By: Darrell MacAulay
The New Year. It is almost impossible to think about the new year without thinking about the old one. A cursory examination of last year’s major headlines quickly reveals this is a deeply troubling and challenging time to be alive. Fears, suffering, and widespread violence are broadcast everywhere, the ideologies of globalization and the push for continued growth have usurped the significance of healthy, local communities, and there is a slowly dawning comprehension that the human race has barely reached its adolescent stage, developmentally speaking.
At the same time, this is a wildly exciting and transformative time to be alive. There are signs of regeneration and rebirth everywhere such as the incorporation of sustainable practices and increasing accountability creeping into corporate policy, and an increasing value on all things natural and organic. The formation of countless grassroots organizations arising in response to the needs of their communities are addressing a wide range of complex issues including local economy, ecology, and equity, such as micro-loans and crowd funding platforms that encourage small business, and community gardens and urban farms in neighborhoods previously considered food deserts.
So how do we navigate this complex and dynamic state of affairs? Although it seems that entering a new year is laced with an implied request for a resolution that addresses how we are going to make it better, whether it is the planet, the community, your home, or yourself, I would like to propose a different perspective. First of all, if you are an individual who is truly content with yourself and the world around you, maybe you would consider sharing your insights with those of us who have some sense of continued suffering or discontent. I know I’d like as many opportunities to soak up the wisdom and energy of anyone who has come to this place of internal peace. If you are not one of those people however, perhaps you might consider approaching the new year in a different way.
Rather than think about the standard new year’s resolution, what’s wrong with the world or with yourself, and how you are going to make it better or set an intention to do some future good, I invite you to relax into the space you are already in. That might deter many as I’ve discovered that people don’t like to simply be, neither who nor where they are. Rather than jumping into action, busying yourself with the specifics of how, what, who, when and where you are going to make a difference, take some of the deep time perspective mentioned above and slow down. In fact, sit or lie down and simply be present to how you feel without doing anything at all.
The first step in knowing where you want to go is knowing where you are. Raising awareness about your own internal state of affairs with special attention to your bodily sensations will give you an unlimited fount of information from which you can draw in order to make effective plans and joyful decisions. But you’ve got to be willing to be still and quiet long enough to discover what is already present.
Without exception, we humans have learned to fill our minds with narratives, stories by which we live and create our lives. No doubt some of those stories are wonderful, full of heroes, villains, enlightened beings and idealized love. But they are still stories, many of them vastly complicated, and as comfortable as they are they keep our minds captive rather than allowing our attention to be directed towards our bodies and how we actually feel.
By releasing ourselves from our familiar method of logically thinking things through to determine our next steps, we can tap directly into our inherent guidance system greatly simplifying the whole process. When we entertain a particular thought, there is always a corresponding sensation in our bodies, subtle though it may be. Increasing our ability to distinguish how we feel about the thought we are entertaining holds the key to clearly navigating our path.
Sensations such as tightness in our chest, knots in our stomach, shallow or constricted breathing, or tensed muscles in our forehead or jaw can all be indicators that the thing we are thinking about is perhaps not the best direction to move in or might be fraught with difficulty. Alternately, feelings that expand our lungs, send warmth into our gut, relax our shoulders, straighten our back or bubble up from below to create a lightness of being might be signs that whatever is on your mind holds the key to something valuable worth exploring.
Practicing this kind of awareness not only leads us straight into an attitude of eager anticipation, but builds trust in ourselves and affords a promise of a deeply congruent experience, no matter the outcome. Any time we lose our way and begin to feel at odds with ourselves or our environment, we can easily return to the reference points anchored in our body and reconnect to the way we feel, both emotionally and physically, to determine the next best step based on the information we receive. You can think of it as a built-in GPS for navigating through life!
If that wasn’t enough to help you relax into less doing and more being, think about the roots of the word resolution. The earliest record from the early 15th century defines it as ” breaking into parts”, which comes from Latin words meaning the “process of reducing things into simpler forms” and “loosen”. So, as you prepare for the arrival of the new year, I invite you to loosen up, to let go of your expectations of yourself and others that stem from fabricated ideas of what makes something better and to begin to appreciate all the parts that make up your current experience, including your senses, emotions and intellect.
This simplification will allow you to move into compassionate action based on what is most meaningful to you with all the added benefits that accompany living with an open heart. Aligning our inner world of thoughts and feelings is one of the most powerful ways we can engage with the external world, no matter the state of affairs. And with practice, we realize that we are always new in every moment and in every new year.
Darrell MacAulay is a graduate student of consciousness and transformative studies. Questions and comments welcome: [email protected].