I used to make New Year’s resolutions. The process appealed to my love of making lists and putting things in order. However the practice is something that has fallen out of my life. I don’t miss it or the pressure I used to put on myself.
Resolutions at their heart are a commitment to resolving something distracting from the inherent harmony of the universe. To use a musical analogy, when you hear something chaotic, something in you looks for the music to shift the sense of overwhelm caused by the discord. When the music resolves into harmony, you feel a sense of completeness because you’ve experienced the contrast between the two musical states. If you didn’t have the discord, you wouldn’t understand the value of the harmony.
When life gives us contrast, we’re able to make choices on what action to take based on exactly what we see rather than on the judgement we have about something. Judgement is a way of hiding something in an emotionally charged opinion. To use a common example, if I judge myself as “ugly,” I am hiding a sense of unworthiness under a statement about my appearance. It doesn’t matter if I’m actually ugly or not in this case because the judgement doesn’t allow me to see the truth. You could tell me I’m beautiful over and over but my judgement blocks me from seeing reality. However, if I’m able to completely let go of appearance and focus instead on the felt sense of unworthiness, I can start to work with contrast between that sensation and the sensation of worthiness to find resolution.
How does this work? The fact that I feel unworthiness means there is also part of me that knows what worthiness feels like. If I am able to accept that in fact I do feel unworthy, I am facing reality because that is my actual state. Simply seeing that reality without judgement starts the pendulum towards balancing out my perception. In this case I don’t have to resolve to do anything. I don’t have to buy expensive makeup or invest in an intensive physical training program. I simply allow myself to feel what I’m actually feeling: unworthy. Period. There’s nothing wrong with me or nothing to “fix.” This is just what’s going on. When I relax and accept that I feel unworthy this does not put me in a “negative” state. It just puts me exactly where I am. And it passes. Experiences come and go. Feelings come and go.
The beauty of allowing also shows the way to take action. If I decided I needed to buy a new lipstick colour when I was feeling unworthy, I would actually be taking action to get out of the experience of feeling something uncomfortable. However, if I went through the feeling of unworthiness and was in a neutral emotional state, then I would know whether purchasing the new colour would actually bring me joy or if wanting it was just a coverup for something I didn’t want to feel.
Contrasting experiences provide us with the full scale of what’s involved in being human. Experiences of discord give us a perceptual tool to contrast with harmony. We might prefer one experience over another but each one provides us with the knowledge to see the other more clearly and make adjustments from a neutral standpoint of seeing both sides.
So, I no longer make resolutions in an attempt to pressure myself into a different experience. I look at what contrast brings me and point in a new direction to experience something new. Of course I change certain habits but the motivation is different. There is no will or doing because I “should” or “have to.” I’m making choices from a place that’s not emotionally charged or to get out of something uncomfortable. It’s also easier to gain momentum when I’m moving from the enjoyment of the action in contrast to acting from the desire to control my experience.
As we grow in our ability to allow all of our experience, we become equipped to live life in a way where we’re naturally creating resolutions that rise out of seeing the contrast of experience. As we first allow what is, we cultivate the quality of acceptance. From this neutral standpoint we can see the way more clearly as to what truly supports our cycles of living and dying.