It is (finally) 2022 and most of us are probably taking the time to reflect on the year just past, looking to set new goals and resolutions for the year to come. But of course, many of us also fear this time of the year, because we know from experience how hard it is to set goals that stick. Common wisdom tells us that usually, by the first week of February, we most likely would have forgotten about the habits we were so committed to keeping only a few weeks before. We would have lost the fresh feeling of motivation, once again buried underneath the mundane of life.
If we want to make 2018 a different year, we have to learn to move forward even when we can’t find an ounce of motivation within us.
In Buddhism there is a teaching that it is important to meditate or “sit” during all periods of our lives, no matter how we feel or at what stage of our lives we find ourselves in.
Sometimes we feel calm and collected, and so we feel motivated to sit. Sometimes we feel like our mind is in overdrive and is restless. We try to sit, but we get anxious and want to move on to the next thing — we find that five minutes feels like thirty.
But then there are the times in our lives when we feel pain. We feel suffering from the loss of a loved one, a breakup, or losing our job. In these times we also feel restless and anxious, but surprisingly, these are the times when we feel the most motivated to sit. We sit because we’re trying to find an outlet, we’re trying to find a small piece of peace. I personally have sat for periods of over four hours during these times. It wasn’t like it was particularly easy, and I still suffered throughout the whole process, but I persevered. I persevered because I was motivated by pain. The cramps, boredom and restlessness was there, but I continued. My desire for freedom overcame the pain I felt from the meditation.
Conversely, during the good times, we feel the opposite. We find that we lose the motivation to sit, we lose the motivation to work, because things are going well. We give ourselves excuses. We simply don’t feel like it. Our time, we reason, is better spent elsewhere. Sometimes that may be true, but often we begin to lose patience for our practice. We lose familiarity with it. We stop training our minds. And when the suffering inevitably returns, we are not prepared for it.
So the teaching is simple — remember to sit. Consistently and frequently.
As the new year comes and goes, we often feel relieved that the year has passed. We are given a second chance — it feels new and exciting. In these moments we forget about the pain we felt only a few months ago. This is how we lose track of our resolutions and break the integrity of the commitments to ourselves. We go chasing new and exciting adventures, free from the weight of old baggage. But the baggage of course is still there with us. We are still carrying it with us, we have just become accustomed to it’s weight.
As we enter the new year, don’t deprive yourself of your right to a new beginning. Be prepared to instead double down on what it will take to create the new and improved you.