I don’t like New Year’s resolutions.
I don’t know why people insist on making them.
Does anybody ever keep to them beyond February?
It is just setting yourself up to fail.
Every year I end up making them. Not formally. Not publicly. But inside my own head. Inevitably. In January. Vague ideas begin to coalesce. I find myself setting myself targets that I will never meet. Why does my brain do this?
Those of you that have read my earlier posts will be familiar with my preference for seeing Time as Cyclic rather than Linear (for further detail see Part 1). New Year Resolutions are very much bound up in a Linear Time way of thinking. All that setting of goals and targets. By the Summer I need to have lost 2 stone. I am going to do a marathon in April. I am not going to have a drink until February.
And what happens when you achieve your goal?
You put the weight back on next Winter. You complete the marathon and throw your running shoes to the back of the cupboard. Come 2nd February, you wake up with the worst hangover you have ever experienced.
You have reached your target. But nothing has changed. You have not Transformed yourself. The old cycles persist. Cyclic Time reasserts itself and familiar patterns return.
Never mind. You can always make more resolutions next year.
So, how do we free ourselves of this cycle? If Time is Cyclic, are we condemned to always remain the same. Can we never change? Never Transform?
I think we can. But, bizarrely, the key to doing so lies in accepting that, essentially, we can’t change. The key is Acceptance. Accepting the way things are. Accepting who we are. Accepting that there is nothing that we can change. Accepting that nothing needs to change. Just let things be. Relax.
Then, I have found, everything changes!
Now, this is perilous ground we are on here. It is easy to take this the wrong way. It is the reason that I felt I had to prepare the way in Part 2 when I wrote all that stuff about Taoism and Yin & Yang. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving in or giving up. It is not just doing what you are told to do. It is not passive. It is not taking the easy way out.
It is about a way of seeing. It is about seeing that the world is not just set up for your benefit. (Although, the nice twist is that it does work out that way if you let it.) It’s not all about me. There is a bigger picture.
You have to accept that you are just a tiny, tiny part of a huge universe. And, well, in all honesty, you don’t really matter. If you cease to exist, the universe will carry on regardless. Some day, you will die. And the universe will carry on. Accept this fact. Get over yourself.
And, with this Acceptance, comes freedom. Freedom from striving for all those pointless goals. Hell, it doesn’t really matter a great deal if I don’t lose all that weight/ achieve my Personal Best/stay sober. Suddenly, you are free to relax. Just be. No pressure.
Now, at this point, this might be sounding like nihilism. Like, we have removed any meaning, any moral framework from life. Isn’t this just going to lead to a world full of obese alcoholics refusing to get off their sofas to engage with the world?
Well, no. Because that scenario is what you get if you fail to Accept. It is pretty much the world we are creating now. It is a world that is still seeing life as Linear. Still seeing reality as differentiated. Still very much wrapped up in Ego. A world that is failing to see the interconnectedness of all things.
The Acceptance I am advocating means seeing the universe without Ego. It means seeing the interconnectedness of all things. Acceptance that we are all part of a much bigger whole. The nice thing is realising that this bigger whole is self regulating. It is perfect. Because it is just the way things are. The Uncarved Block (see Part 2). We cannot change it. It cannot be changed. It is beyond change. Just how things are. So we can relax. There is nothing we can do to alter the ultimate nature of reality. So, stop trying. Chill out. Accept.
So, Acceptance of the unchanging nature of reality enables us to relax.
But, as I pointed out in Part 2, that is only part of the story. Alongside the Uncarved Block (the unchanging, interconnected vision of reality) there are also the Myriad Things (the differentiated world of things. The world as we “normally” see it). It is the sparkle and chime of the Myriad Things that tends to lead us into targets, goals, resolutions. We see the skinny model on the tv and we want to look like that. We see all those people doing the London Marathon and we want a piece of that. We read about how good we will feel if we give our bodies a rest from alcohol. And we think that we want to feel like that. We set up all these desires to be somewhere where we perceive that we are not. To be different to how we are.
But, if we have truly accepted that we are ultimately part of the Uncarved Block, we know that there is nowhere else to be. No state other then the state that we are in. We cannot be anything more or less than what we are now. We are everything and every thing is us.
The paradox is that, in accepting that, ultimately, there is nothing to change, things begin to change. In the world of the Uncarved Block nothing changes. In the world of the Myriad Things everything is in a state of constant change. They are both “true”. They are both equally relevant ways of seeing the world. To be happy, you need to see in both ways. At the same time. The tension between the two states creates movement. Yin & Yang. This movement creates change. Real change. Transformation.
Thing is, this is not change that you can push. Because it doesn’t respond to Ego. If you try to push it in one direction it will probably go in another. Which is why resolutions fail.
You have to let Transformation just happen. No pushing. No striving. Let it happen in its own time. But rest assured that it will happen. It is just the universe getting things back in order. How they should be. And part of Acceptance is accepting that we don’t know how things should be. It’s not up to us. There is a bigger picture and it doesn’t care about us.
And yet it does! It cares about us in the sense that we too are part of the whole. And every single part of the whole matters. Equally. So, you don’t matter any more than your dog matters. But you matter as much as the President of the United States matters. And, no matter how hard you try, or don’t try, it will all be taken care of.
See, I don’t think the universe wants you to be fat. Stop blaming the universe. Stop blaming yourself. Just Accept that you are the weight you are. It’s ok. Stop trying to lose weight. Just be happy. You will probably find that eating lots of chocolate or crisps or whatever does not make you happy. You will probably find that sitting around doing nothing does not make you happy. Don’t think about it too much. Just be happy. See what happens. Maybe you will lose weight.
I don’t think the universe wants you to be unfit. I don’t think the universe wants you to be unhealthy.
I think that my brain’s desire for resolutions is ok. It is just responding to all the stimuli from the world of Myriad Things. It’s filtering all the possibilities and sorting out the ones that it thinks are best for me. And it’s probably got a point. Accept that point. But keep it in perspective. Brains do thinking. It’s their job. But it’s also about how you feel. What feels right. Allow your feelings a look in too. And don’t forget that all the input from the Myriad Things is only half the picture. Remember the Uncarved Block. Remember that there is nothing to change. Stop worrying. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do it. Let all that mull around for a while and see what emerges. If you still have a strong urge to complete a marathon, then pull on your running shoes and get out there. Just be happy doing it. Don’t force it. Don’t let ego rule. Just relax into the experience and do it anyway.
Last word goes to Lao Tsu in the Tao Te Ching
Accept disgrace willingly,
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human condition”?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.