So, today is the day where easily the most annoying question anyone could ask you is “Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?”
“Yes, actually - my New Year’s resolution is to stop hanging out with people who want to ask me if I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions!”
The concept of New Years resolutions traces back over 4000 years to the ancient Babylonian people who are thought to be the first culture to celebrate each New Year (albeit their New Year began in March as it was linked to their farming and harvesting calendar) and along with the celebrations they would make promises to their gods for living a more altruistic life, paying back debts and returning borrowed items.
These days, New Year’s resolutions have morphed into weighty commitments to living an aspirationally better life by becoming slimmer, fitter, learning a new language, reading more high-brow books, shopping less, walking more and generally giving up anything we’ve enjoyed in life in the previous year.
We put such pressure on ourselves to cut things out of our lives while adding even more things to our ‘must do’ lists - and in January of all months, the most gloomy month of the year - and then when we ‘fail’ by the 15th of January we may as well tar and feather ourselves for the disappointment and self-loathing we feel!
While of course it is always a good thing to look at ways to improve our lives, our health, our emotional wellbeing and how we interact with other people in our world, making steadfast resolutions that are fixed and unerring can be counter-productive to us achieving what we want and where we want to get to.
Instead of resolutions - as in resolving to do or stop doing something, simply because the date on the calendar has changed, why not think of the more tangible concept of setting intentions, as in the form of realistic goals and desires that you can plan for and work towards, one day at a time.
There does not need to be a January 1st cut-off point for stopping or starting something. A heartfelt and realistic intention is more of a quiet commitment to yourself to go for what you want more or less of in your life, knowing that it will require planning and take time, while accepting that at times there may be steps backward along with the intentional steps forward.
In Yoga, in the practice of Pranayama, every breath is a renewal. We are ‘born again’ with every inhalation. Every exhalation is a letting go of what was before.
Isn’t that a beautiful way of looking at the process of personal development and emotional growth?
With each breath we begin again, as the perfectly imperfect human beings that we are.
It is a lifelong path of being and feeling the best we can; it’s not a tightrope that we can fall from and never get back on.
So as we all enter this New Year, let’s think upon ourselves with kindness and not ask of ourselves unrealistic and unattainable things that will hurt & hinder us.
Instead, think of some beautiful intentions that excite and inspire you, that you can carry with you, plan for and gently work towards in your own sweet time.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote from Lama Surya Das, a modern western Buddhist teacher, who perfectly sums up the concept of continual renewal.
Happy New Year to you all,
Love, Sarah & Susie x