I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.
I think it’s futile to wait for the New Year to accomplish a certain goal.
The only time I ever made New Year’s resolutions was three years ago. My targets were spiritual. I investigated my past and wrote down what I needed to change about myself. My list included non-judgment, acceptance, letting go, loving myself and generating understanding.
To this day, I have them written down and go through them every once in a while.
When I started my Buddhist studies this year in India, I was intrigued by a few notions. If I were to make a New Year’s resolution list again, it would include what I learned during my studies.
To make Buddhist-style New Year’s resolutions is to be of benefit to others as well as ourselves.
We’ve grown accustomed to making goals that enhance us personally—specifically our physical realm—such as quitting smoking, losing weight, taking more vacations and spending more time at the gym. These should still be on our resolution list, however, I think it’s valuable to commit to resolutions that are also life-changing on the inner level.
Minimize your Attachments:
“The secret of life is to die before you die.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Buddhists teach that attachment is the main cause of our suffering. In my Introduction to Buddhism course, we meditated on non-attachment. We studied our object of attachment and the reasons why we were attached to it. We also contemplated the annihilation of people and objects before their actual physical death.
The truth is, we are attached to everything: opinions, people, notions, objects, time. And just the thought of non-attachment can cause us to freak out. To not be attached doesn’t mean we give up on whatever—or whoever—we are attached to. It simply means not suffering if our object of attachment is no longer there.
To practice non-attachment we can contemplate impermanence. When we realize the transitory nature of things and people, we automatically become less attached to them.
Be more compassionate:
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~ Dalai Lama
In the same course, we were taught how to save insects. One of the most profound precepts in Buddhism is to refrain from killing and practice compassion toward all living things. To this day, I try my best to save spiders, cockroaches, or any other insect I run into. I did so during the course out of respect for the guidelines. However, through that practice, I came to experience that acting with compassion toward other living things brought me abundant happiness—this is why I’m still saving insects.
Generating compassion toward people, animals, insects and everything in nature is a form of respecting their existence. It truly costs us nothing to be kind to each other and act with compassion and respect.
To practice compassion, it is of benefit to meditate on oneness. We can see the world as one big sea of energy that has been distributed to human beings, animals, and nature.
Mind your Speech:
“Do I speak at the right time, or not? Do I speak of facts, or not? Do I speak gently or harshly? Do I speak profitable words or not? Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?” ~ Gautama Buddha
Another profound idea in Buddhism is “right speech.” Wrong speech includes gossiping, lying, and promoting harmful or divisive speech. It is believed that the words we speak generate a certain positive or negative energy. Whatever leaves our mouth, affects our own state of being.
It is not difficult to discern this. If we properly investigate our feelings after lying or gossiping, we’d notice a certain discomfort and distress. When our speech is “right,” we are undeniably content.
Minding our speech requires mental awareness. We usually speak or react before properly thinking. Staying mindful before we speak can help significantly.
Build good karma:
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer
The Sanskrit word karma means action. Karma is the cause of our actions; not the result. Whatever we do, we experience its consequences. Usually, if we do good, we experience good, and if we do bad, we experience bad.
Some people don’t believe in karma (or perhaps name it something else). I do, because I have experienced it. The rule is simple: always do good. Even if we think the concept of karma is silly, we’re not really losing anything by being good to others.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ~ Heraclitus
The truth is bittersweet: everything changes. I’m someone who used to hate change; I finally came to terms with it when I have realized that change is the very nature of things. We change, people change, nature changes; nothing stays the same. Whatever comes to life will eventually disappear one day—including our own bodies.
Most of us are familiar with impermanence, but only on the intellectual level. To lessen the surprise that stems from the end of all natural phenomena, we can watch the change instead of resisting it and realize that impermanence is the law of life.
Be realistic about happiness:
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” ~ Oscar Wilde
Buddhists believe that we pursue relationships and possessions because we unconsciously think they can satisfy us. The truth is, everything physical can’t bring us ever-lasting happiness—they can only make us happy for a short period of time because they don’t last.
During my Vipassana course, we were taught to experience how every misery comes from our mind. That said, we create our own happiness. How we see reality affects our state of mind.
Perhaps, the ultimate resolution we can commit to this year is to start seeing our reality in a truthful, more positive way.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron