Notes on a Bountiful New Year
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver
The coming of a new year offers a time for pause and reflection, allowing us to look back on the unique feats and trials of the previous year. If you’re anything like me, it can be tempting to go into critique mode, placing unrealistic expectations on yourself through strict resolutions. Instead of thinking of the things that can be restricted – cutting this and losing that – this year, strive for expansion. Visualize the things you want to call into your life in 2016, and allow yourself to gently and gradually clarify the path ahead. Here are ten ways in which I’ll continue to resolve my journey.
1. Be generous.
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” –George Saunders
There are a number of ways to give yourself back to the world. It doesn’t have to be something that takes a lot of time, money, or energy. Give a compliment, practice random acts of kindness, devote time and energy to a cause you care about, lend an ear to a friend in need, write heartfelt thank-you notes for the small and generous acts of others.
2. Practice gratitude.
“I assert that life is beautiful in spite of everything!… There are many thorns, but the roses are there too.” –Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Each day, there are a countless number of things we can show gratitude for. When you’re sorting through the past year and thinking of the things you’d like to be different, try making a short list of things you’re over the moon about and would never want to change. By recognizing the blessings you already have, more and more beauty will undoubtedly become clearer.
3. Take time for stillness.
“Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” –Ruth Krauss
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to squeeze a moment of quiet into our hectic schedules. However, it’s during those times of overwhelm that it’s most important to slow down. Go for a walk in the snow, sit in silence, doodle, daydream, allow for boredom. There’s a unique kind of unconscious creativity that is born in these idle moments, when the brain is not being forced into thinking. Try incorporating some conscious breathing exercises, or pranayama, into your morning routine – benefits can include increased energy, reduced depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and more.
4. Fuel your body and soul.
“Seek out what magnifies your spirit.” –Maria Popova
Quite simply, ditch the stuff that doesn’t serve you. Nourish your body with whole foods and daily movement. Try to get out in the fresh air for at least a short stroll every day. Feed yourself with positive thought and stop criticizing your wondrous self.
5. Do the things that make you happy.
“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” –Carl Jung
I like to think of myself as a little girl, easily gravitating toward the little things that brought me glee. If you ever forget what brings you happiness, the things that most fervently fuel our hearts can be rediscovered by remembering those simple childhood desires. Do those things, often, and no matter how silly. Do as few as possible of the things that don’t encourage joy.
6. Be present-minded.
“I would like to do whatever it is that presses the essence from the hour.” –Mary Oliver
It’s easy to live in the past, harping on unchangeable details of old experiences, or to live in anticipation of the future, always envisioning a better tomorrow. Practice re-centering on the now, the only moment that truly exists. I find it helpful to take a purposeful break from technology each day to observe the life and happenings in the world directly around me.
7. Spend time with those who enliven you.
“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know we are not separate beings.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Dearest friends and family can be our greatest motivators, supporters, and sources of delight. Surround yourself with the people who inspire you and encourage you to be the person you want to be. Find a healthy balance between work and fun, and try to catch as many of those precious and expansive moments with your loved ones as humanly possible.
8. Forget perfect.
“What if you wake up someday, and you’re 65… and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?” –Anne Lamott
It can be difficult to not feel that you’re falling short of the way things should be, especially with the prominence of social media and the daily observance of others’ groomed online personas. This is an invitation to you (ahem, myself) to toss the notion of perfection that can weave itself into every facet of life. There’s no such thing. All that time that used to be spent fearing failure will likely leave room for you to recognize how downright impressive you already are.
“All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar, and surprising, for the edification of mankind.” –Joseph Conrad
To me, creation is the mind’s truly unique and necessary way of conveying both joy and pain. If there’s any place within you that longs for expression, let it voice itself. Whether it’s writing poetry, chiseling ice sculptures, cooking for one, or painting a still life, do what feels right. And, when you feel held back by the possibility of not being “good enough,” please refer back to #8.
10. Accept life as an ever-changing journey.
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s okay to not know exactly what lies ahead. Instead of thinking of where you want to be at the end of 2016, ask yourself how you want to feel. Through the blessings and challenges that will come, remember that feeling, and focus on getting there.