A New Year’s Evolution

With the New Year fast approaching, our thoughts turn to the grand possibilities life has in store for us if we can just keep this year’s resolution. We resolve to be better and do better hoping that the new and improved “me” will get us a bigger slice of the happiness pie.

As Americans, our $11 billion self-help industry attests to the fact that we are obsessed with resolving to change. But how many people actually keep their New Years resolutions? Research proves what most of us already know: that the vast majority of us do not. While 52% of us believe that we will accomplish our goals, only 12% of us actually do.

This year try something different. Rather than a New Year’s Resolution, why not make a New Year’s Evolution? Rather than resolving to create a better “me” according to the ego’s game of perpetual striving, focus instead on waking up out of the negative ego altogether! Wake up out of the Pleasure Seeking Child’s lies about what food can do for you. Wake up out of the Critic’s relentless judgments and bullying. Rather than simply setting a goal to lose 10 or 20 or 100 pounds, change the thinking habits that caused you to gain that weight in the first place!

This year, get to the root of the problem, your misguided, unconscious beliefs about how important food is to your happiness. When life isn’t delivering the happiness you are looking for, you try to create it through food. If you indulge, while you will likely experience a few fleeting moments of a nice taste in your mouth, you’re left with blame, shame, self-castigation, bloating and possible weight gain.

To extricate yourself from the this cycle of suffering, begin by asking for help and setting the intention to bring more awareness to your food thoughts, eating, and eating triggers. The more present you are, the easier it is to either ignore the stressful, negative, or deluded thoughts that your mind incessantly churns out or debunk them through inquiry.

By the way, don’t think that you are particularly afflicted because you have unknowingly created the habits of following the luring of the pleasure-seeking child or of believing the critic’s nasty rhetoric. Negative minds that generate misguided, false stories go part and parcel with our humanness. Paying attention to them, believing in them and in the negative emotions they generate, and acting them out is the human condition. The good news is: you have the power to change this programming with a bit of vigilance and awareness.

When you turn away from stressful and unhelpful thoughts about life, food, and yourself, you completely transform your experience of life. Your life might look exactly the same on the outside and yet, on the inside, you’re in paradise. Your inner experience of life, rather than life itself makes you happy.

Every time I walk through “the trap” to teach in prison, I am reminded of this truth. People assume that when an inmate has a life sentence, he must be miserable. Yet so many of the men I work with are happier than most people on the outside. They meditate regularly and for the most part, have learned to turn away from their negative thoughts. Walls or no walls, when you’re free in your head, you’re free period.

Your happiness is directly proportional to the degree to which you’re able to ignore the negative thoughts generated by your egoic mind. When you are no longer resisting life in your head, suffering can’t live in you.  When you no longer believe and identify with the unhappy stories in your head that cause you to suffer, you’re free.

Stop looking outside yourself for the next great thing that will bring you joy. While you’re at it, let go of the notion that the perfect body will give you the life you’ve always wanted. If you’ve ever gotten down to your goal weight, you know that getting the body of your dreams does not bring the life of your dreams.

Your true self  or essence is the fountain of happiness. This year, rather than making a New Year’s resolution to reach an ego-based goal, set the intention to evolve out of your ego’s negative thought patterns and rest in that natural happiness that is always available to you. Turn your attention to the information coming to you through your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, or smelling in the present moment? Experience this in its rawness, unimpeded by mental commentary.

Or try asking yourself, “What am I aware of now? What is arising in this moment?” Focus all of your attention on “the now” and notice what happens. How do you feel? The more time you spend in the present moment, in your heart rather than involved in the chattering in your head, the happier you will be. Then the ego can’t really get hold of you, seduce you into striving, and following its empty desires.

This year, why not throw caution to the wind and resolve to evolve out of the mental programming that causes you to suffer? Just because paying attention to and believing in our negative thoughts is the well-worn path traveled by most of humanity, doesn’t mean you have to join in this insanity. My heartfelt wish for you is to put mental suffering in behind you as you enter this New Year and live the joyous life that is your birthright!