Here we are again. Composing – on paper or in the hopeful recesses of our mind – the list of personal shortcomings to sort out this coming year. Diet, fitness, money management goals often topping the chart, articulated in well-meaning phrases: “Lose 10lbs by February”, “Get exercise everyday”, “Set up a retirement plan”.
Whatever the agenda, there is usually a clear vision of a desired outcome. And, by mid-January, those very outcomes feel hopelessly unrealistic. Soon enough, the energy driving those very goals just fizzles and capitulates to habit and inertia. We slump into our reclining sofas and extend somnolent hands toward the chips and dip.
By way of example, I wanted to spend the next few Minutes of Mindfulness talking about the word resolution, and how the various definitions of resolutionactually describe the meditative journey, and how reflecting on those definitions might inform our New Year’s agendas.
One definition of resolution comes up as “a formal expression of intention”. In meditative practice we formally establish the intention to be present and see life clearly and directly. That’s the intention. But this intention often gets mixed-up with the goal to ‘be present (all the time) and to see life clearly and directly (now and forever).’
The difference between an intention/aspiration and goal might seem trivial, but in practice the implications of each are huge. With an aspiration we can choose, again and again (tirelessly, even), to realign ourselves with the core values of that intention, no matter how near or far we find ourselves from the mark. For example, no matter how many times the mind wanders in meditation, we can always reconnect with the aspiration to be present to this very breath. In this way, the aspiration allows us to practice with whatever is arising. Everything, the full spectrum of life, becomes a practice opportunity.And each time we attune to that core intention, the commitment to that aspiration becomes stronger.
With goals, however, we invite frustration born out of the comparing mind. Every time the mind wanders from the breath is yet another shred of evidence for the inner-critic that we’re really quite useless at this meditation thing. Far better to throw in the towel than subject oneself to such torment and humiliation.
So whether in your meditation practice or in your New Year’s Resolution work, try formulating the resolution as an aspiration: “I aspire to be present to life”, “I aspire to eat well”, “I aspire to practice kindness”… Whatever it is… use the aspiration to function as a rallying point, something to realign around whenever old behaviors swerve you off center.
Wishing you a safe, healthy and peaceful 2012!!
Originally published on December 30, 2011