Toss Out New Year’s Resolutions: A Better Plan

        Resolution means creating a determination toward some purpose or goal. To start, try not to frame your resolution in the future “I’m going to”, “should”, “could”, “ought to”, “will”, “must”, “have to”, and the like. This future talk fails, as it is not in the present moment, the only place we can act! 

Rather than speaking of goals, I like to think of setting an aim or intention for the New Year.  Like the Zen archer who closes his eyes when releasing his arrow aimed at the target, I set no goals.  Rather then seeking to work toward a goal, I take aim.  The latter I know is not in my hands.  I set my intention, I take aim, and let go, knowing that the outcome is not in my hands.

            Intention is concerned with “process not product.”  Product means the endpoint or goal. Process means focusing on the practice or technique you are doing; your intention or aim might be to lose weight, give up smoking, eat well, earn more money, be more assertive, more patient, etc. but your attention is on what you are doing to accomplish it.   You keep your attention on the path and process not the outcome.  

If you want to strive for goals or want reassurance that you can control the world around you, you are creating a trap for yourself.  For example, if you are on a diet to shed pounds, stop focusing on how much you have to lose, how far you have to go, the number on the scale, or labeling yourself a success or failure based on that number.

Instead, stay focused on your path of eating well, in moderation, in rhythm, soberly, awake and aware. Time is of no consequence. Be like the Zen archer. He becomes an expert, a master, through his steady attention to his practice: he sets his posture and stance, his bow and arrow, and so on – free of concern with the outcome of his practice. His intention is to shoot the arrow as correctly as he can, and everything he does centers on that intention. 

Experiencing Process, Not Product

Mental imagery is all about the process of change and transformation, not products or goals. It is an excellent way to heal or change a quality of yourself – emotionally, physically or spiritually. 

Here is an imagery exercise from Kabbalah For Inner Peace: Imagery and Insights to Guide You through the Day. It is based on Eugene Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery and was created by Colette.  In this imagery exercise, you do what the Zen master does – shoot the arrow with your intention, but with no goal.  You need do the exercise only once to set your intention.

Imagery Exercise: The Zen Master 

  • Sit up in a chair and close your eyes, knowing that this exercise takes from 30 seconds to a minute to complete.
  • Set your intention for the New Year. 
  • Breathe out a long slow exhalation through the mouth and a brief, normal inhalation through your nose; do this three times. 
  • On the next long out breathe.
  • Imagine yourself as your own Zen master. See yourself dressed in a robe with an obi sash tied around it. You have with you a golden bow and a golden quiver that holds one golden arrow. The target is in front of you.
  • You arrange yourself now to shoot the arrow at the target.
  •  If you are left-handed, you set your right shoulder perpendicular to the target; If you are right-handed, you set your left shoulder perpendicular to the target.
  • Your rear foot is pointed in the same direction as you are standing. Your front foot is turned 90 degrees, to face the target. Your posture is quite straight.
  • You sense and feel yourself tall and erect. You are breathing evenly and regularly.
  • Now remove the golden arrow from its quiver, which is slung over your shoulder.
  • Take the arrow and turn your bow in a 45-degree angle upwards and put the golden arrow into the bow.
  • Set the end of the arrow into the string of the bow, hold the wooden frame of the bow very tightly, and pull the string back with your dominant hand, very tautly and tightly, with great strength.
  • Set the bow at a 90-degree angle facing the target. Still maintaining the same posture, you turn your head to look at the target. You turn right if you are left-handed, you turn left if you are right-handed. You look directly at the bull’s eye.
  • Breathe out one time slowly.
  • You are there in front of the target. You are about to release the arrow, and just before you do, there in the image, close your eyes so you no longer see the target, and release the arrow.
  • Breathe out and open your eyes in the image to see where the arrow has landed. See what happens.
  • Breathe out and open your eyes.

FYI: My New Year’s intention is the same as it’s always been:  continue my spiritual journey and practices; engage the process not the product; maybe hit the bull’s eye or not.  Either way is fine with me.  That makes me happy. Happy New Year!