I’ve decided the New Year will start on February 1st. January is a trial month.
Its halfway thru January. Perhaps you’re already a bit disheveled. Perhaps you had resolutions that you’re struggling with. Perhaps you have never even caught your breath from the holidays let alone thought about any of those frigging resolutions. Maybe you have a cold, car broke down, furnace went out, work is overwhelming, bills are coming in. It could be you’ve been around the block enough times that the whole January hype has left you a bit jaded or at least uninterested.
Honestly this is less than a ideal set of circumstances or approach for anyone with aspirations of accomplishment, personal evolution, let alone significant transformation. Cards are stacked against one from the get go. What fool came up with this anyway? Its like starting the semester with finals week. WT… I suspect a government conspiracy! For those that are still holding course for any intentions they had for the New Year my hat is off to you.
There actually are people who are moving right along, unfazed by any of the challenges above, already accomplishing their goals and with a flourishing life on their terms. You’ve perhaps even met some. Don’t hate on them. They simply were taught or figured out the strategy and tactics of how to do it. What they have to their advantage is momentum and a practice of living a life that fosters this ability to flourish. Jan 1st has little meaning to them. They might have begun 7 years ago on March 11th or September 7th or been this way since a youth. This isn’t to say engaging some changes or starting after goals in Jan is a bad thing just that such a arbitrary point on the calendar is no more significant than what we make it.
• Creating conditions. In Zen there is the understanding that for good things to occur the conditions in which they are to occur must be established foremost. The odds are against a garden thriving if you just throw a punch of seeds out on to the hard packed ground without first tending to the health and condition of soil. Clearing away the weeds, tilling it if necessary, bringing in some compost. What I repeatedly observe are people, full of hope and finite will power, futilely tossing seeds out on to hard packed ground of their lives that at best sprout but a little before they die. There is little to no foundation, conditions generated, or preparation. Who can do all that right in the middle of the preceding holidays? A time when every descent discipline is challenged already by temptations and demands. (and I’m not against relaxing discipline and letting lose now and then – in fact I’d say that is a healthy part of a larger discipline). So include the time now to work your space, remove the clutter, get those nagging left overs on the do it list done, set up supports, foster a enabling environment for what you have in mind.
• Incremental steps. As integral to their larger narrative, people who live well, meaningful, successful lives, cultivate a life giving discipline that is edifying rather than punitive. There are times when it is valuable, even necessary to go yang, but in the day to day flow, development is paced with a doable, manageable, and appropriate challenging volume and intensity. You don’t go from a sedentary life to 100 mile weeks right out the door if you intend to run a marathon this year. Nor is it prudent, this side of a incredible support system, to immediately take on learning a foreign language, piano lessons, meditate 2 hours a day, take a class on french cooking, and lose ten pounds a week (especially with that french cooking class at the same time) . A longer view in those directions mindfully paced out in daily life is the key. Such a discipline will foster both fortitude and a state of flow where things happen more readily with less resistance from existence.
• Natural patterns. Of the two, sailing rather than rowing across the ocean is going to be the far more effective, efficient, and sustainable choice. To work with natural developed energies rather than against. If you have intentions to change things up, accomplish goals, or have a vision of the kind of person you want to be in a few months, a year, or a decade ahead the surest way of making it so is by giving attention to the conditions, the environment, and the support systems that will enable this. Coming up with a resolution 8PM on New Years Eve just isn’t going to cut it for very long. Secondly you will have more success if you take those consistent sustainable liberating disciplined steps that build on each other in a way that excites you rather than defeats you, and in such a way that you are not merely doing, you are becoming the kind of person that such flows from naturally. You don’t do martial arts, you are a martial artist; you don’t go running, you are a runner; you don’t play guitar you are a guitarist; you don’t go to school you are a scholar; you don’t go on a diet you embody a fitness lifestyle. In doing so you might even find yourself advancing towards your dreams quicker than you anticipated, such is the nature of this simple daily obedience in a long direction.
So yes by all means, utilize all of January (and February too if needed) to assess, to plan, to set in place, to create the conditions where by you can engage the rest of the year with enthusiasm , accomplishment, and enjoyment.. gezzzz for all that is sacred and precious in this verse make sure enjoyment and meaningful moments are in your intentions and practice.