Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

A New Year Transformation

on December 31, 2014

Fireworks 2015

Every year on this day I struggle with three questions: 1) what lessons have I learned this year, 2) what do I want to do differently next year, and 3) why do I seem to need to do this every December 31st?

Let’s start with #3. I’ve thought and written about the annual ritual we observe at the turn of each year (see last year’s blog post here), and I’ve admitted to being mystified by the burden of significance we pay to what is truly just another 24 hours. I mean, the Earth doesn’t stop spinning, the sun doesn’t stop shining, the stars don’t suddenly burst into song at midnight on what we determined a couple of thousand years ago is the 1st day of the new year. The day is only significant because we’ve decided that it is so. And we’ve given it deep spiritual meaning, and we use it as a springboard or a point of origin for the positive changes we want to make in our lives. And we celebrate its coming in a frenzy of manufactured cheer (ok, yes, I think New Year’s Eve is a humbug – I’ve never really been all that excited about it, though I’ve been to some good parties).

I’ve always been a bit skeptical about it all, and lately I’ve become deeply mistrusting about this annual rite of passage. I think the practice of making new year’s resolutions is mostly destructive, although I continue to hope that positive change is possible, for me and everyone else.

That’s it, isn’t it? Hope. It’s all about hope. That’s the reason for the fireworks and the streamers and the confetti and the kissing. We are all, ultimately, hopeful creatures. We hope that the new year will be better than the old one. We hope for better health, better jobs, better relationships. We hope that something magical will happen at the stroke of midnight – the slate will be wiped clean and we can start over. This is a good thing, I think. It is certainly better than having no hope for the future.

But something new has occurred to me as I’ve gone through my annual contemplation of the end of the year, and it is this: I think that the secret to changing the future is all in your head.

People tend to focus on what they need to do to have the life they want – exercise and eat right, go back to school, find a new job – but we don’t spend as much time focused on how we think about our lives as they are right now. Yes, I know, I seem to be veering off into new-agey stuff, but hear me out.

As an exercise, try this. Think of something in your life that is bothering you – it can be a person (spouse, kids, boss), a place (your house, your office), or a thing (your weight, your car, your unfulfilling job), and hold it in your mind. Let all of your anxiety or fear or anger associated with whatever this is flood you; don’t hold back. Feel it all.

Now, holding the image of the source of all these negative feelings in your mind, say “I love you” to it. Say it over and over again. I know you probably don’t mean it, but say it anyway. Entertain the idea that there is something loveable about it, and contemplate that aspect of whatever it is. I have an example of what I’m going to start saying about a “thing” that sometimes gets me down:

“I love my broken down, crappy old car, because it has a story to tell. I love it because it continues to get me where I want to go every day. I love it because even when it got stolen it came back to me.”

Saying “I love you” to my car won’t get me another car. What it will do is transform how I feel about the car I have, removing all the negative thoughts I have about it and freeing me from that particular source of unnecessary anxiety. The lightness I feel from doing this simple thing is amazing, and, knowing that, I have created a list of stuff (people, places and things) I’m going to hold up to the light and send thoughts of love towards.

You have to keep it up, though – it took time to create some of these attitudes, and it will take time to change them. I’m going to write down the things I want to change my mind about and keep the list where I can see it, so that when I start to fall into my customary negative thinking patterns I can stop myself and change the direction of my thoughts.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to the gym. I am suggesting that instead of focusing exclusively on changing the things outside of ourselves that we don’t like, that we also try to change how we think about them. That’s the change I want in the New Year. Yes, I’d love to be svelte and have loads of good-paying work and all that stuff. But I mostly want to be happy and at peace, and I know that no amount of exercise or new contracts will give me the kind of lasting joy that can be had by filling my mind and heart with love for everyone and everything in my life.

I wish the best for all of you. I hope 2015 is filled with joy and health and peace for us all.

**********

photo credit: paloetic via photopin cc

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