New Year makes optimists of us all. When we make our resolutions and prepare to start a fresh new chapter in our lives (as Anne of Green Gables said, “With no mistakes in it”) we embrace the hopefulness of the clean slate, the chance to do it better, to do it right.
But. . .what if doing it “right” isn’t really the goal? What are the behaviors we can embrace that could truly create a better, more peaceful, more spirit-centered world? Here are some radically loving, liberating ideas to help us be the change we want to see; it really can begin with each one of us.
1. Embrace yourself right now, just as you are, with love and compassion. Period. Not, “I’ll be okay after I lose that last ten pounds.” Not “I’ll be terrific once I conquer this or that bad habit.” Embrace the splendor of your very human imperfection.
2. Embrace the concept that perfection is not the goal. It is impossible, anyway, and it becomes an excuse for mean-spirited judgment of self and others. Once we free ourselves from the tyranny of perfectionism, we become so much more relaxed towards ourselves and everyone around us.
3. Embrace kindness. This is not the same as being “nice” all the time. Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do is to speak a home truth that a striving for “niceness” might have avoided altogether. But even home truths need to be spoken with kindness and compassion, not mean-spiritedness. And if, in your splendid human imperfection, you sometimes speak unkindly, own up and try to undo the hurt you caused, with love and empathy.
4. Embrace the truth of your feelings. They’re often not very pretty; maybe you‘re feeling hurt or resentful, angry or vindictive, scared or hopeless. The perfectionist will often try to deny or push those feelings down out of sight, but there they often fester and stew, only to boil over and make a mess of things. Instead, be patient with your feelings and see if they are signals that something wants to change in your life. When we can simply accept what we feel, we are no longer as likely to act out in destructive ways.
5. Embrace unity. Our culture is one of divisiveness. Most fundamentalism of any stripe is based on the belief that there is only One Way and if you‘re not on it, you‘re not quite human (and, therefore, terrible things may be done to you with impunity.) Instead, we could hold on to the image of the earth seen from the moon–like a small bright jewel floating in an immense dark sky–and the thought that all of us who are fortunate enough to be here now are deeply connected, no matter what beliefs or circumstances divide us. The fact of our presence together on this planet is reason enough to connect.
6. Embrace connection. Do what you can to feel re-connected to nature, to others, to your own inner wisdom. Turn off the television and take a moonlit walk. Sing with friends. Try meditating. The shamanic beliefs that underlie all of humanity from its earliest beginnings spring from the certainty of a great web that connects all things. Take comfort in this.
7. Embrace What Is. Take time every day, if you can, to slow down and be present to whatever is going on. Just breathe and pay attention, without judging or evaluating, just being with it, gently and mindfully.
8. Embrace gratitude. Be grateful, if you can, for your senses, your mind, your upspringing energy. Be thankful for the gifts and blessings in your life, whatever they are. Take time as often as you can to open your heart in gratitude for the great gift of this life, this continual opportunity to grow, this heartbreakingly beautiful planet.
By Cait Johnson, author of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air (SkyLight Paths, 2003).