New Year’s resolutions: giving good fortune a helping hand

Ahh here comes the chance to throw out the old self and design and build a new and improved version. Promises are made to exercise more, eat better, turn off the phone for longer and learn to play the trumpet. By achieving all of this it will be possible to get away from all the painful things in life and then finally happiness will abound.

There is research to show that markers like New Year are the most effective time to set resolutions; the brain is ready and open to see the opportunity for change. But resolutions are often underlain by the assumption we should always be trying to be better than we are now; a message that also means ‘what we are at the moment is not good enough’. Seeing it like this the desire for change risks being an aggressive act toward ourselves, bringing on low self esteem and self hate. As my friend Polly said

“Yoga and motherhood have shown me the goal should be to do less and to be more open and accept all feelings as they arise so they don’t pop up at a less convenient time.”

IG @yogawithpolly

I recently heard someone describe good luck as needing a little bit of a push sometimes, whereas bad luck is a ruder god as it comes crashing in, unexpected and uninvited. I think the same theory applies to resolutions and targets; for the good stuff to happen we need to create the right space and balance for it enter. Instead of shutting down the unpleasantness and pain, we can open to it and acknowledge it. Often our neurosis and wisdom come from the same place, so if we try deny the former we will also be alienating ourselves from the latter. In this way, Pema Chodron describes meditation as

seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have and the people who are in our lives. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.

Pema Chodron from “The Wisdom of No Escape”

And so with this New Year, or this new month or new week or new day or new hour or even with this new breath we can simply stop and notice how it is for us right now. When this wisdom develops then the ability to nurture the good in our lives will have the space to grow. We will have given ‘good luck’ the little push it required.

Barry White and Mindfulness

I own no right to this image at all

Earlier today I heard “Let the music play” for the first time in I don’t know how long. I am not a Mr White officianado, but I do love this tune and especially the long version. In it Barry is out walking the streets after what we can presume is a barney with his woman. Barry is feeling bad about this, very bad in fact. He happens upon a night club and once inside,as the title suggests, just wants the dj to let the music play all through the night so he can dance away his blues.

Everyone fails and has their plans thwarted. We all make mistakes and do and say things we regret both instantly and over a long period. So we all are intimate with that feeling of rawness and vulnerability when it happens. Often, we try mask those sensations by muffling or running away from them. But doing this just denies reality. Refusing to accept such emotions leads us to blaming others and/or ourselves and eventually to addictions, both gentle and harsh.

Instead we could try to lean in a little to the pain and learn to relax a bit with the truth of change and groundlessness. If that happens, then we can begin to experience that just as circumstances are always impermanent, then so are our feelings and emotions. They are not us, they too are merely passing by. When we have that knowledge, we will not only be kinder to ourselves, but a compassion for all people will naturally arise as we see how everyone is sailing this same storm.

In fact, we can tell that Barry White did this. He must have paused, breathed and turned towards feelings of pain and negativity. If he had never done that in his life he could not have written such words and the tune to go with them. By “holding the rawness of vulnerability in his heart” (Pema Chodron) he has seen a common humanity in suffering and made some dam funky art out of it.

I’m out here dancing and still/ I can’t erase the things I feel.