Winter is an odd time to do spring cleaning, but last month many of us vowed to shift our agreement with reality, to reshape ourselves.
Many people resolved to slim down, bulk up, stop smoking, start exercising, to become a better parent, a better spouse, a better human being.
“The greatest human quest is to know what one must do in order to become a human being,” 17th century philosopher Immanuel Kant observed.
But in that quest, we look for what’s broken and accentuate what’s missing, how we don’t measure up to a standard that was probably set by someone else, or worse, by a TV commercial.
We’re faultfinders. We love pointing out what’s wrong – with ourselves and with other people. We chuckle over Martha’s defects because that makes us feel better about ourselves. If she’s wrong and we’re right, that means we’re OK.
Usually, we not interested in changing, instead we look for things that re-inforce our current world view, but at the beginning of the year, we often tinker with our belief system and try to change the channels of our perceptions.
But real change means growth and that’s possible only by challenging ourselves to create new thoughts and the willingness to embrace the results
Our thoughts emerge, like weeds after a rain, out of our unconsciousness and we often wonder, like the guy who just mowed his lawn and looks out and sees a tide of dandelions, just where they came from.
That forces us to root out thoughts that create a reality we don't like, or don't want. We create ourselves in our own image although we’re uncertain what that image is, or who we are.
Often, while we're waiting for the new us to sprout, we forget to weed and prune. It's a lot easier not to do the backbreaking - or mind-bending - work to pull the dandelions and censor unwanted thoughts.
But we know from a lifetime of experience that beating ourselves up when we forget, or when we’re lazy, doesn’t work. We need to be persistent, but we also must be gentle with ourselves.
We learn to treat ourselves as we would our children when they come home with a report cards with Cs and one A and while the instinct is to criticize them for the low marks we are smart enough to praise them for the one high mark.
We know criticism doesn’t work, otherwise we’d be what our parents wanted.
And isn’t it odd that we think a new year is the only time to redefine who we are when we can do that at any moment? Every moment is a crossroads.
We have the wonderful ability to see, but we don’t notice life flowing around us; we become blind to the miraculous until it becomes trivial or we don’t see it at all.
We don’t see what we take for granted.
Remember being spellbound when our children were born, but now don’t really see them in our day-to-day lives; they’re just there, part of the background?
We can still evoke that moment when Cupid’s arrow pierced our heart, but now wonder who that person is who keeps showing up every day.
We don’t need Auld Ange Syne and noisemakers to make resolutions. We can make them daily. We can decide before we get out of bed how our day will be. And if the resolve slips, we can choose at every moment to renew our commitment.
Sometimes the best choice is simply to keep our mouths shut and the scars on our tongue can be a testament to our growing wisdom, or at least our diminishing foolishness.
We know we can remake ourselves into whatever image we like, but it’s also equally valid to wonder why we feel compelled to lose 10 pounds, to get into shape or learn Spanish, why we cannot accept that we are already perfect, whole and complete, an integral part of the universe.
Science and most spiritual traditions proclaim we are all connected, that we hold hands to form the great chain of being. Maybe it isn’t hard-won resolutions we need, but an easy shift in consciousness.
“The universe in a sense guides us toward truths, because those truths are the things that govern what we see,” physicist Brian Greene told Scientific American magazine.
Maybe we simply need to accept who we are and to be receptive to what life brings. If we flow with it instead of fighting every step of the way, we just might end up becoming that which we hoped for.
“We can’t make ourselves be a certain way,” said Zen master Joko Beck. “To imagine otherwise is one of the biggest traps in practice. But we can notice our intolerance and unkindness, our laziness and the other games we play. As we notice how we really are, things slowly begin to turn.
“Only when we give up the hope that things will get fixed can we come to the realization that things are fine as they are.”
Mythologist Joseph Campbell had similar thoughts as he was nearing the end of his life.
“In my own life, I am now looking back and I can tell you that there’s a wonderful moment that comes when you realize, ‘I’m not striving for anything.’
“What I’m doing now is not a means of achieving something later. After a certain age, there’s not a future and, suddenly, the present becomes rich and it becomes a thing in itself which you are now experiencing.”
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.