New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

As I have discussed on Facebook and this blog, 2014 and 2015 have been difficult years for me. These challenges have forced me to rethink my priorities and set myself on a new path, fuelled by greater focus and enthusiasm.

As I write this post, I sit by a roaring fire and watch the snow float by the window, dusting the spruce and settling in a quiet canopy over the ground at my parents’ home in King City.

I write these five resolutions in a moment of peace.

  1. Focus on writing and editing. I feel that I have a lot to add to various conversations in academic, professional and social circles. I will try to write every day.
  2. Be more social. I have been coming of out the shell I crawled into the last few years, and it feels good. I will strive to be more engaged my relationships with family and friends.
  3. Pray, meditate and contemplate. During the difficult last month, I have turned to meditation and prayer, and it has felt right. I will try to meditate and pray (for at least 5 minutes) three times a day.
  4. Get fit. I was always an athlete and – due to neglect – I have put on an unhealthy amount of weight. I will focus on getting healthy and rebuilding the discipline I once had around nutrition and exercise.
  5. Practice my hobbies. I love playing the piano, swimming, fencing and playing games with friends like chess or snooker. I have put these things aside since 2011. I will endeavour to change that this year.

So there you have it. My plan for 2016.

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Mindful of small pleasures: drinks

I sometimes take a moment to think about the things that make me happy or comfortable. I was having a conversation with a friend recently who asked me to blog about stuff that I brings me comfort. I thought that I might write about a few. As you may remember, I wrote a series of 100 posts about my “Life-Loves”. Today I will focus on drinks.

A good flat white. My favourite coffee concoction is the flat white. It’s like a cappuccino, but much velvetier and with a sweeter, more intense coffee flavour. I was happy to see that Starbucks has started offering the flat white in Canada and that the barista who works the mornings in the Starbucks drive through that I frequent can make a great one.

An ounce or two of Amaro Averna after dinner. When served on the rocks and garnished with a sprig of muddled rosemary, Amaro Averna is a fragrant reminder of sunny summer afternoons. It was first recommended to me by a waiter at Soho House Toronto – it was a lovely gift.

I am not a very big tea drinker, but I must say that in winter, I often will have a ginger tea with lemon, or a lemon tea with ginger. I brew this myself, if I can, with filtered water, thinly sliced ginger and lemon. It makes a lovely warming, stomach-settling drink.

Finally, there is nothing like a cool, clear glass of filtered water. Or, my favourite – filtered water (I use a Zero Water filter) carbonated through my sodastream machine. There is nothing more refreshing to me than a glass of freshly made, sparkling filtered water.

I think it is important to think about the things that bring you comfort. You might take a moment to think about what your list would contain.

I won’t get into wines for that requires its own post.

Define your motivations to defeat fear and bring happiness

Many of spend much of our time dashing about, feeling busy. We cycle through feelings of relief for having “caught up” and then are plunged back into the anxiety of feeling “behind.” The question to ask is the following: why are we in this negative cycle driven by fear?

Fear is a terrible motivator. It is uncreative and stressful. It pushes us relentlessly toward making bad choices. It makes us submissive and willing to cede control to someone else, just for the relief that having “someone else in charge” brings.

To break this cycle of fear and anxiety in your life one needs to take a moment to know one’s self. By knowing oneself, one can then manage oneself more effectively and start leading a life of creativity, peace and calm.

How does one come to oneself? The answer simple, but the implementation is difficult. A good place to start is to make a list of the things which worry us, versus the things which bring us peace. Here is a table with some of mine

 

 Fear-Makers  Happiness-Makers  Why?
 Meeting expectations of others  Achieving my own goals.  I never really know what others want or are thinking about me.
 Looking busy and important  Working on projects that are meaningful to me I take on too many things which are visible to other and don’t tend to the things which are invisible, but which I love.

Etc.

Honestly going through this exercise will be difficult. It will take many tries. Sometimes you’ll feel as though a thing you’ve put in one box also fits in another box – so you have to refine.

For example, for me, “meeting the expectations of others” also brings me happiness sometimes – when I make someone smile, or when I bring someone reassurance because I did something that that I had promised them. So, in my case, I would change the chart after reflecting:

 Fear-Makers  Happiness-Makers  Why?
 Meeting expectations of others  Keeping my promises.  I never really know what others want or are thinking about me, but keeping my promises means that I am beyond reproach.
 Looking busy and important  Working on projects that are meaningful to me I take on too many things which are visible to other and don’t tend to the things which are invisible, but which I love.

This is a more accurate representation of what really motivates me.

You should try making a fear-happiness chart for yourself. You may be surprised at what you come up with.

Replacing fear with mindfulness

In our interactive era, you spend a lot of time with yourself and the internet. You ask yourself a lot of questions.

I think it is important to listen to the questions that you are asking yourself and be mindful of why you are asking them. If you find yourself asking whether you spend enough time working, then you probably ought to work more. If you find yourself asking whether you should be developing more of a homelife, then you should focus on people.

This is a question of managing fear.  We fear that there is a line that will be blurred and that we will not meet expectations, whether our own or those of others. But that line is ill-defined – the only thing that you will be judged on by others is your level of confidence and mindfulness.

Being mindful and confident means living without fear, because it means that you are present in your life and in the lives of others. We live in a world where our selves are shared out so much, that we often fall into the trap of not really being in the moment. Not really being in our relationships: friendship, family, intimate, work.

When you’re not really there, you tend objectify things, because you have to manage them as objects in your mind, rather than as holistic human experiences that occupy your soul and mind. Call this a concept of “nowness” if you will. People hate to be objectified because it is reductive, and it signals to them that you are not present in your life, so they do not really exist to you fully.

Try practicing “nowness” in your life. Be present in your work, your relationships, your spirituality. Don’t just go through the motions or skitter through your days. Many will achieve this through prayer, contemplation or even just through breathing.

In doing this, you will help others feel welcome and all aspects of your life will improve.  This will mean transformation – certain relationships or activities may fall away because they are actually not meant to be part of your life, your now.

When you are mindful and present, you will naturally ask the questions I mentioned earlier as you need to. The answers will be obvious. The only that will stop you from answering them will be fear.

Don’t be afraid. Be mindful.