This time of year, a lot of people like to make New Year’s resolutions. That doesn’t work for me as the truth is that I’m going to behave as I will, for better or worse, and I don’t need the extra self-pressure.
I do like to set my intentions for the coming year. It’s not about changing my behavior but, instead, turning my attention to themes I’m drawn to. Between Thanksgiving and the winter solstice, I contemplate what has gone on the previous year and what feels most compelling for the near-term future. I write out random notes.
I’m not against having goals or deciding to do this or not do that. It was my goal to get my car tires replaced by the end of the year, and I’ve done that. I have some other action goals for things I need to do in 2015, and I can get organized and do those things.
Matters of the heart and mind are not so subject to goal setting. Setting an intention is orienting oneself in a certain direction without a fixed idea of where the path will lead, just knowing that it’s the right way to go.
Setting an intention does not set up a system of success or failure because, unlike with a goal, there’s no specific course of action. We have relatively little control over what happens to us or around us. Setting an intention has to do with being open to possibilities.
For many years, my intentions have included having a lot of rest and relaxation in my life. That doesn’t mean I can just drop everything and be on permanent vacation, much as I’d like to. It does mean I taking advantage of opportunities for breaks. I just took my 2015 calendar and drew a line through federal holidays, marking them off as no-work days.
Rest and relaxation remain among my intentions year by year, and they have morphed into and expanded into some other intentions.
This time last year, I was struck by how much I really want ease and comfort in my life. It was new for me to feel this so explicitly. I would like things to be easy, as often as possible, all the time if that were possible, which it is not.
So, I set ease and comfort as my intention for 2014. What happened? I got my first speeding ticket, ever (driving 35 mph in a 25 mph zone). I needed to slow down, or pay the price, which I had to do. Then, also early in the year, I became a victim of a major crime. Not easy, not comfortable. But I thought about how I could recuperate with the greatest ease. I hired people I already know to help me, and I spent money on things to reduce the chance of it happening again. I changed my schedule somewhat to make my life easier.
The intention for greater ease was percolating while I started this blog last spring, and it gave way to another focus of attention, which will be my theme for 2015: creativity.
Having more ease in my life has given me more room to think about what I really want to be doing. I have to work X number of hours to generate enough income to pay the bills. Beyond that, what I really want is a creative life.
This intention bubbled up this year in a new desire to take up sewing again after a thirty year break. I bought a new machine, started taking classes and have made a few things. I’ve signed up for a series of sewing classes starting in January.
I feel an even greater desire to return to working as a writer. That’s what I always wanted to be when I grow up, and that’s what I’d like to be doing at the end of my life. Having more spaciousness in my life gives me more time to think and write.
There’s a misconception that spiritual practice involves giving up one’s desires. Many people believe that the Buddha taught his students to stop having desires. That’s not what he taught, nor would it be possible for humans to not have desires. What the Buddha taught was about suffering, which arises when we are attached to getting exactly what we want. Having a wholesome desire and holding it lightly is a fine way to let life unfold as it will.
I have no specific goals as to how creativity will show up in my life. I don’t need to manufacture a certain percentage of my clothes or write a certain amount of words per day. What I want to do is recognize and receive opportunities for creativity.
In a bit of synchronicity, a day or so after I wrote out my notes on the creativity theme, I happened to see an announcement from a long-lost acquaintance I had recently friended on Facebook. She’s teaching writing classes and it turns out there are LOTS of writing classes being offered at The Grotto in San Francisco. They’ve offered these classes for years, but only now are my ears perked up to recognize this opportunity. I signed up for two classes for January. Who knows where that will lead, but it’s perfect to pair an intention with an action, and since I’m a perpetual student, taking classes is really perfect.
When I set an intention for the year, I like to accompany it with one or more affirmations, such as “I welcome creativity into my life” or “Look, at all that creativity!”
I also like to focus on the divine qualities that accompany an intention. Evidence of the Creator’s out-pouring abundance is perceptible wherever one turns.
Invoking more creativity is what was already starting to happen in the past couple of years, with my desire to return to writing and sewing. By making creativity an explicit intention for 2015, I feel I am co-operating with what has been offered for me to receive.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and encourage you to set your intentions in the direction of your heart’s deepest desires.