I prefer to set New Year's intentions rather than to make resolutions. It may seem like a matter of semantics, yet I believe it is deeper than that. Resolutions, to me, have a sense of immobility, of rigidness. It feels like something placed on me from the outside, rather than something coming from within me. I feel resolutions as something I have to do or should do. I don't know about you, but when I am told that I should do something, even if the message comes from myself, I feel a wall of resistance rise up in me, a sense of pushing away. When that happens it removes the joy from the path of action towards the goal of the resolution, and also diminishes the amount of joy I feel when I reach the goal, if I ever even get there!
An intention, on the other hand, feels like an invitation, an offering, something given to me rather than demanded from me.
An intention feels like it rises up from a place deep within me. I experience it as something alive and growing, more dynamic and flexible than a resolution. I've recently been reading books by Ellen Langer, The Power of Mindful Learning and On Becoming an Artist. She describes mindfulness as the act of noticing what is new or novel. An intention allows me, again invites me, to experience the present moment with newness because of its dynamic and alive energy. The ways in which an intention can express itself in my life grow and shift, thereby sharpening my mindfulness as I notice the novelty of the expression.
Let me explore with you the difference between a resolution and intention of the same thing as I experience them. For example I can say I resolve to be more kind in 2018. Immediately as I say that I feel a rigidness form in the center of my body. It is as if a solid rod forms at the base of my skull, extends down my spine and into the ground. I also have the sense of another rod in my hand, held vertically, and I pound it up and down, solidifying my resolve to be more kind. I feel myself in a stance as if I am a guard at the castle gate, holding my ground, challenging all who might enter. Standing my ground can be a good thing, but in this case I feel the rigidness of it and like a guard at the gates of Buckingham Palace who stand rigidly still, only looking forward, never distracted by the tourist taking selfies with them, I feel my vision is straight forward, narrowed, as if I am saying this is the only way it can be.
In this state, kindness becomes something I believe I should do; the way I am supposed to act. I also become very limited in my thinking of how I might express kindness. My vision is narrow so my perception of the ways kindness might be expressed are restricted. My body is so rigid I can't feel kindness. It is something outside of me that I can't connect to.
If I say I am setting my intention to be more kind in 2018 I have a completely different felt experience. I feel the intention emerge up and forth from my root chakra as if it were a growing thing. As it grows I feel its branches move out through all of my body, searching, exploring, feeling, being curious. As the branches reach my throat I can begin to sense possible ways I might vocalize kindness. When it reaches my eyes, my vision softens and broadens and I imagine ways I might see kindness. I feel my spine grow upright and tall. Rather than being rigid like a rod, is it supple and flexible, able to respond to life, like a live tree can sway in response to the wind.
Allowing more kindness is one of my intentions for 2018. As I am in my approach with compassion and love, I intend to be more kind to myself first, for when I can be more genuine and generous in kindness to myself, I am more genuine and generous in kindness to others.
I wish you a very Happy New Year!
May you know kindness.
May you know your own courage and strength.
May you be free from suffering.
May you know peace.
Raine Brown is a long-time meditator, a mindfulness teacher and facilitator, writer, explorer of the human experience, grant manager and Holistic Counselor. I hope these shared reflections inspire your curiosity and path of self-compassion.