Ok, here we are again. It’s New Years day and if you are like me you may be making a New Year’s Resolution or two. You may be feeling a strong sense of commitment, resolve, and excitement about the possibility of achieving your goal; perhaps it’s to loose weight, get fit, establish a daily practice of meditation or exercise. Sounds great! A worthy goal and one that if you could only stick to it, would definitely bring you more happiness and less suffering in many domains of your life!
And, If you’re like me, (and if you look a bit), you can also feel the doubt and pre-emptive discouragement and shame that lingers in the shadows, born from many years of falling off your path. “But this year will be different!” you say, “This time I really will do it!”…….
You are so not alone. I think one of the reasons we get caught in endless loops of determined resolve, then loss of motivation or discipline, then discouragement and shame is that we make our resolutions with our minds and not our body and minds together.
Our minds have a lot of great ideas about how we want to be and what we should do to get there. It just makes sense that if you want to get more fit, you need to stick to a practice. The problem is that there are other aspects of us that have different motivations that are just as strong. And instead of working with these parts of us, we insist on overcoming them and fighting with them as though the only way we will succeed is if we can conquer and eradicate those “self-destructive” or sabotaging forces within us.
So here’s the problem; we can’t eradicate those forces. They are a part of human nature. We have to learn to include them, embrace them and work with them…so they will begin to work with us. These range from the momentary desire to stay in bed because it’s cozy or we haven’t had enough sleep, to the biologically driven draw to sugary, salty, fatty foods, to more hidden emotional motivations like fear of being free and fully alive!
At those moments, when your body and emotions pipe in and say Yeah I don’t think so…that good idea your mind has is not appealing at all; the satisfaction of this cozy bed or of those potato chips looks like it will bring me way more pleasure, coziness, nourishment and safety. Instead of getting mad at this part of yourself, and battling it, deriding it and feeling helpless in its grasp; I invite you to expect it, listen to it, include it and befriend it. These are forces in you that actually want positive things for you….they are just misguided!
The trick to getting back your motivation to get out of bed, or put down the potato chip, must come from your whole body, emotions and mind being in touch with that desire and excitement about your goal. You need to be able to feel what you really want in the moment, not just the difficulty of it, and not just the “idea” or even picture of it.
I recommend the practice; beginning with the moment you make your resolution, of feeling the possibility with your body. If what you really want is to loose 20 pounds, take a moment to “embody” that possibility. Beyond just imagining yourself 20 pounds thinner (which is still an idea), close your eyes and feel what it will feel like to be lighter, freer, to feel comfortable, even proud in your body. Don’t just imagine, feel all the physical and emotional qualities that you are wanting by setting the goal. When you can feel it, gently set your intention to reach this state. Don’t vow, promise or threaten yourself. That creates a struggle. Set your intention in a gentle way while connected to your goal. Intention is actually more powerful than will, which is a state of struggling, fighting and forcing. Then repeat this exercise everyday to return to and remember your intention for yourself.
Then when the resistance shows up….(which it will, I assure you!), slow down, stay present, and bring your attention gently to the embodied feeling of your goal. From this state you can make a choice in this moment what you want to do relative to your goal. If you can’t feel the commitment and possibility of what you want in each moment, it will be easy to choose the old pattern. This declaration of resolution, made today on January 1st, is good only for today. You must make it again anew tomorrow, and the next day and in front of every potato chip and under every warm morning covers. Remember to feel your intention in your body and move from there, not struggle and fight. Our unconscious human nature wins too often when we fight it. But our intention is strong, when we keep it energized.
I wish you gentle, purposeful healing in the new year.