Why we should not make New Year's Resolutions
by Roland Trujillo
At the beginning of the New Year there is a natural
tendency to look forward with hope, to let go of the past, and to start afresh.
This is a very positive thing. The sense of starting anew is a wonderful one. Actually, we should have this positive feeling every morning as we rise to face the new day. ďHope springs eternal.Ē said the poet. Hope is a facet of faith and leads to something to look forward to.
Before addressing New Yearís resolutions, letís first talk about what blocks or ruins a sense of starting anew. We shouldnít have to wait for New Year for this positive sense. It should spring forth naturally every morning. The perfect model for this is the little child who jumps out of bed every morning, full of joy and excitement, looking forward to new discoveries and new adventures. A little child (unless they are being woken up too early to be shuttled off the preschool, daycare, or a horrible public school) will be naturally happy, naturally full of zest and naturally hopeful.
Another way of saying the same thing is that the unpressured child is not burdened by the past. He or she has no worry. Nothing is preying upon his or her mind. No corrupt memory is rising to pull upon his attention and draw him into images of love or hate. In sum: he or she is free to live the present moment fully, giving wholehearted attention to the present moment. Along with this wholehearted attention to the present is a blessed state of mind that is full of peace and quiet excitement. From this arises hope and looking forward to meeting the day. The innocent child is not burdened by the baggage from the past.
But look at what happens to us adults. As soon as we wake up we find ourselves quickly drawn into worry over bills, health, family problems, and work problems. We worry about money and we scheme about ways to get it. We worry about health and we scheme about ways to get cured or alleviate symptoms. We remember something wrong we did and we scheme ways to go undetected or escape the consequences.
If not worry, then our care-free happiness dissipates when we remember the boss we must face, the meeting we must go to, the phone call we must make, the test we must take or the speech we must give. We can actually even dread leaving home.
Remember what Christ said: He said unless you become like little children, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Could it be that he also meant that we should stop reliving the past and worrying about the future? Could it be that He meant we should have a happy go lucky spirit? Could it be that He meant we should have a care-free untroubled spirit? I think so. Our worrying about the future is a consequence and extension of our failure in the past. The person who has no history of failure has no fear of the future. The person who will one day be able to drop all the baggage from the past is the one who is willing to observe past failings and stop trying to deal with them egotistically.
In the Sermon on the Mount, He told us to not worry about the future. In the Lordís Prayer, we are instructed to ask for ďthis day our daily bread,Ē not our monthly bread. He definitely wants us to live one day at a time. In fact, the Kingdom of Heaven is realized in the moment: one moment at a time in the living present.
At this point I will mention the wrong way of dealing with the burdens of the past before addressing the right way. The wrong way is to try to fret, plan and scheme our way out of our problems. What we are really looking for when we do this is not truth but escape. If not an easy way out, then escape from seeing the truth that we failed. But escape is not really dealing with the cause of the problem. If you suddenly had all the money in the world, you might be able to buy an escape, but the flaw in your nature would be hidden, and that flaw would remain dormant until later in life a temptation would arise that ferreted out that flaw. And this time it would be too late even for all the money in the world.
Our basic flaws, of course, are a lack of faith; otherwise we would not worry. We tend to place too much stock in thinking or our own cleverness. Therefore instead of crying out to God, we look to thinking for answers. Because thinking is shallow and misleads us, we are led into more trouble that way. We also tend to put to much confidence in experts. We look to them to give us ideas or plans. Admittedly, we have a temporary hope and relief in following their plan or regimen. But when we follow it and then find ourselves even worse off, we are disappointed and resentful.
Early in life, it is easy to escape into involvement in work, relationships, business, or hobbies. We can get involved in anything. We can look forward to a meal. Then, while eating the meal, we look forward to dessert. While eating dessert, we look forward to an after dinner drink, then to a movie, etc. We look forward to an event, a feast, or something new. This is natural for children and for young people. But at a certain point in our life, we must also have another source of hopeónot in an upcoming event or activity. But an abiding hope in our Creatoróa hope that comes from a real connection to the Truth and Good that spring forth eternally in each moment.
The reason we make New Yearís resolutions is because we have a natural desire to start anew and we have a natural desire to make good this time (instead of failing, as we always have in the past). The problem with a New Year's resolution is that it usually revolves around thinking up some plan and then devoting ourselves to it. Once again, we are seeking to impose our plan on life instead of waiting for Godís plan to unfold.
Secondly, our resolutions have to do with eliminating problems or symptoms which arise from past mishandling and failure. Had we not failed in the past, we would not have any worry or reoccurring problem in the present.
Perhaps you can now see what our memories, fixations, hang ups, and inadequacies are representative of: spiritual failure, such as not holding fast to principle, doubting, and resentment. Spiritual failing is also not dealing graciously with the false worship of others or their teasing put downs. It is hating our parents and resenting them for their failure to protect us or guide us properly.
Our failure is often in the face of pressure. When others pressure us, we tend to yield and give way, often doing something that conflicts with our own intuition. Other times, we resist the pressure with resentment, and then out of guilt, give in. We must learn to admit our failing in the past and we must learn how to deal with pressure gracefully from now on.
Spiritual failure is not handling something just right. Why, for example worry about taking a test? It is because of some mishandling: making it too important; being overly concerned about what others think, wanting to prove something to someone, seeking knowledge to support pride, or having resented anotherís criticism or negative suggestions about your ability. By giving up resentment, we will be able to face what we failed before, and now see it for what it is without becoming resentful or ambitious before it. Both resentment and ambition make us nervous and inferior.
Do you see how subtle it can be? Often it is because of an inherited tendency to yield to pressure or because no one taught us how to deal with pressure. Another of our inherited failings is that of revering and listening to outside authority more than our own intuition. We are often led into error by following external authorities, including teachers who are often misguided themselves.
Perhaps you can see that we need proper guidance. As kids we inherited failing natures, gullible and easily swayed. We made mistakes and then we didnít want to see or admit our errors. We denied our faults, which only kept us subject to them. We blamed others, which made the memory stick in our craw.
That is why we become burdened by the past. We mishandled something or we failed in the past. We donít want to admit we failed, we fear failing again, and we want to scheme our way out of it.
What we need now is proper guidance about how to deal with the memory without resentment and upset. We also need guidance in how to deal with new pressure situations that resemble past ones, so that this time we can make a new start by handling it right. Fortunately that guidance is available from intuition.
The Light of Truth, which shines wordlessly through the still soul, contains all the elements needed to restore a happy and blessed present and a successful future. It contains understanding about your own nature as well as patience with the failings of others. It contains grace, forgiveness, and peace of mind. It will also guide you, with extremely subtle guidance, moment by moment. As you donít go the wrong way (often by simply seeing it is the wrong way) and as you are patient with others instead of judging them, your life will build one step at a time. By placing your faith in God and His infallible intuitive guidance, you can give up worrying and scheming, which will suddenly seem pointless. Life will be more of a discovery process: waiting without worry for the good you know will come, even though you donít know how or where it will come from.
The solution to your problem lies in the proper application of the meditation exercise. It teaches you how to be in the present moment and in touch with your intuition. It teaches you how to get out of the imagination and closer to conscience, wherein is the essence of patience, understanding, love, and faith that you need. You cannot give yourself any of these. But they come to you as a natural result of seeking Truth and not resenting others. Once you learn how to be friends with conscience, the delicate moment to moment guidance will be there. And when you know it is there and learn to trust it, it will give you the courage and the hope to face the adventures that will come your way.