Pause for Change

To be honest, between changing diapers, my kids’ winter colds, my husband’s travel schedule, working, getting the groceries, remembering to feed Petey (dog, not child), and trying to squeeze in some exercise, the idea of yet another list of things to do, even if it comes with a celebratory “New Year’s Resolutions”, title, hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind.  As the mother of two-year-old twins, most days I feel happy to have made it through the day, never mind have the time to think deeply about resolutions for Life and Change. 

But, I couldn’t quite let it go, as part of what I do love about the New Year is the promise of new beginnings, letting go of the past year, having a clean slate from which to dream and create and plan and act.  I love the idea of an opportunity to reflect on my life, to let go of habits that aren’t serving me anymore, to open up to new relationships and resources, and to move a little closer to what matters most to me in life.

Then I had an idea -- what if this “resolution” thing isn’t a grand list we compose each year, but perhaps an opportunity that we have each morning, each hour, or maybe even each moment?   A chance to pause, to breathe in and to acknowledge what is actually happening in that moment (not in the past problematic moment nor in the imagined perilous future moment).  What if it is a chance to breathe out and let go of the relentless worrisome chatter of the mind, to find a spot of calm in the storm that is modern day life?  This paradoxical “pause for change” (paradoxical in that we tend to think of change being all about action) is where we can find the freedom from our habitual thoughts and moods, and the awareness to re-commit to what we most value for our lives and our relationships.   

Indeed, science supports this approach for creating lasting change in our lives.  No matter how well intentioned, grand lists penned once a year tend to have little lasting effect on our behavior.  What makes change stick is commitment, a community of support, thoughtful, consistent practice (not perfection), and flexibility to adjust our course when faced with new input.  By commitment, I mean commitment that stems from deeply held, personal values and intentions (as opposed to externally driven ideas, like needing to fit into the jeans of the moment to feel comfortable in our body). 

The challenge is keeping up.  For this, it helps to have a community of support – folks who are aligned with you, who believe in you and help sustain your motivation and confidence.  One such teacher of mine recently told me that it would help to “see the seed as the tree” – to see each movement in the direction of my intention, no matter how small, as mattering and powerful. 

So, for this New Year, I invite you to do the same -- see the potential for growth in it all, in all you experience, the good, the bad, the ugly.  See it all as seeds of change, movement towards that magnificent full-grown California Redwood that resides inside of you. 

First, have the courage to survey the landscape of your life – your habitual patterns of thought, feelings, and actions.  This is acknowledging what is.   

Second, determine where you are vis-à-vis your unique values, hopes, beliefs, and goals. This is building awareness

Third, identify your unique personal intention or goal (one that really matters to you).  This is developing commitment

Fourth, connect with relationships and communities of support that buoy you on this path.  This is building motivation for consistent practice.

Fifth, have compassion for yourself when you fall off the path. Compassion is the opposite of shame and blame. Shame and blame are a painful waste of energy, and actually prevent us from making an honest assessment of what needs to shift to continue our path of intention.  This is flexibility to adjust our course.

And, finally, celebrate each small action, each small choice in the direction of health, happiness, and wellbeing – celebrate like it’s your first New Year’s Eve.