Why make a New Year’s resolution?
Let’s be honest, we celebrate January 1st as the New Year for ultimately arbitrary reasons. It’s our obsession with time that forces us to mark calendars and plan ahead. And while time is a necessary part of our lives and we need it to make our world work, we definitely put way too much emphasis on it. We plan and we wait, we anticipate and we disappoint. Something needs to happen now or something needs to wait for something else to happen. I’ll just be happy when this one thing happens. Speed up time, slow it down. If I could just do this one thing, everything would be ok.
A common theme throughout much of what I have read lately points to the idea of nonresistance. It seems something has been tugging me to write about it. The idea of not resisting reality, not resisting time.
In A New Earth Eckhart Tolle talks about the legend of a King who was constantly in emotional turmoil. He was the modern day equivalent of bipolar and just couldn’t seem to get his head right. He had heard of a wise old man and brought the man to his castle, asking him what the secret to happiness was. The old man gave him a simple ring inscribed with the words “this, too, shall pass”. He told the King to stop and look at the ring before he reacted to any event. This was the key to happiness. Whether good or bad, everything is transient, so relying on any outside source for happiness is misguided. Things will change, people will move on, bank accounts will fluctuate. Can you react to the good and the bad with equal non-attachment? Can you accept where you are right now and move forward from a place of quiet contentment?
The Tao Te Ching says:
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?
Do you have the patience to wait until the right action arises by itself?”
Tolle simplifies this a bit when he says you must act from a place of stillness, it does nothing to act out of anger or hurt. He says, if you are stuck in the mud you must accept that you are stuck in the mud before you can get out. Getting worked up and angry, or even worse making the situation bigger than it is (I think we’ve all had those ‘the world is out to get me and only me!’ moments) will do nothing to help you get out and will most likely make the situation worse.
I think most of us make New Year’s resolutions from places of shame or anger or hurt. We resolve to lose weight because we’re unhappy with our bodies, we resolve to make more money, we resolve to get a better job....whatever it may be it comes from a place of discontent. Maybe this is why so many of us fail. This random moment in time becomes a symbol to us of a wiping away of everything that we currently dislike about our lives. We examine our situations and try to figure out what we need to make us happy. The thought process becomes “I am unhappy now, but if I just lose those 15lbs. I can be happy”. We’re doing it wrong. The end result will never make us truly happy.
On a side note, I think there is something to be said for a collective dusting off of our lives. A resounding “let’s do it” that makes everyone feel like anything is possible. If we could capture that energy and separate it from the negative lining, I think this time of year would be incredibly invigorating and as we saw our lives increasing, there would be no February drop off, no collective giving up and slowly drudging back into old habits until another round of resolutions. We could maintain.
So, let us resolve this year to stop resisting what is. Let us resolve to make resolutions not out of guilt or shame or self-loathing, but out of a genuine desire to live fuller. Let us resolve to recognize that our own happiness can come from nowhere but ourselves; no relationship, no food, no electronic device, no numbers in a bank account. Let us resolve to be still and listen to ourselves, to what we really want and how to get it. And let us resolve to be happy, even if it’s not what we expected.