I am not sentimental. But, I do love a good New Year's resolution.
Not because of the coincidence with culture's doing the same, but simply because I value highly self-reflection and continual reconsideration of identity and motivations - lifestyle, habits, priorities - who we are, what we do, and above all, why.
Those traits can, do, and should - as far as I've learned - always change. Therefore yes, at some point they may also cease to change, though if all or all at once, you've either won, or died.
Personal resolutions precipitate exploration which inevitably results in learning and so growth and a deeper understanding of: at least something.
This year, in considering a New Year's resolution, I wrote through my reflections on the year. Writing is how I think best, and I've found that working through thoughts that way is conducive to both mapping a present landscape in order to recalibrate - face north - and for documenting the process of resolving whatever it is we then do. (It also makes for great later reading when we revisit those continually evolving qualities that compose our selves.)
While reflecting, I recalled the year. A job change, a relationship, growth for RX, travel, health and generally rewarding expansions in each of the areas of life we've been taught to consider important. It had also been a challenging year. I'd faced a solid set of fears in the hands of a shaman in Peru, shed a few more in the company of a forceful (read: loving) new best friend, and been called to reconsider my career ambitions, which hadn't changed since I'd first set my sights on them, as a kid.
On the other side of those things, and the year, I concluded that I wasn't sentimental (go figure) nor relieved. I wasn't eager for it to be over nor to continue as-was. I didn't feel resolved though much had been resolved. That is how I felt, which is not always an accurate expression of how we are.
What we are resolved of though, can determine how we act or react, which then does create how we are.
I concluded that I knew more. I knew myself better. I knew that I want to know more. Know what though, I didn't know.
Previously, my New Year's resolutions have gone something like "get younger," "be the healthiest you've ever been," "let nothing change" (that didn't work) and "do less, better". This year, I resolved to create space.
The intention reminded me of the year I moved in to my apartment in Bedstuy before it was cool to live there and so no one did and which meant that every morning I woke up to the sound of birds and rustling trees (grinning).
The apartment felt far too big for me. Even the owners asked what I would do with all of the space. After pacing through it with a candle in-hand many a night because I didn't yet know my way around by feel or memory, I came to know what I'd felt slowly but surely from the moment I'd walked in: that the extra room would become RX - that yet undeveloped territory of myself. (Not that I know yet or exactly what that is, but that's okay because we're learning.)
To create space, I decided on a flight to Costa Rica where we would close the year at a simple retreat - surfing and practicing yoga. There, in a final savasana, I realized that one of the central teachings of yoga asana practice is to create space. That is, to create physical space in the poses - between the limbs or inside the body - in order to go deeper. By creating space, you are then able to move into it.
I realized it was the metaphor for my resolution.
And so I left it at that. Typically, I then set specific goals for my resolution - milestones to meet on the road to the destination, which we all know tends to be a best practice for achieving, period. With this resolution though, I was requiring myself to do the opposite (another thing I like to make myself do - break habits, retrain a neural pathway, shake it up, down or out): erase tasks from my to-do list rather than add them, find time rather than filling it, and generally free myself from the one thing we are truly beholden to, which is ourselves.
The other appreciable element of this resolution is that it feeds my love of learning by experience. With a child's mind, guided by impulse or intuition, to chase curiosity to Wonderland and just generally discover what's down there.
One month later, after more than a few bouts of restlessness (I am really not good at just relaxing, especially when paired with sobriety - being snowed-in for a weekend almost killed me), I find myself in a state I can't recall ever maintaining when not on a retreat or a beach: relaxed. Occasionally apathetic, frankly. Though happy.
Moving more slowly is odd, I'll say. It's a stark contrast to my typical pace, which I don't promise not to return to, but my adrenals at least appreciate the recovery. And most importantly, it's exploration.
My to-do list, which is titled "The Endless" and which I've maintained for years as a GoogleDoc in order to update it any time from anywhere, and which typically ran around eight pages long, is now only one, and contains actually doable, immediately important tasks. The rest of it I took one last look at, line by line, and then simply deleted. Ah, white space.
Next, I took to my closet. And my Dropbox folders. My jewelry box: who needs it? Drawers and my morning routine: goodbye eyeliner and while we're at it, adios manicures. Then, I actually picked up the book I nearly finished writing ... a year ago.
One month in, this is what I've found to be true. Knowing that next month, it may all have changed:
Creating space allows us to move into it, or to not move into it. It allows us to learn our edges. Space allows room for breath - for anything we're engaged with to fully develop, for new ideas to form and old ones to resolve. It allows us to be.
The most challenging thing about creating space is not filling it.
To relax is to cut tension. To cut tension is to cut the threads that bind us to identities, our afflictions link us to past and future. Nothing at all in our lives links us to the present except the state of being. Acting takes place over time; it has duration. Being transcends time. A state of being can be achieved only by cutting all threads that bind us to past or future.
Savasana is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is. - BKS Iyengar, Light on Life
This weekend I had a brief but poignant face-off with positive thinking. Here's how it shook down, and what we learned from it because growth should be a fruit of shakedowns:
- I spend an afternoon lost in podcasts about the subconscious and how to access it, how it controls us, how to affect it.
- Then, a phone conversation, which heads south quickly (turns negative). When I realize that I won't be able to turn it around, I hang up.
- Aside: I have very little tolerance for negativity or pessimism. Generally generally. Though it does have its occasional justification (somewhere, I'm sure?), hanging up on people isn't something I do. In this instance, as an impulsive act of disallowing the situation to continue to exist, I obviously did.
- I immediately feel extremely guilty. By ending abruptly I'd caused upset to the second party. What had been an attempt to protect a third party, which I did do, came at the expense of two others (self included). Half-fail.
- I shelf the ego and promptly redial because resolution is a cure for more than we realize.
- No dice.
- So I'm left alone with my now-full mind and feeling very affected but definitely wanting not to, having intended to snuff the negativity not ignite it. Speaking of lighting,
At that point I realize a few things:
- Many people would consider me quite weird.
- I'm basically brainwashing myself. I'm actually cleaning my mind.
- This is the practice of what I was trying to preach (encourage) in aforementioned, unproductive conversation.
- It fits exactly into the ideas of thought-control and the subconscious that I'd been exploring all day.
Which we can now get into. The following are highlights from podcasts and an editorial on the subjects of subconscious access, control and affects. By no means close to comprehensive or conclusive but a fair summary and directly relevant to that cute anecdote above. Read more on all of it, after you read this.
The Conscious and Subconscious Minds
The conscious mind:
Is responsible for acts and action.
Determines and directs.
The subconscious mind:
Supplies the material for determinations.
Is expressive and impressionable.
Neuroscientists have shown that the conscious mind provides 5% or less of our cognitive (conscious) activity during the day – and 5% they say is for the more aware people, many people operate at just 1% consciousness.
Impressing the Subconscious: Feelings, not thoughts, impress the subconscious. If uncontrolled, it is (we are) affected entirely by our environment. Which is the equivalent of being victimized. Unless you're in a situation you'd like to be susceptible or receptive to, of which there are plenty. But, progress and power reside in selectivity. (Personal opinion.)
The mind that doesn't control feelings is subconsciously impressed upon by anything.
If using thought to impress the subconscious, "the thought must be identical to the desired outcome", not opposite. Meaning: It's not productive to think "I don't want to be unhappy anymore." It is productive to think "I am happy." Even more so to feel it.
This speaker suggested that "faith and desire" in alignment with the desired outcome is the most effective subconscious affect method.
I disagree with the requirement of faith, unless it be defined as choosing to believe something, which is actually how I define it, which then is one in the same as thought control, isn't it? If the feeling is what we need to cause, to impress the subconscious, then the means is irrelevant.
Therefore, do not think "feelingly" about "wrong".
On Control Addiction & Codependence:
Control is the root of all conflict. Addiction to controlling lifestyle, environment, others, causes feelings of anxiety and fear. Ironically, because our control addiction is all an attempt to control feelings. (Makes sense, if we are motivated by the subconscious. Is it protecting itself?) And, one in the same, that we are ultimately fear-driven. Control addicts require an opposite, corrective experience of giving up control (and surviving) to progress.
(In my experience, this has been the greatest cure for anxiety.)
Gestalt Paradoxical Theory of Change: change does not take place by "trying," coercion, persuasion, or by insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient abandonswhat he would like to become and attempts to be what he is. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.
So, where do we currently stand? How about: Control your thoughts to teach your subconscious, knowing that it's the driver of our lives, and that it can be fearful and controlling. That's circular. Let's take a step: Control your thoughts to teach your subconscious that it needn't be fearful. That then we imagine leads to expansion rather than contraction. Enlightenment rather than preoccupation.
Now, let's get physical.
Meditation Has the Power to Change Your Genes
"A new study reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of intensive mindfulness practice. "Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs. "Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects."
... gene activity can change on a daily basis. If the perception in your mind is reflected in the chemistry of your body, and if your nervous system reads and interprets the environment and then controls the blood’s chemistry, you can change the fate of your cells by altering your thoughts.
In the simplest terms, this means that we need to change the way we think if we are to heal cancer. "The function of the mind is to create coherence between our beliefs and the reality we experience. What that means is that your mind will adjust the body’s biology and behavior to fit with your beliefs."
Nocebo: a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative expectations of treatment or prognosis.
"The power of the subconscious mind is elegantly revealed in people expressing multiple personalities. While occupying the mind-set of one personality, the individual may be severely allergic to strawberries. Then, in experiencing the mind-set of another personality, he or she eats them without consequence."
However, you can't "tell" your subconscious things. (Per above, and feeling as the way to teach the sub.)
“The major problem is that people are aware of their conscious beliefs and behaviors, but not of subconscious beliefs and behaviors. Most people don’t even acknowledge that their subconscious mind is at play, when the fact is that the subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind."
Neuroscience has recognized that the subconscious controls 95 percent of our lives.
The day resolved with poetic justice when I dreamed I could fly.