The new year is not even a month old and already many of us are starting to ditch our resolutions.
The end of the December holiday season and the brand new digits on the calendar seem like the perfect time to start something new.
Then why do our resolutions fail more often than they succeed?
The answer lies in the simple rhythms of nature. Our resolutions fail, quite simply, because mid-Winter is a terrible time to start things.
You don’t have to be a gardener to know that you can’t plant seeds in the snow.
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, we aren’t considering the seasonal energy that surrounds us. With the long dark nights and the cold weather, our bodies have a natural tendency to want to get more sleep, hibernate and be still.
A few years ago, I quit resolutions all together and made another commitment.
My new commitment was to honor the seasons of the year, and to use that energy to foster self growth and accomplishment.
To my surprise, amazing things began to happen.
The first year that I made this commitment, I discovered my calling as a healer and began my path towards that profession. As the years have progressed, my life just gets better and better. I’ve completed grad school, found a deeply rewarding spiritual practice, met and married my soul mate, and birthed my beautiful son.
It just keeps getting better and better as I discover a renewed sense of belonging in the world around me.
This practice is simple but profound and can be found in most cultures throughout the world.
I observe the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, the Summer and Winter Solstices, and the four days that roughly fall halfway between each of those events called cross-quarter days. These days are known by many different names around the world, but I refer to them as Candlemas (February 2), Beltane (May 1st), Lammas (August 2), and Samhain (October 31st).
I personally find these days to be especially powerful for setting intentions and reflection, but you can follow any pattern or set of seasonal holidays that makes sense to you.
Rather than setting a bunch of goals on January first, the time for resolve comes in early February as the days get a bit longer.
For me it feels like a spark, the desire to take on new projects, to commit again. I may not know what the year will bring, but I finally feel ready. During this time I always do a small ceremony of re-committing to life.
In mid-spring, around the time of the Equinox, everything is ripe with possibility.
I use this time to plant the seeds of what I want to accomplish for the year. This can take any form that feels right: it may be a vision board or it may be an actual garden that you plant.
As May rolls around, desire is in full flower.
I let myself dream big, letting my intentions and dreams expand as much as they need to. Usually around this time of year, I plan some time to celebrate desire in whatever way feels most opulent at the time.
By the solstice in June everything is exploding with life, and there is a time to pause and enjoy the easy living.
As August approaches, some of the first harvests from the seeds that I planted in March are beginning to roll in. It is time to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor. For me this might look like a ritual feast, or a much needed vacation.
By September, it is time to take stock. How will I focus my energy for the rest of the year? Not all of the projects I started will be finished, but that is okay, because I continue to focus my energy on the ones that are really paying off.
As November starts (around the time of Halloween), it is really time to let go of anything that I’m not going to finish this year and put all my energy towards just a few important things. I usually take this time to celebrate my ancestors and recognize all those who have helped me get where I am today.
This allows me to shift into December and the Solstice/holiday season without feeling like a maniac. I also have time to enjoy my friends and family, celebrating light and love even in the shortest darkest days of the year.
I may dream of what I want to accomplish as the New Year turns, but I let it stay just that, a dream, not yet ready to hatch.
The best part about this practice is that it doesn’t set me up for failure like New Year’s resolutions do. It helps me recognize that life is a process, and that there is time for both the setting of intention and the re-evaluation of what is important. It also follows a flow that makes more sense for me.
I know there are some people out there who can make big changes by just deciding to do it one day, but most of us need a little more time.
This year, instead of mourning lost resolutions, try following the natural energy present in each season.
Take time to observe the natural world, appreciating the gifts that each changing season brings.
Set your goals and intentions along with the flow of nature and you will find that amazing things will happen.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Allison Carr
Apprentice Editor: Bria Luu/Editor: Cat Beekmans
Image: Craig Lea at Flickr