It’s that time again…when we take stock of the past year and look towards the future to set our new “New Year’s Resolutions' '. I realize now that for most of us, it’s something that is exciting at first but then may lose its appeal as we get closer to mid-year with our routines and the day to day. This year I thought I’d write something a little different than just the usual list like “workout 5x a week”. I thought I’d call it my “Enduring Courage List” Enduring means ‘continuing or long-lasting’ and we all know what it means to live with courage. Merriam-Webster says this about courage: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere”. I like that so much because I do believe that it takes something beyond just a promise or commitment to ourselves to change a behavior or habit. It’s something much deeper than a thing we are striving to attain. It takes fortitude and strength.
Anytime I’ve changed something (beyond just saying to myself or my friends I want to get better at...fill in the blank) – when I’ve truly attained that thing I wanted to shift was when I focused on what I would get from doing it –vs- what I’m about to lose. Trust me, I’ve been there plenty of times when I’ve focused on the latter. Somehow my experience tells my brain to focus on the thing I’m losing and it rarely works.
My dear friend and spiritual teacher Sat Devbir reminded me: “Instead of making a list of what you want to give up or stop doing, make a list of what you’re going to do instead.” And here’s another excellent reminder that Sat mentioned quoting Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
In other words – lead with the positive instead of what appears to be negative.
Here’s a list I put together to think of our resolutions a bit differently this year. Some of these have stories that are inspiring, at least for me and I hope they will be for you as well.
My Enduring Courage List
Miracles – Be open to inviting miracles in your life.
Rabbi Joshua Stampfer lived to be 98 years old. His daughter Elana stated in a Facebook post about the sermon he wrote for Hanukkah in 2004: “You don’t have to believe in miracles – you do have to recognize them.” She said: “…and he was exactly that way; keeping his eyes open for the good and miraculous.” I bet if you take a moment to look back on your life, and think about the times where you may have just passed it by for something else other than a miracle, you might look at it differently. That it truly was a miracle.
Forgiveness – Make it a practice to forgive.
After the passing of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, December 26, 2021 at the age of 90 years old, I think about the tremendous impact he had on the world, but especially for South Africa. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent stand to end apartheid, in which he was instrumental. He said:
“Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings…We forgive for ourselves.” I don’t necessarily feel that it’s easy to forgive but when we can truly look into ourselves and understand the part inside of us that doesn’t feel free because of what someone did to us or how they treated us – it’s a massive sigh of relief to finally get that it’s up to each and every one of us to reconcile with ourselves. And it’s up to each and every one of us to take responsibility and be sober enough to understand how we may have hurt another. Resentment only adds up in our energetic bank and hurts ourselves. Forgiveness is the key to our freedom.
Presence - Be in the moment as much as you can.
I remember when I was in the heart of working in Hollywood, I went to an event on the Fox lot and Eckhart Tolle was speaking. The green room was in the very front and all the speakers including Jim Carrey and celebrities like Alanis Morissette were just roaming around and talking and getting to know one another. I will never forget the moment when I saw Eckhart from across the room. It was a magical experience to say the least because although it’s a rare occasion that I ever get star struck, I have to admit I kind of was with him. Then suddenly I see him walking towards me and I’m thinking surely he’s walking to meet someone near me. He keeps walking towards me and we lock eyes. It was a bit surreal. Then boom, there he is, right in front of my face. He stops and I stop and then I realize he walked over from the other side of the room to come talk to me. I say hello as we are literally eye-to-eye and even though there were a ton of people surrounding us and the buzz was palpable, it honestly felt like we were the only ones standing in that room. I had been following Eckhart’s literature for decades by this point and I remember distinctly the moment Oprah had him on a telecall back in the 90’s. It was a victorious moment for those of us involved in the transformational movement because I deeply believe it shifted humanity on a large scale. Here I am standing eye to eye with one of the greatest masters of our time and time just stopped. Everything stopped. It all faded to slow motion. He’s looking so deep into my eyes with no words. So, I look deep into his, and we’re just standing there. I believe we communicated a lot in that moment and then he said to me: “I see you. I see your light.” It was a profound moment for me. It felt like he was speaking directly into my soul. Then we gazed a bit more and he slowly turned away. This is what it felt like being in the moment. I don’t think it needs to be that dramatic but you get my point, I hope. Here’s my favorite quote from him: “The present moment is all you ever have.” I totally agree. One of the best books out there on being present in the moment is The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment. I read it when it first came out in 1997 and it’s one of those books that you will want to keep at your bedside to brush up from time to time. It’s also on Audible of course for those of you who like to listen while taking long walks in the woods.
Wellbeing – Take care of your wellbeing.
Make your wellbeing list in these areas: Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical. Do a deep dive into these areas to understand where you reside. Every year I write down how I can improve. You don’t have to be a religious person to fill out the category of 1) Spiritual - Meditation or just being quiet to relax the mind or praying all count. There’s something for everyone – How often do you give yourself time on a daily or weekly basis to connect with yourself, your center? Finding time to do this will create dividends in your energetic bank account. Trust me. 2) Mental – On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you say your mental health is doing? Try and rate it. Write down how you can improve in this area. If you need support then reach out. There are plenty of therapists out there and coaches to help be a sounding board and it’s so healthy to do so. Sometimes we just need a third party to talk to and gain a healthy perspective. Are you looping about the same thing over and over again? That can’t be healthy for you. However, if you are then be honest and use it as good information, not judgment. Sometimes that’s a clue into what is bothering us and what we might need to let go of for our own sanity and health. 3) Emotional – How is your heart doing? Instead of pushing the override button, how do you actually feel? We are not robots even though sometimes we just want to veg out on the couch watching Netflix. Especially during these times. Check in with yourself and ask the hard questions so you can truly get in touch with your feelings. Someone said once: we can’t heal what we can’t feel. 4) Physical – Check in with your body. When was the last time you took a walk outside in the fresh air? When did you do some movement like taking a yoga class to move your body? Weights? Movement does wonders for the mind, not to mention the heart.
Stillness –Be in a quiet place with NO distractions.
According to one of my favorite meditation teachers, John Kabat-Zinn: “It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time by yourself.” I have to say that this statement really rings true. I have followed John for nearly three decades and he is one of the pioneers in teaching meditation and mindfulness. I love being reminded by him of how important the act of stillness really is and how it taps into a deep place of reverence for yourself.
Happy – Find your happiness.
What makes you happy or brings you joy? Not just fleeting happiness but the real thing. Is there a hobby that you love? What activity do you do that makes you feel happy? Look at the people you surround yourself with – do you feel happy when you are around them? Does your work make you feel happy or are you stuck doing something that just pays the bills. Find these things and multiple them and they will be the gifts that give back to your life in meaningful ways. If you aren’t smiling to yourself then pay attention to that and make small incremental changes to do something about it. It will change everything for you.
Energy – Pay attention to your energy levels.
Have you done an energy check lately? If you are feeling drained, maybe it’s time to evaluate who you are spending your time with or if you are giving to everybody else but leaving nothing for yourself. Perhaps you are working too hard and too much and forget to eat lunch during a workday or you haven’t taken a day off to relax. Most people will just push through and then feel depleted and be forced to slow down. Mindfulness is a great way to be more present with your energy levels and what you need to do to make those subtle or maybe big changes to feel more balanced. My Grandpa always said to me, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” I think that’s good advice.
Breath – Remember to breathe into your belly.
I took a breathwork class once and it was extremely powerful. The breath of fire in certain yoga practices can also move a ton of energy in the body and redirect it or clear it out. I loved that breathwork class so much that I decided to get a one on one session. Afterwards, I honestly felt like I had just had a massage just by breathing a certain way for almost an hour. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class and practiced the breath of fire or taken a kundalini class, it’s all about the breath. These ancient practices are no joke. Intentional breathing has many benefits including lowering stress and anxiety, providing a sense of calm, bringing more oxygen to the lungs and brain to increase alertness. If you want to see the benefits of practicing breathwork, create a routine and practice just 5 minutes a day and work your way up. I guarantee you will see a difference.
Gratitude – Keep a gratitude journal.
Keeping track of the things you are grateful for can bring enormous benefits. Research shows that writing the things that you are grateful for can improve your well being by over 10%. It can also have a huge impact on the quality of your life too because it maintains a sense of not taking anything for granted. It’s also fun to go back and read what you’ve written and take stock every month or so which gives you a record of everything you have and who are most important to you in your life. Just 12 times a year can make a massive difference. The other thing it does is it has you look at all the good in your life instead of focusing on the negative. We have so much around us to be grateful for and I think now is a good time in history to be counting our blessings and maintaining a positive outlook. This can help!
Give back – Give to others who need your help.
There are plenty of people who need help. It’s become more visible now than ever before. Instead of talking about how you want to see change, how about asking yourself what you can do about it. It seems like many people are complaining about “the other side” and getting obsessed with the ‘news’ but how many people are really doing something that they feel passionate about? There are so many ways you can contribute with your voice, your money, your time. It feels so good to give back. Something. As Nike says: Just Do It (if you aren’t already, and if you are – the Universe thanks you and so do future generations).
This last year has been transformative for me. I moved into a really small place with an amazing view for which I am extremely grateful. I sacrificed space for the view and it has been the gift that just keeps on giving. I am situated in nature. Outside of my balcony are the most glorious trees and the Willamette River. I often see red tail hawks and eagles perched on the tree by my windows. The crows come for a convention (literally hundreds it seems) at around 4pm everyday and it’s quite amazing to hear their symphony seeing them fly right above my head. Geese are everywhere and of course ducks and seagulls. Hummingbirds and coyotes pay a visit too from time to time. I’m saying all this because I’ve had time to think – a lot of time. I made a choice last year not to bring a TV into my space. I did that intentionally because I love the peace. It never gets old. It might be too quiet for some but I’ve been able to hear my thoughts clearer and sit and be (sometimes many times a day). It’s been very healing. Oh yah and I can’t forget about my puppy Miko whom many of you have met. That has been an amazing journey. I also love music so I play that on my speaker and play my keyboard, sing and focus on writing too. I love going to Urban Office to socialize and be in my amazing space for work as well which is a blessing in and of itself. Being in my space at home and taking nature walks among the trees have set the tone for my life now. It’s a cadence that just has a song of its own. And truthfully it’s a pace that brings me joy to commune in this way. I’ve had time to get to know myself in a way that reminded me about my true nature and making my ‘Enduring Courage List’ has been a steadfast cue that brings deep meaning to my life.
I hope it does for you too.
May you feel peace in the coming year,