em·bod·y (verb): 1. Be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling). 2. Provide (a spirit) with a physical form
In a recent survey a unanimous vote was cast for the average lifespan of a New Year’s Resolution* to be “2 weeks or less.” The poll was taken in the third week of the New Year. It may be safe to assume respondent’s were not voting from lack of experience. If you are one of the many people who have given up from too many failed attempts, do not despair. You are not a failure. You can accomplish this. Perhaps all you need is a different approach.
Often when determining a resolution, we get so caught up in all the things we want to change that we lose sight of why we want change in the first place. What we should be asking ourselves is this:
What is the result I am looking for this change to bring?
That is the real question to focus on. Just because I was “healthier” at one time in my life when I was running twice a week does not mean that running twice a week will bring me the result that I am looking for now. So what am I really looking for? The process below helps us identify what that result is, and how to achieve it. It’s a different way of looking at our goals, so it might feel strange at first, but give it a shot. This may be the new perspective that works for you.
1. Be good to yourself. When I ask clients what their resolutions are, I am usually met with one of two responses. Either they don’t bother making them because they never work, or they rattle off a list of all the things they plan on changing about themselves. Both responses are clear indicators that change will NOT occur. The first one, for obvious reasons, is because no effort = no change. The second one is because listing off all of the things we want to change about ourselves can make us feel insufficient. It can easily turn into a list all of the things we are not. All the ways we don’t like ourselves. It can have an undertone of abuse, and change will never last if it is initiated from a place of feeling bad about ourselves. So start off by being nice to yourself.
2. Bring it to the present moment. Resolutions usually have this image of some future better self.
“I want to be healthy” insinuates that I will be healthy somewhere in the future but I’m not now.
If you continue to think of change in this way it will always be in your future and never reach your now. Lessen the space between your goal and your identification to it. Choose one resolution you have made in the past. Say it out loud. Now, dig deeper beyond the words and into the essence of what attaining that goal will provide you emotionally. Identify a quality, so that you can develop an emotional connection to it. Use these questions to help you identify a quality that will work for you. What does it mean to be (goal)? What does it feel like to be (quality)? For example, if my goal is to be healthy I would ask myself: What does it mean to be healthy? To me, it means being grounded and energized. Then I would ask myself: In the past, what has it felt like to be energized? I felt happy and vibrant. When I say the word “vibrant,” I get an internal reaction to it. I have an emotional connection to it because I can remember what it feels like to feel vibrant and I like it. So, instead of saying “I want to be healthy”, which I have no connection or emotional attachment to, and is in the future tense, I can say “I feel vibrant” which makes it more real and brings it into the present moment.
3. Embody the Quality. Now that I have a quality to work with, I can use my meditation practice to evoke it. I will ask myself: What does it feel like to be vibrant? Instead of answering the question, I breathe it into my meditation like a mantra. I allow myself the opportunity to feel into the word “vibrant.” (Remember, I already have an association to it since I can recall a past time when I felt vibrant. It is important that we already have some sort of emotional understanding of the word, otherwise, it’s just a vague idea and you are at square one again.) By doing this I cultivate a sense for it in my body making it easier to call forth on a daily basis. The more I practice this, the more connected I become to feeling vibrant, the more my behaviors derive from that feeling, and in turn lead to more of that feeling. (If you would like to read more about “adding a quality” to your meditation, check out Wendy Palmer’s book, Intuitive Body.)
4. Use the tools. Armed with a deep connection to my identified quality of vibrant, I am able to use it when faced with decisions. Will this choice support or hinder me in feeling vibrant? The more deeply connected you are to the quality, the less likely you are to do something that moves you away from it. Now you are actively working to cultivate that quality in your life each day instead of hoping it may someday arise as a result of your resolutions.
Most of us believe actions lead to outcomes that lead to feelings. This process starts with the feeling. First you identify the quality you want from an identified goal and you practice that quality. The connection you build with the quality will propel you into the actions that support it. Sometimes, you will find that the resolution you thought was going to get you there isn’t what you end up doing, and that’s just fine. In actuality, it was the resultant emotional quality of that action that you were really seeking anyway.
As always, I am here to coach you through the process should you need assistance. Good luck.
About the Author:
Catherine la O’ began her personal journey of yoga in 2001 here at Yoga Tree in San Francisco. Armed with the wisdom and experience of many years of a dedicated personal practice, Catherine shares her knowledge with students in both private and public classes.
As a certified Integral Life Coach, Catherine finds that her ability to teach and guide people into a deeper body awareness marries beautifully with her skillful ability to coach and support them in their journey of cognitive, spiritual and relational development.
Her classes reflect an integral approach inspiring students to cultivate greater mindfulness & presence resulting in an increase in their overall health & wellness. You may visit her blog at www.liminalspace.net