Did you know that the earliest known New Year’s festivities date back to ancient Babylon? Unearthed clay tablets tell us they do, making the current celebration at least a 4000 year old tradition. For the ancient Babylonians, however, the New Year wasn’t marked by a revelatory countdown to midnight with some individuals utilizing the occasion as an opportunity for self-motivation. For these ancient peoples, it was a massive celebration of another year of victory over the forces of chaos.
From our present day, Western, convenience foods perspective, we can hardly imagine the celebratory mood of these agrarian people who were deeply aware of their dependence on the cycles of the Earth and the greater cosmos. Their New Year’s events spanned eleven days centered around the Spring Equinox, the time of year when the day starts to become longer than the night. This religious festival, called Akitu, was devoted to their pantheon of highly temperamental gods, and it included animal sacrifices, processions, enactments of their creation story, and a climatic ritual in which the new or reigning king was publicly humiliated by a priest. Interestingly, it was considered a good omen for the coming year if the king shed tears during his ordeal because it proved that he had been purified before the gods.
Did this purging of the king’s ego also serve to keep him from becoming tyrannical?! I must leave that query for another time, because my interest for today is new year’s resolutions, a tradition that can also be traced back to the ancient Babylonians. Most of their resolve concerned the practicalities of paying back debts, (yes, humans were worrying about debt even then,) and returning borrowed farm equipment, (yes, humans were procrastinating even then.) But what strikes me is the fact that human beings have been making New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years. It boggles the mind to think of all the good intentions, practical or otherwise, that have been set during the official dawn of the year. How many wildly optimistic New Year promises have been made to self over the millennia? How many of these intentions have been kept and how many have been broken? This wondering brings me to the real questions of this post: why are resolutions often difficult to keep and how can we turn the challenge of keeping them into an opportunity for deep, lasting change?
From my experience in navigating the realms of the human unconscious, I see that resolutions are hard to keep because humans are complex beings. Our faculties include the physical, emotional, intellectual, imaginal, intuitive, instinctual and spiritual. These various faculties have differing strengths, perspectives, desires, needs and impulses. Clearly there is much room for internal conflict here. Internal conflict leads us to make, for example, an emotional resolution that is thwarted by a physical impulse, or an intellectual resolution that is thwarted by an emotional impulse. But these internal conflicts don’t occur because we’re inherently flawed. They occur because we possess a multidimensional consciousness. It’s a consciousness that affords us great opportunity for a richly creative and deeply rewarding experience of life. The key is to deepen your understanding of your complexity.
One way we, as humans, can resolve conflict in our multidimensional consciousness is to spend quiet time in self-reflection. Through self-reflection we can determine which of our desires are authentic and which were internalized. We can then free our authentic desires to find a natural, flowing balance. We can even align our faculties towards a unified goal. So if you’ve set a New Year’s resolution and at some point you notice yourself struggling to honor it, try being patient and curious with yourself and consider this self-reflection exercise: Get quiet and have a curious, non-judgmental conversation with yourself.
For starters, allow yourself to deeply feel the desire for change and then ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Listen closely for the answer. It might be loud and clear or soft and tentative. If the answer isn’t clear, keep asking yourself, “Why?” until you get to the essence of the matter. Then ask your conflicting impulse why it is resisting the change. Continue to ask yourself powerful, direct questions just like you would ask a close friend who appreciates honest conversation. Listen carefully for the answers until you find some inner clarity and, hopefully, some resolution. Your inner resolution will allow you to keep your outer resolution. If this suggestion sounds odd or you find it difficult to do, you can contact me for a free 30 minute Skype or phone call and I will be happy to help you get started. Here’s to a highly creative, deeply rewarding 2017!!! Cheers, Kim