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How To Turn Your Resolution Into A Ritual

So here we are about two weeks into the New Year. Maybe you’re going strong with your chosen resolution, whether that’s hitting the gym regularly, dutifully drinking more water (and less wine), eating your daily greens or meditating at bedtime.

Or maybe…not.

Maybe all that energy and gumption and intention and willpower you woke up with on January 1 is flagging a little. Maybe you’re tired, bored, frustrated, unmotivated, over it.

We’re certainly not here to resolution-shame you. That New Year adrenaline high could only last so long, right? However, we know you’re probably here in part because you crave a little self-improvement. So we’ve plumbed history for some divine intervention to help reignite your resolution fire.

Fortunately, ancient wisdom abounds with symbolism and tradition surrounding the New Year. The Q’ero, a community of farmers and healers who make their home in the Andean region of Peru, subscribe to a shamanic faith that recognizes divinity in all things—people, animals, rivers, flowers. Q’ero shamanism contends there’s a shaman within each of us, connecting us to the outside world and our deepest selves and giving us the power to bring about healing and change. Concerned as they are with showing reverence to—and living in harmony with—the land, they mark the New Year by making a ritualistic offering of gratitude to Mother Earth, as a way of showing appreciation for her bounty and recognizing nature’s cyclical, transformational essence. 

In Kabbalah—a centuries-old Judaic philosophy that takes a mystical interpretation of the Bible—the New Year is reserved for introspection. Guided by the inner light of awareness, Kabbalists practice teshuva, or “returning to the source,” a ritual of reflection, letting go of the past and setting new intentions for the year.

It’s no accident that the concept of ritual emerges as a common thread across these traditions. By altering our consciousness and sharpening our focus on the reality that we want to create, rituals have the power to cause an energetic shift. This in turn catalyzes change throughout our lives—in our bodies, our careers, our relationships, our souls. In that way, New Year’s resolutions are simply rituals further codified. 

Traditional wisdom is great, but how does one actually make space for it in this thoroughly modern world, and further, use it to bolster one’s New Year’s resolutions? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Connect with Mother Earth by eating plant foods that come straight from the source.
  2. Establish a ritualistic practice of self-love, optimal health and higher consciousness.
  3. Look inward, weed out the old stories that are stifling your progress and begin writing new ones that lift you up.
  4. Nurture your mind-body connection through food, movement and mindfulness.
  5. Turn the page, start fresh and set the tone for a transformational year, in which you not only become your best self, but define what “best” means, looks like and feels like to you and only you. 

While tapping into the collective impetus toward self-betterment is certainly a good way to keep your resolve up, the other side of the New Year coin is being far too hard on yourself for not meeting the goals you’ve set. In light of that, here’s one more piece of wisdom to bear in mind this month (and always), care of Buddhist thinker and author Pema Chodron. She posits that focusing too much on self-improvement becomes “a subtle aggression against who we really are.” While harnessing the energy the New Year brings is powerful and promising, it’s risky to allow our self-worth to ride 100% on our ability to become something other than what we are right now. And it’s at odds with the practice of metta, or loving-kindness, toward ourselves. In order to find peace—which will ultimately allow us to make space for the growth and change we so badly want—we’re better served to accept ourselves, even if (especially if) that means accepting our flaws and faults. When facing a challenge, setbacks aren’t failures, but part of the journey to be expected. The all-important thing, as Chodron puts it, is “befriending who we are already.”

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