It can be reasoned that in our ancient past there were moments when our human sense of self-awareness was crystallized for the first time. It would have likely started with some sort concept of self and that which is not-self. From there it would have grown into other fundamental aspects of our experiential reality. There would then be moments when the creature that is called human first became consciously aware of the cycles in nature such as night and day. These moments could rightly represent the very crystallization of humanity itself and they still can give us a framework of understanding what living on the Earth is all about.
For instance all things can be seen to exist as a balance of polarities whose relationship is cyclic. Night to day to night and so on, what goes up must come down but only then can it be thrown up again, the song ends so another may begin and so if the song never ended you’d never hear a new song, as above so below but then what's below must be as it is above, the list could go on for pages. The point is these realizations constructed the very synaptic alignments that became what we now know of as our mind.
There is an often spoken Buddhist parable that says “Mind is the Path”. The “Path” often called The Dao/Tao or Do, is a way of referring to the movement towards self realization or enlightenment. This path is often referred to in Martial Art philosophy with obvious examples being Aikido, Judo, or Karate Do. So the idea then is that in our own mind is everything we seek. In which case it might be worthwhile to look at some of the main realizations that constructed our minds.
Of all the observable things in nature the sun is of such importance that it is an understatement to say it helped to give us our understanding of the world. The sun affects us in some very obviously cyclic ways but the yearly cycle is a very important one. It arguably begot all forms of the idea of renewing and rebirth. The observable fact that each year the sun goes through a period of intense long days and a period of short and dark days must have been a critical observation to early man. So it seems likely that early humans would have adopted the idea that they themselves can be renewed on a yearly basis. This concept seems to be universal within almost every culture in one way or another.
Thus then this observation became deeply impressed into the mind of early man. The modern Christmas and New Years celebrations are direct results of this profound observation of nature. In Roman times a god called Janus was the one who was lord over transitions and new beginnings. Each year people would ask him for blessings in the New Year and in exchange would promise to live more humane and compassionate lives. This tradition has become what we now call the New Years Resolution. In fact Janus is the root word from which we get the month of January. So in a way when one declares a New Years Resolution it is a direct continuation of the old Roman practice. As is often said, there is nothing new under the sun.
So the New Years resolution is a long-established and well-known phenomenon within the cultural and collective consciousness. According to Wikipedia common New Years resolutions are; Improve well-being, Improve career, Improve self, Take a trip, Get along better with people, and other similar type things. It’s all things we've heard before. It's also rather obvious that most resolutions are really very similar. Essentially they are aimed to improve the quality of ones life. More specifically, improve the quality of one’s life experience. And to be sure, the quality of one's experience in life is something that will matter on your deathbed.
If you look at the resolution concept from the perspective that it has something to do with the creation and cultivation of the quality of your life it then can be seen as an important tool for observing more of your souls desire. So in this yearly tradition there might also be an opportunity to bear witness to a distinctly unique reflection of human life.
Reflecting and contemplating are, of course, cornerstones of all self-development processes, from the aesthetic and philosophic to the arduous and obsessively religious. So what is the desire to declare a self-improvement resolution each year saying about us. Sensei Richard Kim has been quoted as saying that the one thing we as individuals can control is our own lives and environments therein. If that rings true then it seems to be alluding to the idea that many people are not satisfied with the state of their lives. So we may be trying to remind ourselves that we can change the experience we’re having if we want to.
I often see what appears to be hints to philosophical questions within language itself. A New Years Resolution is demonstrating in it’s very lettering that the solution to life improvements are already known. This is why it’s called a re-solution or you could say it’s to remember you already know the solution. As Buddha said the Path is the Mind so we already know what we need to do as it is within our mind inherently.
If it is true then that we already know what to do then why do so few keep their resolutions. This is the crux of the issue as it mirrors all problems humanity both collectively and individually is being challenged by. A good example is the terrible diets that many western people live with. Having obesity “epidemics” is an absurdity yet it is also a reality for many. Many people’s New Years Resolutions are then to either lose weight or to simply eat healthier. It’s a simple thing to decide but the commitment to doing it seems all too difficult for most who attempt this task. What blocks them, could it be poking into something far deeper than just simply adjusting one’s diet.
As a Martial Arts instructor I see first hand how rare it is to find an individual with the inner discipline to really change their lives. It is why Martial Arts training is so profound. It perfectly mirrors back to individuals how they actually deal with their own lives. The first issue often being that one must accept their own shortcomings. People often spend so much time and energy decorating the outward appearance of their lives while often completely neglecting their own true feelings and beliefs. This is really the root of why so few can achieve the results they desire within their resolutions. When a truly disciplined practice is undertaken is always comes into conflict with these deeper personal issues.
The key to overcoming these challenges then is to see the blocks that come up as the gifts of knowing what’s really blocking you from living your preferred life. My Sensei/teacher has said to me that your beliefs are your partner throughout life. So if your beliefs run counter to your desire for a healthier diet or better relationships then no amount of hyped up positive thinking can change them.
Traditional Martial Arts offer a profound approach to this challenge as they are designed for the long-term and consistent reforming of one's internal beliefs. They do this while simultaneously improving both physical and mental well-being. Every individual who enters a Dojo is working on themselves and a good Dojo offers lessons for entirety of one life. There is no finishing point but rather an ongoing effort of developing a passionate and humble engagement in the experience of life. No magic instant ascension or enlightenment, just a chance to continue the endless path of knowing and experiencing life.
So rather than getting inflated with ideas of instant fixes or worse, that some guru or healer will instantly fix our lives I say it’s far more realistic to just start chipping away at our own beliefs and undesired habits. And to do so with the concept of it being a never-ending process. After all life is all about the journey, because the destination is death why run towards that. Instead walk with deep roots and a deeper sense of mindfulness daily.
So I wish to all that they may experience more of what they prefer. I would also would like to remind all who may be reading this that they already know what they need to do. As well I would like to remind all who are reading this that though many of the ideas they wish to experience feel good to imagine the blocks that keep us from getting there are coming from within. It is in that context that I encourage all to engage with a humble and disciplined practice of some sort. It is good to strive to live your dreams but without waking up to the reality of your own beliefs and circumstances then there is no way to travel towards your those dreams.
Never give up and never be unwilling to be renewed and then you will most truly live. Right now the sun is showing us all that we can be renewed, that the light may diminish but it always returns. However its process is not instant or dramatic but rather it slowly reasserts its reign in the sky only to once more to be diminished again. What goes up must come down or it cannot be thrown up again. From our ancient past to our modern cities the opportunity for growing anew can be likened to a threat that connects us to ourselves and the universe itself. All that matters, all that creates the quality of our life experience is just to keep pulling on that thread without expectation or the desire of reaching a final point. May you keep pulling at it 🙂
Happy New Year to all.