New Year’s Resolutions: Don’t Believe the Hype.

It’s no wonder New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. They aren’t often kept and once abandoned add to our sense of guilt and remorse. And isn’t keeping a New Year’s Resolutions a surefire way to become rigid and self righteous?  

I understand these narratives, but I confess that I am a New Year’s Baby. I wish I could claim to be a Solstice Baby or a Child of the Vernal Equinox, but for some reason my inner cycle seems to be entrained with the calendar year. Its turning always presents itself to me with a sense of excitement about what can develop in the year to come.

As we cross into the second half of December, I begin to play with the little twinges of fear that arise as I consider paring away some small aspect of my daily practice that I might benefit from letting go. Certain changes might be too tough, others too easy. And so it goes, until a set of aspirations emerges that evokes just the right sense of excitement. Gradually, inner experimentation gives way to a decision.

It is true that I might not have kept the resolutions I took for 2017 and 2018 perfectly. But they were with me throughout the year giving shape to my days and I kept them well enough to embolden my thinking about what I might let go of this year.

In India, I learned that the practice of “taking sankalp”, a pledge an aspirant takes to follow a certain spiritual discipline, is one of the cornerstones of the Hindu faith. There, Sankalp is often accompanied by “Band Rakshasa,” the tying of sacred threads around the wrist as a symbol of the commitment. From the perspective of Vedic tradition, this pledge is a necessary part of the path of liberation from the attachments and addictions that limit our true freedom.

With this in mind, I sometimes wonder if the modern critique of renunciation (that it amounts to a suppression of our true nature) might be funded by the wheels of commerce. I also wonder if this might be the same voice that now critiques the tradition of the New Year’s Resolution.

There’s a lot at stake in getting this story straight. Today, freedom from the attachments and addictions that tie us to an over-consumptive lifestyle is an essential aspect of our path to a just and sustainable culture. Similarly, the path of renunciation is an essential overlap between our path to inner peace and our efforts to preserve the planet.

So this year, if someone critiques your instinct to be a New Year’s Baby, don’t believe the hype. Making and keeping a promise is a path both to preserving our precious planet and to a happy and free life in the year to come.

Wishing you great happiness and freedom in 2019.


simon dennis