Psychic Advice: No Resolutions
First of all, Happy New Year 2012!
As you probably already know I don’t buy any of the apocalyptic versions of the significance of 2012. But that doesn’t mean I am discounting its importance. Every second is important because we have the ability to make a new choice every single second of our lives so of course 2012 is a significant year. However, there is a lot of millienialist thinking getting internet attention. One version is the Mayan Calendar which is presumed to run out on 21/12/2012 resulting in either a ‘mass shift’ in human attitudes and spiritual outlook or the end of the world if a meteor or another planet should be careless enough to jump orbit and collied with Planet Earth. Then there is the “Ascension” scenario in which 144,000 people are expecting to “ascend” – move on to a different dimension or create a new reality. Of course, there is no evidence for either of those scenarios but that doesn’t stop wild claims from being made. I’m personally willing to take my chances with either outcome – mainly because there is no choice! As one who has not spent years fashioning a “Merkabha” to travel in, I expect to remain subject to the laws of gravity in 2012. If I walk outside on 21 December 2012 and see some of my neighbours rising heavenward, I promise you I will be amazed – and probably commitable! What I do believe in is Intuition and past experience to guide me. Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: The futility of making New Year’s Resolutions in the traditional way.
Psychic Advice: No Resolutions
I never was much good at New Year’s Resolutions. Personally, I think it has to do with Lent. Lent? Yes. Catholics of my generation were brought up on the concept of sacrifice as a precondition to living a good life and a proof of our faithfulness to the church’s teachings. Every year we were quizzed on what we were going to ‘give up’ for Lent. Sweets, of course but other things, too. Like dancing or listening to rock music or attending movies. Pick some things that kids and teens like to do and eliminate them for 40 days and you have Lent. So what’s the connection with New Year’s Resolutions? Both begin with the same assumption: there is something unworthy in us that needs to be changed, improved, or eliminated altogether. We are not only imperfect but inferior beings who need to buck up and improve ourselves. Or hire a Life Coach. This blog is for those of us who don’t have money for a Life Coach and engage in self-directed DIY instead.
Achieving goals without will power
Our culture believes in “will power” despite all the disastrous historical examples of the dangers of relying on the “Will” to shape our destiny. In fact, Will and Destiny are usually at odds with one another. When we are following the path to our real Destiny, we don’t have to rule ourselves with an iron fist. When we are living our Destiny, we realise that Compassion is the highest good – and that includes having Compassion for ourselves. Will power requires that we put on blinkers and dismiss as unimportant anything other than the objective of willing ourselves to achieve something. Will power makes us inflexible and usually insensitive to others as well as to ourselves.
Will Power and Resistance
What happens when you tell yourself, NO? Resistance rears its ugly head immediately and you have a battle on your hands. “Come on, Girl, grow a backbone.” “You are a disgrace; you have no will power.” “How can you hope to set an example for your children when you can’t even keep a promise to yourself?” Etc. “NO” provokes rebellion in us. No one likes to be told NO but it is especially difficult to do when we are imposing the NO on ourselves rather than obeying a ‘higher power’ – or any intimidating power for that matter, like the trainers at the gym. In those circumstances in which we temporarily surrender a portion of our Will to someone else we are exercising Free Will but when we cut ourselves off from possibility and choice we are exercising Will Power. The difference is that Free Will allows for changing your mind; Will Power sees any deviation from the goal as failure.
Willing versus Allowing
My theory is that Resolutions fail for the same reason that most kids never made it from Ash Wednesday to Easter without sneaking at least one candy between their sweet-deprived lips: at some level they knew their will power would fail and they were right. “Will Power” uses aggression and force and both Resolutions and Lenten sacrifices are rooted in the same belief : that we are just not good enough. “No one is perfect. But we should at least try to improve, shouldn’t we?” The question is how you go about initiating and sustaining change and self-condemnation is doing it with emotional violence. There is another way, one that achieves what you want without the emotional bruising that usually causes you to give up on Resolutions.
Traditional Resolutions Versus Gentle Change
The other problem with Resolutions is that they place the cart before horse. We assume we know what needs changing and we make it a Resolution so we will feel guilty if we don’t keep it. Which raises the question: are we changing out of a sense of pre-existing guilt rather than the positive desire to give ourselves a Gift? Aren’t Gifts nicer than Deprivations? Of course, they are. Almost everything we can make into a Resolution could also be a Gift – if we looked at it differently. We could see jogging not as yet another chore that must be done, but as a reward, a gift of fresh air and movement for its own sake, letting our bodies play. Forget the aerobic thing for the moment and look at exercise as Play. Did we see running or skipping rope or roller skating as chores when we were kids? Of course not. They were forms of play and we enjoyed them for their own sake. When we turn something that could be play into something we have to ‘work at’ instead, we set ourselves up for defeat.
Suffering Is Optional – and Un-necessary!
The other mistake we make when we commit to Resolutions is that we set the bar too high. Every wisdom tradition except the Western Jock one recognises that if we want to change something about ourselves we need to start from compassion, not guilt or worse, self-hatred. “No pain, no gain” is a moronic slogan. Humans do far better – especially at the beginning of a new undertaking – when they start with ‘baby steps’ or ‘Zen Mind’, if you prefer. Zen or ‘beginner’s mind’ is an open state of being. There is no resistance in beginner’s mind because nothing is being demanded. “Beginners” are expected to go slowly at first, even to make mistakes, until they acquire the necessary skill to progress to more difficult steps. Would you yell at a two year old for not hitting a home run the first time she picks up a bat? Only if you’re such an egomaniac that you judge everyone’s performance against a standard that demands instant perfection. The point here is that our approach to New Year’s Resolutions is ‘bass-ackwards’. We proceed from a state of perceived inadequacy and then batter our psyches with accusations of weakness and inferiority in the deluded belief that this is the best way to motivate ourselves! This is the Puritan ethic and it is anhedonic – opposed to pleasure unless we feel we can justify it by suffering first. On my first trip to Scotland, I formulated the theory of Scottish Cuisine: you had to suffer through the appallingly bland, unimaginative, stodgy, and usually over-cooked and greasy ‘main course’ to win the right to indulge in a cream filled, clotted cream or custard covered artery clogger known as the ‘sweet’. [Trust me, John Knox has a lot to answer for!]
Experiment In Thinking
So, what is the alternative to the punitive-minded New Year’s Resolution? The same alternative we have before us all the time: preparing our Consciousness for the adventure of a psychic experiment. Not ‘psychic’ as in Psychic Reading, but ‘psychic’ as in a sort of ‘thought experiment’. To paraphrase another popular saying: As in almost every human endeavour, failure to prepare properly is preparing to fail. Fortunately, the preparation we need is relatively straight forward but it will require a re-adjustment of our timetables. The New Year does not begin on January 1 but on the day we finish our preparation and begin to put into practice the new principles for achieving satisfying changes in our lives. That day will be different for everyone. Does that make you feel insecure, anxious? “How can I not start right away? This IS the first day of a new year! I’ve psyched myself up for this! If I don’t start now, I’ll lose my motivation.” I didn’t say the alternative approach to Resolutions would be easy, did I? Actually, re-adjusting your start date is probably the most difficult part of the process; the rest will be much easier because you will have laid the groundwork to succeed rather than relying on will power alone to drive you on. Don’t worry – the prep work won’t take long but it will require a little bit of time. Remember that time is an illusion and dates on calendars are arbitrary creations [with the exception of Solstices and Equinoxes that are set by the Cosmos]. How we perceive time is up to us and that makes all the difference.
Next time on psychic-delia.com: Beginner’s Mind
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Photo credit: London Eye Fireworks courtesy of Wikimedia.