might then look at ways in which I could achieve more comfort within my body: taking better care of myself; eating nourishingly (instead of restrictively, which then sets up the inevitable fall from grace, which in turn makes me eat even less healthily); doing activities that bring me into contact with my body (like swimming, massages, walks, or if feeling adventurous, dancing); keeping blood sugar levels balanced (to help avoid cravings to eat unhelpfully calorific snacks). The amazing thing is that this approach has the effect of producing an unforced desire to look after my body instead of pummeling it into shape.
So my advice to you this new year, if you are looking to change anything in your life, is to cultivate the vision of what you want and then to process the blocks that arise to you experiencing this vision. Just as the earth is heavy, static, still at this time, so it is healthy for us to allow ourselves to envision and dream. Allow the seeds of what you desire to gain a foothold in the soil of your psyche. Soon enough it will be time to awaken and take action!