It’s January, and that means lots of people wanting to learn meditation, often with the aim of make a change to the way they live. But here’s a statistic that hasn’t changed in years: of the millions of people who set a New Year’s resolution for themselves, only about 8% are successful at achieving them.
Intention v Resolution?
You may have noticed in recent years, a movement away from setting resolutions towards setting intentions. What’s the difference, you ask?
Resolutions tend to work on the conventional model of identifying a problem or issue (for instance, losing weight), wanting to “solve” the problem and creating an action plan to do so. So far so good. Here’s the hitch.
If there are no real consequences to the problem continuing, then for most of us, we will not create an action plan that is specific or rigorous enough to solve the problem. Say, for example, if you don’t lose the weight now, nothing happens, really. Unless you’ve been ordered to lose weight by the doctor, the resolution – as well intentioned as it is – soon becomes a thought of the past and something you will try again in the future. And so, the stated resolution – like all those before it – goes by the wayside.
On the other hand, if we set intentions of feeling better in our clothing, and living with more energy and vitality each day, these are more likely to translate into a habit of making healthier food choices or smaller portions at mealtimes. These intentions feel more attainable and realistic, than simply losing weight. A resolution to lose 5kg may start off as a much desired goal, but how to achieve it may be vague.
In my experience, intentions tend to have a positive tone, which I have found, sit better with our consciousness, speaking to us through feelings and emotions, and our hearts. Whilst, resolutions tend to be more goal oriented and more head focused, and, especially if you have set these resolutions before, in the not-too-distant past (e.g. weight loss or quitting smoking), they may have you subconsciously feeling defeated before you even begin.
If you want to genuinely wish to create a change in your life, we begin by clarifying your intention for doing so.
1. Slip into the Gap
Most of the time, our mind is caught up in the constant chatter of thoughts, emotions, memories and stories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue, is a state of pure consciousness or awareness that is sometimes referred to as “the gap.” One of the most effective tools we have for entering the gap is meditation.
Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence, stillness and unboundedness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant our seeds of intention. If you don’t meditate (or even if you do), here is a simple exercise to help you slip into the gap:
Start by sitting up straight and comfortably (always ensure your back is supported, tuck your chin in a little and leave your head and neck free), and then taking a few minutes to check in with your body. Notice where you feel tension, tightness or sensations, and gently allow those parts of your body to relax, to unwind and disentangle. Once you are settled, gently bring your awareness to the physical sensation of your breathing. Tune into the natural flow of both your in-breath and your out-breath.
After three or so minutes of this meditation, silently ask yourself: What is my motivation for change this year?
Then p a u s e and notice what comes up. Listen to the answers that arise in response to the question, let them wash over you like a wave, and then come back to asking the question again. Some answers might seem corny or clichéd, others may surprise you with the authenticity and relevance to your life.
After a few minutes, let the question go and simply return to your breath, letting your mind be adrift on the simple pleasures of the present moment.
Are you surprised by what came up in these few minutes? I always am when I do this work. Sometimes my mind keeps coming back to the image of a role model. Sometimes a certain quality that I have noticed about myself (or one that I would like to develop) comes up for me and I explore what it would be like to live my life with that quality at the core of who I am.
2. Release Your Intentions and Desires
Once established in a state of restful awareness, we release our intentions and desires. The best time to plant your intentions is during the period immediately after meditation (or performing the above exercise), while your awareness remains centred in the quiet field of all possibilities. After you set each intention, let it go — simply stop thinking about it. You can continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation each day, until you have released all your intentions for the year.
3. Remain Centred in a State of Restful Awareness
Intention is more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need or yearning. It is important to stay centred, and trust that your higher self knows that everything is all right and will be all right, even without knowing the timing or the details of what will happen.
4. Detach from the Outcome
Relinquish your rigid attachment to a specific result. Attachment is rooted in fear and insecurity, while detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your higher self. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.
5. Let the Universe Handle the Details
Once you plant your seeds of intention in pure consciousness, you set the infinite organising power of the universe in motion. Trust that infinite organising power to orchestrate the complete fulfillment of your desires.
If, like me, you’re a little bit of a control freak, it becomes a real challenge not to take charge, and revert to the default setting – that obsessive vigilance is the only way to get anything done. Sometimes the outcome that we work so hard to make happen (try so hard to force) may not be as good for us as the one that flows naturally to us. We have released our intentions into the field of pure potentiality, and they will bloom when the season is right.
Whatever works for you, whether it be a resolution or intention, spend some time reflecting and decide on what you want for yourself this year. Get creative with reminders of your resolutions or intentions, and most importantly: Live It Daily