OUR HEARTS CONTENT
For the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve had a weekly practice that culminates with New Year’s Eve. I didn’t come up with it. I read about it somewhere, and it sounded sweet, so I took it on. How it goes is: once a week throughout the year (I do it on Tuesdays), I write on slips of paper a good thing or two that happened in the past week. It can be anything — a warm feeling, an achievement, an enjoyable event in my life, or something inspiring in the world. It’s sort of like a gratitude exercise, but I don’t even load it up with “I’m grateful for yada yada yada…” I just write down a few nice things that I experienced, and I put the pieces of paper in a vase on the shelf. My clumsy name for it is my “Jar of Good Things.” Then, on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I take them out of the jar, and read about the wonderful year I’ve had.
This year, I didn’t wait for the New Year. I took them out early because I felt like I needed them. It was perfect: a hundred scraps of paper describing a year full of appreciation, love, hope, and delight.
They’re out of order, randomly jumping all over the calendar. Precious times with friends and family. Laughter-filled phone calls. Delicious baked goods. Glorious sunsets. I revisited moments of accomplishment, occasions when I was proud of myself. Re-reading my year’s cache of goodness, I got to feel all that contentment, joy, and excitement all over again.
The funny thing was — as I was getting ready to do this year-in-review exercise, I was thinking I’d probably be looking back on a fairly lackluster twelve months. With some lovely glimmers here and there, sure, but for the most part pretty dull. Another year of pandemic. Let’s cross our fingers that the next one’s better, blah blah blah…
But once I got in there, I was reminded of how extraordinarily beautiful it was. Nothing was missing from this list. Nothing was lacking from the life it described. It was whole, complete, and unequivocally good.
I like new years. I like the idea of it as an invitation to begin writing a fresh chapter on a clean slate.
Trouble is, the slate’s never perfectly clean.
Of course we recognize the new year a beginning point, but/and it’s also obviously a continuation. Sure, I can declare a brand new me, but/and I’m also 52 years old so I’ve already got plenty of
old mature seasoned me under my belt, too. The future is a wide open space of infinite possibility, but/and also these blooming new possibilities can only come out of this here and now actuality.
This is true when we’re standing on the symbolic precipice of midnight on December 31 and also when it’s 2:43 in the afternoon on some random day in August. This, right now, is a sparkly new moment that has never existed in the history of all creation. AND it’s an extension and outgrowth of everything that has come before.
It makes me somewhat wary of new year’s resolutions. Not wary in that there’s anything wrong with them — we should resolve to our hearts’ content. But just a little wary because I think sometimes they’re more likely to inspire dissatisfaction than revive any real commitment.
Because if we approach the new year like our hearts’ content is out there ahead of us in the changes we’re going to make, then that tends to make here and now feel like a mire of all the things we think need changing. Sure, it can be exciting to imagine an opportunity before us. But/And right now, here we are, and this is what we’ve got to work with…
So at the same time that we’re envisioning all that we’d like to create for ourselves, our lives, and the world, I think we’ve also got to figure out how to to be okay with how things are, just as they are. Exactly as we are, right now.
It’s a paradox, dang it. Happy New Year!
Danielle LaPorte wrote The Desire Map, a groovy book that speaks powerfully to this stuff. I’ve worked with it some over the past several years, and I dig her approach. In short, the idea is: rather getting too hung up on our external resolutions/goals/intentions, we can put our attention instead on getting clear about the feelings that we want these resolutions to evoke. For example: while I might psych myself up with a weight loss goal, what I really want is to feel sexy in my body. If I don’t address that feeling, speak to that feeling, then I’m probably not going to be very content even if I meet my goal.
If we figure out how we want to feel — naming and claiming these feelings — then any intentions or resolutions to which we might commit are not only more likely to be realized, they’re more likely to answer our souls’ deep yearning.
Also, we can start addressing and experiencing these feelings pretty much immediately. Good feelings don’t have to be just a carrot on a stick out ahead of us; they’re accessible and available in this moment. Our goals, then, can come out of our desired feelings, rather than postponing the feelings as conditional upon the accomplishment of our goals.
Too often, our desires can be something of a drag, a reminder of everything we think is wrong, everything with which we’re unhappy and dissatisfied. We can flip it around, however, and let our desires be a lift, giving us some wind beneath our wings, inspiring us to fulfillment not only in the future but right now.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, January 2, 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. We’ll do a ritual to claim the feelings we want to embody and experience in the coming year, effective immediately. Blessings and joy, friends. Happy 2022. XO, Drew
©2021 Drew Groves