12 January 2016
And this is the core of the secret: Attention is the beginning of devotion. ~Mary Oliver
As I wrote last week, I’ve been thinking about rhythms, the natural cycles that include periods of rest. And, like many of us at this time of year, I’ve also been looking at the opportunity of a new year fanning out ahead and considering resolutions I might want to make for it.
But, I’ve hesitated with this latter enterprise. It seemed counterproductive to set goals while I was cultivating respite and restoration. Then it dawned on me: This is the perfect place from which to create objectives for the year. While honoring a cycle of rejuvenation, I can both feel the restocking of my stores of enthusiasm about what’s possible and also have a sensitivity to ‘enoughness’.
In the past, I’ve set myself to goals from a hectic space of feeling behind, insufficient, inadequate. These goals are often about remaking myself into a different person, a worthy person. It’s pretty tiring. It’s also crazy-making because it perpetuates my myth that I need to be more than I am in order to be enough. With these goals, each time I hit one mark, another one moves out ahead of me. My ‘perfect self’ is perpetually just beyond reach.
This month, the action of resting has helped me get in touch with myself in a more compassionate way. Surrendering to my need for self-care, I realize how often what I truly need is something small, something at hand, something as simple as another hour of sleep, or 15 minutes of quiet in which to sit and reflect, or a bit of time to be with a friend. Quieting eases me into the knowledge that there is no perfection, there are only works in progress.
So, I’m making my new year’s resolutions from a different place, from a place of recognizing and nourishing deep needs and desires. The kinds of needs and desires that I want my living to reflect.
Which requires digging in. I’m asking, ‘What am I devoted to in my life?’ And this question is leading me into territory that matters. Instead of focusing on where I’m lacking, this question guides me into the heart of what I cherish. Instead of setting specific rules and prescriptions for the year, I’m fashioning myself a place to come back to ground, with beacons to light the way back to priorities I hold dear.
What’s emerging is a loose list of intentions. I’m not labeling this list ‘2016 New Year’s Resolutions’. I’m calling it ‘2016 Devotions’.
I’m putting down things I know to be rejuvenating. Things like sleep. Like physical activity and good food. Like attending my family, connecting with friends, being of service. Like giving my soul time and space in my daily living.
I’m jotting down some specific suggestions around these general ideas, but my focus is a soft, slightly blurry, general view of the whole picture. And, I’m viewing the foundational priorities as devotions. The facets of my life where I want to express enthusiasm, loyalty, love. Where I want to encourage growth and expansion. Where I want to engage effort and attention, and also simply be open to what is possible.
Rather than set goals in a stressed out or shaming way, I’m practicing kindness and patience, establishing helpful reminders for myself to pay attention to areas of life I consider important.
These ‘2016 Devotions’ are guidelines I’m designing to help me strengthen and build on my core values and ground me in the stuff that matters in my creation of a satisfying life.