Saturday, December 31, 2016

I need to see what 2017 is going to look like before I determine what it’s feasible for me to accomplish in it...

Rosa Parks says in her book Quiet Strength: “I find that if I am thinking too much of my own problems and the fact that at times things are not just like I want them to be, I do not make any progress at all. But if I look around and see what I can do, and then I do it, I move on” (as quoted by SGI president Daisaku Ikeda in the Buddhist daily inspiration book For Today & Tomorrow).

I find that I don’t achieve the kind of progress Ms. Parks is talking about by making the conventional “New Year’s resolution.” I’ve always viewed theming my year with a hyper-focus on weight loss, a fitness milestone, a particular financial outcome, or other surface-level personal change as diversionary: The marketing and products created to cater to these resolutions seems designed to encourage people to use them as a defense mechanism against doing the hard, often heartbreaking work of developing the courage and skill-sets to confront and resolve the deeper, darker aspects in their lives that need changing.

Most of my 2016 has been focused on eradicating the deeper, darker aspects in my life, which has made the January 1st goal-setting staple of mainstream culture appear even more shallow and escapist. I’m not saying that no one can open their karmic storehouses and do their most important self-work by starting out with, for example, a weight-loss goal; it just seems that most people who try it only end up making themselves feel more discouraged and ashamed (and thus more likely to continue emotionally over-eating) by tapping out soon after January 1st because it’s too draining and bad for their morale to continue a program that feels like punishment and prohibits them from “indulging” in the enjoyment of food and relaxation.

I find that it’s the hardest to address surface-level problems such as excess weight, lack of energy for being productive on any of my own stuff after a long work-week, or financial deficits when the deeper stuff is taking up a lot of my energy; this is why I’ve struggled so much with all three of the above this year, and it is also the real reason why most people “fail” in their New Year’s resolution.

So, regardless of if doing so would be a great way for some people to focus and move their lives forward in the directions they want, I can’t bring myself today to tell myself that in 2017 I’m going to lose # amount of pounds, or be more productive # amount of hours per week, and set a savings goal of $#.

I had no idea how sick I would be this year, how much death and mourning I would experience this year, and how many emotional lows I would experience this year, or how all of this would inhibit my ability to focus enough energy toward achieving financial and freelance goals I had set for myself. I’m not feeling doom-and-gloom about it, but I am viewing 2017 as more of a chaos-factor than something I can clearly envision and control through my goal-setting.

It’s possible I might change my mind and approach later; right now, this is where I’m at.

After saying all that, I can see now I do sort-of have a New Year’s Resolution: Develop more self-compassion to allow me to heal in the ways I need to heal in order for me to be able to accomplish any health, financial, productivity, or relationship changes I want to see in my life in 2017 and beyond.

Daisaku Ikeda reminds us that our human lifetimes on this planet are short, and this is why it is important for us to ask ourselves “what [we] can do for those who are suffering, what [we] can do to resolve the contradictions that plague society and to boldly take on these great challenges.”

This includes having compassion for and taking action to resolve our own suffering as well. It does no good to give all our kosen-rufu efforts to other people while considering our own human revolution only a by-product of the process.

We can’t give to others from an empty storehouse.


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Image: “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering” by Karla Joy Huber, 2016; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker on blendable marker paper. (Note: This drawing is named after one of Nichiren Daishonin's writings)

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