Happy New Year! All primed for the New You?
New Year resolutions are one way to make important changes in your life, but they’re also reminders that change is harder than you think. There’s more to it than making a decision about how you should be. The big question is, “How am I right now?” You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
Ever since my parents and teachers started wagging their fingers at me I’ve attempted to improve myself. By turns, I tried to be the best Catholic, communist, hippy and Buddhist I could. It took me an awfully long time to realize that all I needed was to be true to myself.
If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to kick myself because I missed what was staring me in the face. And yet, it always seems to be the last thing I see, only when I’ve given up hope.
Enough is Enough
It all began with the certainty that I wasn’t good enough. Everything my mean old elders told me was reinforced by this weird society we live in, that profits by telling me that I don’t have enough and ends up convincing me that I’m simply not enough.
Whether it’s through religion, social justice, self-help or new-age consciousness, the drive to improve ourselves is as old as the hills.
Occasionally, someone comes along to challenge the ways in which we do this. Perhaps we’re praying to the wrong god, or in the wrong way. Even more rarely, someone comes along to question the very fact that we even try. That’s what the Buddha did.
We all want to be happy, all want to let go of pain and self-doubt. As children, we simply turn away from the bad stuff and focus on the fun. ‘Growing up’ is a euphemism for discovering that life’s more complicated.
But we don’t necessarily get to the root of the issue. Most ‘spiritual paths’ focus exclusively on the good stuff. To take an immensely popular example: Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. The book’s website promises, “the life of your dreams.”
Imagine! Your dreams can come true, if only you make them.
There’s nothing new in wishful thinking. Put aside the naive suggestion that we actually know what we need and consider the notion that we can actually make ourselves happy — that happiness can be manufactured.
We all know money can’t buy happiness, but how many of us put our hopes in relationships, reputation, career or fame, Himalayan treks or sublime philosophy or devotion to an enlightened guru? We console ourselves with pleasure or security, and call it happiness.
Don’t Settle: Lose Your Marbles!
The Buddha saw through all that and took a radically new approach. Everyone thought he’d lost his marbles. He gave up on pleasure, stopped avoiding unhappiness and turned to face it with mindful reflection.
He wanted to get to the root of it. Happiness is hard to define, but unhappiness is as clear as day. In time, he found unhappiness to be caused by … guess what?
You can choose to believe in your dreams if you want, but are you doing it because it makes sense or just because it sounds good?
That’s why you have to lose your marbles, a little. We can’t fit in for the sake of fitting in — that’s just false security. We can’t just think what everyone else thinks — that’s moral laziness. We can’t conform just to avoid conflict — that’s cowardly.
Don’t fit in; think for yourself; conform at your peril
So keep your eyes peeled: when you find yourself being politely fake and not being your true self, try something different: look inside and let go.
And have an independent New Year!
How’s that Working for You?
What have you promised yourself for 2012? How are those promises working out? Please share.