Resolution revolution

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I love the energy of a new year. As a Jewish woman, I get to capitalize on this new start not once, but twice, in every 365 day revolution of the earth around the sun. And every year, both in September at Rosh Hashana when the Jewish year turns over, and again, in January, I make my new year resolutions. Normally, in September, my resolutions are of a more spiritual/ethical nature; I aim to meditate more, volunteer more at my synagogue, get angry less often. In January, they tend to be related more to the physical and material world – get to the gym 4 times a week, organize my file cabinet, eat more vegetables, clean out my closets. Nonetheless, a few months into it, I find that many of my promises to self are forgotten, and I eagerly await the coming of the next new year so I can start all over again. In talking with patients and friends, I know that I am not alone with my cluttered closets and underused gym shoes – resolutions, like rules, are made to be broken. So, why resolve to do anything at all? Why not just stop making the vows we’re bound to break? When a researcher doesn’t find a cure for something, he doesn’t just throw in the towel. When a mathematician is baffled by a challenging proof, she doesn’t simply give up. Each new day, each new year, is a chance to take a new stab at something. If you don’t solve something right the first time, then you solve and re-solve it again. I believe that growth and self-improvement comes not by meeting our goals, but simply by setting them and moving towards them. As we put forth our intentions to become kinder, calmer, and healthier, we charting our courses in a positive direction. We may move off course slightly, we may even lose our way entirely, but we can always return to the basic ideals we’ve established. I often liken this to the practice of meditation. In meditation, practitioners aim to keep their attention centered and focused on their breath. Invariably, internal thoughts and external sensations will distract the meditator from his or her focus. The goal for the meditator is not necessarily to clear the mind, but to recognize how and to where the mind wants to stray, and to bring the attention back to the movement of the breath. Likewise, our work is not necessarily to carry out all of our plans and resolutions, but to notice what blocked our momentum. The next step, then, is to consider how we can minimize or remove these obstacles so that we may move further along our charted path. Our job is to notice these obstacles with a spirit of loving-kindness toward ourselves, and a total suspension of self-judgment. Then, we can again true up to course, and forge ahead. As the new year approaches, take stock of your progress in the passing year. Notice what goals you achieved, and where you struggled with or abandoned others. Recognize the things that blocked your progress. When we are able to take an honest look at how and where we get stuck, and approach ourselves with kindness, not criticism, we can begin to move through the rough spots. A resolution is a re-solution—another chance to solve a problem, to overcome an obstacle. Be gentle with yourself. Applaud yourself for your effort, strengthen your resolve, and resolve again. re-solve again. Happy New Year!

By Dr. Marla Cohen 12/21/2006 06:19 PM

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