With the New Year upon us, I found myself wondering about the word resolution. What does it mean? What is the root of the tradition for using this time of the year to resolve? What needs resolution?
I used to set resolutions without really thinking about what it meant. Probably because it’s “what you do”. They weren’t all that meaningful for me and, as I think back now, they came from a place that wasn’t authentic or from the heart or concerned with actual growth, but out of pain or lack or feeling like something was wrong and needed to be “fixed”. A place of scrutiny, judgement and “self-improvement”.
I explored a bit about the history of setting New Year’s resolutions and discovered that we have been practicing this tradition for at least 4,000 years (starting in Babylonia). The tradition has changed over time, as they do. From focusing on the external – wellbeing of the community, honouring gods, reinstating or replacing an existing King, or offering thanks and gratitude for planting the crops, praying and, more recently, clearing off any financial debts from the previous year or returning items that we borrowed, to what we do now which is often more focused on the individual rather than the whole.
The time of New Year is different in different cultures and places in the world. For some, it’s in the darkness of the beginning of winter where we honour the ancestors who came before or choose to reflect upon what the past year has offered and what to bring into the next. For others it’s January 1st on the Gregorian calendar (the Romans or Julian calendar used to celebrate in March which honoured war but later moved the start of the year to honour the home and hearth). For others it’s still in the Springtime.
The practice of letting go what no longer serves you and calling in what you would like to incorporate for yourself (and your life) is one that repeats throughout many cycles – daily, monthly, yearly, and in larger cycles of decades or even centuries.
For example, each moon cycle provides the energy to release (associated with the Full Moon) and setting intentions or seeds to grow at the New Moon (as the energy is receptive and will increase in power through waxing to the next Full Moon).
Those aren’t resolutions though. They have a different quality – they’re often set as a positive affirmation or statement – sometimes simply a word that comes into consciousness and is planted way deep down within. A seed that needs to be nurtured and will grow with the support of the energy of the moon (or other cycles larger than ourselves, even though we are active participants in this growth through our own awareness).
My research led me to look up the definition of resolution which means a firm decision to do or not to do something or the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. To me, that means that a resolution means there is something wrong. Something that we believe is a problem with us that needs to be fixed. The energy behind resolving to fix ourselves feels to me like an aggressive energy fuels the desired shift.
Like each New Moon, each New Year provides an opportunity for growth, but is a “resolution” something that is supportive to you and to that growth?
Why do anything under the guise of self-aggression? Self-hatred? Lack of worth?
Energy feeds energy.
Energy that stems from the roots of pressure (societal or self), self-hatred, guilt, or the believe that “if I just fix this or that, then my life will be better” or “I will be better”, seems to set up an equation of self-inflicted expectations and judgments that add up to an understanding that something within us is fundamentally wrong.
If we focus on a resolution that is fueled by this pressure, we’ll just keep adding more pressure to ourselves to fix something that isn’t broken to begin with.
You are already whole.
Those parts of ourselves that crave the change we seek are calling out for healing, not resolution.
Instead of resolving, why not look a bit deeper to what underneath all the chatter of the mind wants attention. What aspects of ourselves do we ignore? What standards are we trying to live up to? What measurements? How long is the measuring tape? Does it have an end? Where did it come from to begin with?
This year, instead of a New Year’s resolution why not find something to accept.
Sit for a moment and close your eyes. Feel into your heart and hear the part of you that calls out for that acceptance. Give yourself that gift. Receive it. As fully as you possibly can.
Stay with yourself. Listen. Start to see one thing you like about yourself. Accept it.
Start to see one thing you don’t like about yourself. Accept it.
See as many aspects of yourself as you’d like. Perhaps one is enough. Maybe more. Stay with any feelings that may arise in your body. Accept it all.
Maybe see one thing from the past year that you wish was different. Something you’ve replayed over and over in your mind as if you could reach back in time and force it to change or be different. What happens when you tell that thing “I accept you”, “I accept that this happened”, and then let it go. Even a little bit.
To resolve is to be at war with yourself.
To accept is to give and receive the unconditional love you need.
In time, self-acceptance replaces self-aggression and compassion grows from within you, radiating out to those around you, as you remember and recover your wholeness.