It is now January 01, 2011. Many of us will have made or will be in the process of making New Year’s resolutions!
- to listen to others rather than trying to dominate the conversation
- to be kinder, less aggressive
- to get fit
- to spend more time with family
- etc. etc. etc.
My New Year’s resolution is to NOT make any effort around “self-improvement.”
As long as you’re wanting to be thinner, smarter, more enlightened, less uptight, or whatever it might be , somehow you’re always going to be approaching your problem with the very same logic that created it to begin with: you’re not good enough. That’s why the habitual pattern never unwinds itself when you’re trying to improve, because you go about it in exactly the same habitual style that caused all the pain to start. (source: Pema Chodron: Start Where You Are)
I want to unwind my habitual “self,” not improve it!
Let’s be clear. I’m not taking about the self as who we actually are. I’m using the term “self” here as it pertains to our manufactured self, ego.
Our usual resolutions revolve around tweaking this manufactured self that we cherish so much.
What’s wrong with being kinder? Nothing. But I like to use what I like to call “the royal road” to reach my goal.
And that royal road is mindfulness and awareness. By practicing mindfulness and awareness, we aren’t admonishing ourselves with commands like “don’t be unkind” in an effort to be kind. Instead, we notice again and again and again when we are being unkind.
By practicing small increments of awareness — over and over again — of our thoughts and emotions, a quiet yet substantial revolution takes place: the thoughts, emotions and actions that underlie our habitual patterns of aggression and laziness , for example, are eventually undercut.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once used the analogy of walking down a road in the same shoes day after day after day. Eventually, the soles of the shoes wear out. Likewise, eventually, with mindfulness and awareness, our habitual tendencies get worn down.
At the same time, we are undercutting our tendency to maintain our karma and create fresh karma.
Please click here for sources on how to practice mindfulness and awareness.
Update — January 03’11:
I had to take my car into for repairs this morning. When I was told what the problem was and how much it would cost to repair it, I said “No thanks.” I then began to feel sorry for myself.
I finally remembered my own suggestion: rather than admonish and scold myself —”Stop feeling sorry for yourself”— I simply practiced some mindfulness about how sorry I was feeling for myself. I watched the thoughts arise, abide, fall away — only to rise again. And again.
The something interesting began to happen: unbidden, I began to focus on how lucky I — with back disabilities — am to even have a car that I can still drive. The second-by-second practice of mindfulness created a larger space for some other attitude to arise.
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