This article was originally published in 2018 for Natural Awakenings Magazine.
If you’ve tried to make changes in your life or in your behavior at the start of the New Year – or any other time for that matter – and find that you start out gung ho, but lose momentum, you’re not alone.
What I most want you to know is that this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, lacking in self-control, determination, discipline, or willpower.
In my experience, it simply means that the rational “thinking” part of you wants to make certain changes but other parts of you do not. These other parts of you do not live in the frontal cortex where rational thinking and problem solving take place, but live in the bodymind or unconscious mind. They consist of energy in the form of conflicting beliefs, programs, or suppressed emotions and were often set in place when you were much younger.
Let’s use losing weight as an example. I trust that you are informed enough to know what foods and exercise habits will support you in losing weight and which will not. So this rational informed part of you tries to eat right and exercise, but another part of you, which you may or may not be conscious of says, "Yeah? Make me. I want to eat whatever I want to eat when I want to eat it. Thank you very much.” There may be another part of you that already feels deprived and unloved and feels that you are taking away the only way she knows how to treat herself or comfort herself.
Any place in you that is hurting and feels unheard, may stay quiet and “behave” for awhile, but if you continue to ignore these parts of you, push them away, or try to control them, they will eventually act out with a vengeance. This is why people sometimes engage in secretive splurging and eventually sabotage their good intentions. This is how these unheard parts finally have their say.
(Sometimes people try to “program” their unconscious minds with positive affirmations. If this strategy works for you, then by all means, please continue. But I see so many people who have been unable to make their desired changes this way, and feel bad about themselves as a result. There are a couple of reasons this strategy often does not work. First of all, the unconscious mind is about a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. Secondly, this technique is often done with an energy of control versus love).
The way to escape this cycle is not through more self-control or beating yourself up, but by learning how to listen to these hurt parts of yourself versus trying to control them. Like all hurt children, they just want to be heard and understood. When you can learn how to do this with genuine compassion, they will release their grip and their demands will quiet.
Beyond goals and intentions, even beyond self-improvement, lie your heart's deepest desires. Driving every desire for more friends, more money, and greater health is the longing for the feeling state that you believe achieving or having these things will provide.
While it's perfectly natural for you to follow your dreams and desires, after all you were created by a creator and will always tend to ask, "Next?," it might be worthwhile to explore what's driving them. Doing so is not meant to bring judgment to your desires, but to loosen any angst around them, to release any sense of, "When ___ happens, I'll feel better/be happier" etc., and to essentially open up to the feeling state you're trying to achieve and its presence as it might be available right here, right now.
Have a pen and paper handy. Take time to make yourself comfortable, get grounded, and breathe. Scan your body and see if you can get a sense of anything you might be holding, either in the form of body sensations or feelings, and allow yourself to simply be present with them as you breathe. Take time to do this until you feel that you're in a relatively quiet, relaxed state. Then feel into your chest, in the area around your heart, and ask yourself, "What is my heart's deepest desire?" See if you can wait and simply allow whatever comes to come. Remember you're asking your heart, not your head. Whatever comes, whether it makes sense or not, jot it down briefly. If nothing comes, just breathe and ask again.
Ask as many times as you'd like, pausing to write down, sit with, be with, and breathe with each answer. You might notice that your answers change or they may stay the same. It really doesn't matter.
Select one of your most consistent answers or the one that feels strongest to you and ask yourself, "What feeling state will I have when I have this, that I don't have now?" Breathe and notice the first thing that pops in your mind. Then ask yourself, "If I could, would I be willing to let myself have that feeling now, in this moment, for just this moment?" Or, "Would I be open to the possibility of having that feeling now?"
You don't have to know how. You don't have to get into a debate with yourself about how you can't possibly feel what you're wanting to feel until __ happens. Just see if you'd be willing or be open, just a little bit, to having the feeling now.
Just do your best. If you'd like help with this, please let me know. If you've worked with me before, we can do this over the phone.
If you get nothing else out of this exercise, you will at least have some insight into what deeper desire might be driving the more conscious desire. And sometimes when you can validate the deeper desires of your heart, some of the angst about when and where and how you'll get them, will relax.
As I emerged from sleep last Saturday morning, my mind drifted forward to the day ahead - the plans I'd made, the things I wanted to do, needed to do, felt I should do. And I became aware of a familiar feeling - a low-grade dissatisfaction or boredom, and a sense of wanting more. I tend to blame this feeling on living alone or not having a greater sense of community around me.
So I started revisiting some thoughts I've had before about how to fix this. Should I move? Should I try to find and make more friends? Would I be happier being married? But as I imagined myself spending my day with my new imaginary friends and doing the things I think I would enjoy, I became aware of how temporary it all felt. At the end of the day, I would still come home and do my evening chores and deal with what was mine to deal with, alone. And if I was married, we would go to bed and start over the next day and one day, one of us would die.
If you're not yet 50 this might sound morbid. You might not think about death as much as I do. But there comes a time when death becomes more of a reality and less of something that's going to happen "one day," off in some sort of vague, distant future. And with this awareness comes a stronger desire to not only look to what's really important, but to reflect back on your life and question if getting your outer life just like you wanted it has ever really been the key to lasting happiness.
It was with this felt-awareness of the fleeting quality of situational happiness that I made a subtle but important shift. I turned my attention from the solutions, images, and strategies that my mind had conjured up, like a movie in my head, and came back to my body and my breath. When I did, I realized that what I really wanted was not more, but deeper. And so I sank into my own beingness and found all that I was looking for - belonging, connection, fullness, and peace.
From this depth, this felt-experience of oneness with Self, I feel I can accomplish most anything, and do so with a sense of freedom and fullness. There's nothing left to get, nothing left to fix, and no future state of being or feeling to achieve. It's all here now.
My New Year's wish for you dear friend, is that as you set your goals and intentions and reflect on your hopes and dreams for the coming year, that you're able to take the time to experience within yourself this deeper truth . . . all that you are seeking, you already have, and already are.
Best and Deepest New Year to you and yours.