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New Year's Intentions

Happy New Year everyone! As a new calendar year begins, I like to take the opportunity to reflect on the past year and to think about what I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year. A good friend of mine and I usually try to come up with a slogan for the new year – ideally one that rhymes! The best we could come up with this year is a bit of a slant rhyme – “Put your old self on the shelf in 2012″. At first I thought, “ugh, we could do better than that”, but the more I think about what I’d like to “accomplish” in the new year, the more I realized how perfect this idea is!

In my study of Buddhist psychology, the concept of “no-self” is frequently mentioned. It’s taken me awhile to understand what this means (and I am still learning!) but one day it finally clicked. The idea of “who we are” rather than being static is actually fluid – thoughts, feelings, sensations if you watch them, can easily be seen as coming and going, but also our habitual responses – what we might think of as “ourselves” can also be observed, and with practice can become simply another aspect of our experience – another thing that can come and go and that you have choice about in terms of what you do with it.

For example, I have a tendency to believe that I am a person who has difficulty meeting new people. I actually expressed this belief to the aforementioned friend recently, and she laughed at me and asked, “well, how did we become friends?” Good point. I realized that I tend to experience anxiety when I meet new people – so in my mind that became translated as a static characteristic of my personality rather than just a feeling I sometimes have in new or unfamiliar social situations. This is a subtle, but profound shift in my understanding of my experience which opens up a world of possibilities that I didn’t see before.

I’ve been doing some reading on setting New Year’s “intentions” vs. setting “resolutions”. Intentions are about how we want to be in the world, so a bit more broad but also a way to have a road map for developing new habits of responding and behaving. So, putting my old self on a shelf suddenly seems like a powerful intention for the New Year! What are your New Year’s intentions? What new habits of responding would you like to cultivate?

For more inspiration for this year, I recently came across this TED talk by Gabrielle Bernstein who has been heralded as the spiritual guru for the 30 something generation! You can check out the video of her talk here:

Thanks for reading, and here’s to a physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy 2012!

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