Written by: Kathie Houchens
Date: January 13, 2016

January in Calendar

The New Year is upon us.  How is it going so far?  Do you make resolutions, or have you let go of that idea?  It can go either way for me.  If I set expectations too high, I am doomed to failure. 

If I go with the flow and allow myself to “float” into the newness of 2016, could I miss an opportunity to affect real, positive change in my habits?  Somewhere in between there must be a balance of freedom, serendipity and motivation.

Books are a weakness, especially since the new holiday arrivals create an even higher stack next to my bed, and fill up a basket next to my reading chair.  I am tempted to turn winter into hibernation as I burrow deep into my library of inspiration and information.

Some authors invite me to consider my lifestyle, to engage in healthful routines that promise improvements of all sorts.  Whether I contemplate a new garden design, fresh décor in a bedroom, a tidy basement or garage, suggestions stimulate my imagination.  I picture wondrous transformations.  Exercise and diet changes could enhance my health.  A new hobby or volunteer opportunity could expand my horizons and contribute to my continued growth and creativity.

I set intentions.  That feels less binding than making resolutions.  Rather than a goal out there, attainable or not, I see a directional arrow.  I’ve been warned not to “should” on myself, nor to let others “should” on me.  I begin the New Year as if embarking on a pilgrimage of sorts, but one where the journey itself is the purpose. Reaching a destination or long-term goal becomes a bonus.

To journey in Ohio, whether actual or metaphorical, one must consider the weather.  Winter months can be challenging, not only for the possibility of cold and snow, but for the unpredictability of it all.  Plan a day hike in a nearby Metro Park and it is sure to turn frigid.  Thinking of a ski outing nearby? That would be the day snow becomes rain instead. 

How about a slow day sitting by the fire with a good book?  Then look outside and feel the draw of a sunny, bright afternoon of winter thaw, too good to miss by staying inside.  How does your emotional and physical “weather” impede or enhance progress into New Year’s best intentions? I learn flexibility and adaptability, and to be gentle with myself.

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a popular pilgrimage in northern Spain.  A traditional walked experience can take several months. It is not a single path, but a variety of routes, some crossing Europe before entering Spain across the Pyrenees Mountains. Conditions can be difficult.  You may want to read about it, experience it vicariously, or even watch one of the several films that feature it. 

What I learn from those who have walked it, either in its entirety or even just a section of it, is that patience is learned.  Compassion, especially for yourself, is often a byproduct.  Life becomes daily surprise as the scenery, the people, the food, the discomforts, and awareness of what is truly important change.  Humility and gratitude, as well as endurance, may be gifts of such an undertaking.

Where will 2016 take you? It is helpful to track  your progress or your path? Do you keep notes in a journal or on your calendar? If images, rather than words speak to you, consider recording your progress through daily photo impressions.  Is there creative energy bubbling up that could open doors to art or music, to poetry or dance?  How about trying out a new language?

Any attempt to stretch your growing edges can be health-inducing.  Start small, stay positive, and explore something new.  Surprise yourself.  Be amazed at the possibilities of “Daring Greatly” in the words of Brené Brown. She recently shared an African proverb that suggests: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Who will accompany you along the way? What will the trail blazes look like on your 2016 path? When you come to a fork in the road, will you take an attractive detour?  Will you risk losing yourself in a new experience?

More questions arise as the journey begins. Does a new year invite you to personal spiritual deepening? If you walk through lived experiences as if on a pilgrimage, is there baggage to jettison before starting out?  What are the basics that sustain you when the going gets tough?

Perhaps the best resolution or intention, and even the destination of a pilgrimage, is to “come home” to who you really are, to befriend yourself.  Finding inner peace may be your best gift to yourself and to the world around you.

As Robert Burns suggests in his poem Auld Lang Syne, let’s “take a cup of kindness yet and toast another year.”

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