I’ve seen more in protest against making new year resolutions than in promoting them this year. When the internet burst on the scene, making it easy as pie to tell the world what to do/think/be, come the cusp of a new year there was an even greater buzz around resolutions, people sharing their objectives and businesses of all kinds (from healers to health clubs) capitalising on the start of a new year to dangle their wares before us and get us to self-develop even more than usual.
It was only a matter of time before new-year-resolution-fad fatigue would set in. It seems that time is now.
But while the idea of ‘new year resolutions’ feels hackneyed and something everyone does unquestionably in sheep-like collective behaviour – like having turkey at Christmas, getting stuck in bank holiday traffic, tanning, and buying chocolate eggs at Easter – there is something rather auspicious about the end of a year and the start of a new one.
The selection of the New Year “date” is essentially arbitrary from a planetary perspective, and there are ample cultural, religious and regional variations on when the actual date is. Though the start of January is when the Earth is closest to the Sun – a point scientists call ‘perihelion’.
The modern celebration of New Year’s Day stems from an ancient Roman custom, the feast of the Roman god Janus: god of doorways and beginnings. The name for the month of January also comes from Janus, who was depicted as having two faces. One face of Janus looked back into the past, and the other peered forward to the future. To celebrate the new year, the Romans made promises to Janus. From this ancient practice comes our tradition of making New Year’s Day resolutions.
So while 1stJanuary is basically nowadays a civil event, it does hold sacred, scientific, historical, symbolic and astronomical significance. To my mind, this makes it an event worth recognising in some form.
If not personal ‘goals’ or resolves to attain (usually love or money) or lose (usually weight or stress) something, here’s a personal suggestion of how to welcome in not only this new year but also new decade.
How about being open to: rediscovery
Yogis and certain spiritual schools of thought believe each human being has a blueprint that makes them unique. We know humans are humans and that we share more than what differentiates us. But at the same time, no two humans are born the same: not just aesthetically different, but also each one unique in their preferences, personality traits and strengths and weaknesses that are deeply embedded from birth. This goes far beyond DNA in the yogis’ eye.
Latter day modern psychology and science almost attest to this, claiming that how a human is in adult life is largely formed by the first few years of their existence – though in the modern science field ‘nurture’, or the environment of the little human (and not just their innate nature), plays a huge part in how they will be later in life.
No doubt how we are parented, where we grow up, and all the life events that we experience while young have an influence on our predilections, habits and choices as we grow up. Yogis don’t deny or counter this. Rather, they believe that there is an ‘essential’ self that runs deeper than the self that is raised, nurtured and conditioned by other people and things. This deeper ingrained self is called our ‘atman’ – sometimes loosely defined as a person’s soul.
We could debate till the cows come home if we have a soul and what is more potent, nature or nurture, or can we even separate the two?
I have come to believe, through my own life experiences, study and regular long term yoga practice that we do have an atman and that it is a kind of ‘original’ self upon which all other life events and DNA affects play out from.
What makes me believe this? I’ll share the reasons here:
- that sometimes, no matter how much I try to change something about me no matter how much effort, will, good strategy, belief and even support – deep down it won’t change and I know it (even if maybe some aspect of it does change or seems to have in the eyes of the world or even a mirror)
- things that I was automatically drawn to when I was very young, drawn to without outside influence of conditioning or promise of any reward, still hold a power and lure within and to me
- rational thought combined with deep heart felt emotion can seemingly be the ideal combination to come to decisions and being ‘wise’ in the world (operating from heart and mind) – and yet, I feel there is something beyond heart and mind that is at play whenever a decision or cross roads or dilemma comes up
- Mother Nature seems the wisest of all identities on the planet and she does not operate from words, feelings or comparison. She is hurt, rewarded and affected by outside influences, but internally she is a force unto herself that comes from something no scientist or philosopher has yet worked out. ‘WE’ human being, are part of mother nature. We too have an internal operation system that no scientists or philosopher has truly fathomed, even though they give it words like ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ or ‘energy’. This ‘un-traceable’ force or aliveness is, for me, a sign of the atman
So why I am sharing this with you in this (new year) blog?
Well, I have only recently come to allow myself to rediscover parts of my being that were there all along. And I have to say, there is such a joy, flow and feeling of being ‘me’ when this happens.
This relates to rediscovering things I enjoy doing but it runs deeper than that. It includes: realising what environments I excel in; sensing when I feel most at home in my body; discovering what seems to stabilise my mood and mind; learning how to best use my energy – and rest. These things and how they are are different for each person.
There is something so unbound, natural and true when – or if – we can connect to the essence of our being.
This is not to say we should ignore working on ourselves or towards goals or needs. But rather, we can have both in tandem operating. And… if we allow for our atman to rise from its usually deeply embedded resting place to the surface of our everyday lives, not only will this add a spring to our step but it will be a powerful, illuminating and trustworthy light upon what we should resolve to attain, and let go of.
The great spiritual teacher of our modern times Ram Dass would say “we are all walking each other home”. I love this idea, but perhaps alongside that our life purpose is about finding our way back home to ourselves.
So, wishing you a happy new year indeed: and a constant voyage of re-discovery as we enter a new decade.