Forget about Resolutions! Set an Intention for the New Year
So you’ve made your New Year’s resolution, maybe even more than one. If you’re like me, you make the same ones every year. Personally, I feel like a failure every year when I inevitably break my resolutions. Those last 10 pounds? Still here. Giving up sweets? Refer to the previous sentence about those last 10 (okay, 15) pounds. My resolution not to lose my temper and raise my voice with my children? I have teenagers — need I say more?
So, this year, I have decided not to make any resolutions at all. Wow, it felt great just writing that! In fact, it’s not my fault, or yours, if you cannot keep your resolutions. The word itself is hard and uncompromising. Resolution, resolute, resolve. Problem solved, game over. Last time I checked I was human (although barely so before my morning coffee) and I am a work in progress.
In the philosophy of yoga there are 10 “commandments” that all yogis should strive to live by, 5 yamas and 5 niyamas. One of my favorite yamas is ahimsa, simply defined as practicing non-violence. Ahimsa is why many yoga practitioners are also vegetarians. Ahimsa also means practicing kindness towards all living things, including yourself. You know what I
mean, that voice in your head? The one that has plenty of negative things to say about you? Turn it off, and try practicing ahimsa. A little trick I use sometimes is to imagine myself at a younger age — a toddler or even a teenager. Would I talk to my younger self that way? When I look back at my younger self all I feel is compassion. I want to give myself a hug and say everything’s going to be okay. I was learning and growing and making lots of mistakes. And the truth is, at almost 42 years old, I am still learning and growing and making mistakes. I am the same person inside. So I practice ahimsa and try to treat myself kindly and with compassion.
So forget about resolutions and set an intention instead. Intentions are like a kinder, gentler resolution. This year I don’t resolve to give up sweets and lose those last 10 (okay, 15) pounds, and I know although I love my teenagers dearly, my patience will be tested and I will raise my voice. My intention this year is to cultivate a regular meditation practice at home. Meditation will help me to be more mindful and being more mindful means I will be more likely to pay attention to what I eat, why I eat and how different foods affect me. It will also help me to be more aware of when I’m reaching my boiling point with the kids and I will be able to take a few breaths and calm down. I am sure I will stray, but luckily an intention is something you can come back to again and again. As sure as February brings unused gym memberships and all the chocolate you can eat by Valentine’s Day, you will
stray from your intentions for the new year. But what a difference from breaking that resolution! With compassion and kindness, you can return to your intention. You will learn and grow and make mistakes along the way.
After all, you are a work in progress.