I'm looking forward to Saturday night. Last New Year's I spent meditating with a local group in San Jose; last New Year's I remember was colored by the tsunami that had just occurred; last New Year's had a somber air. Sitting in meditative silence, surrounded by candles, and breathing toward the alleviation of suffering, seemed not just appropriate, but somehow necessary. This year a friend of mine, along with her boyfriend, is coming to visit from the east coast. We'll be indulging in long conversations fueled by a sauna and champagne at my apartment. I know I have quite a bit to reflect on, and even more to look forward to, and I know S and I have literally hours of life to discuss.
But this is not what I meant to write about. What I meant to write about was the phenomenon of New Year's resolutions. Last year I adopted what then seemed like a good policy: I was determined to have none. My resolution was to accept myself just as I was. I knew, then, that I had a long way to go. I knew, then, that my life was far from perfect. I knew then that I had all manner of changes to make. I also knew, though, that hunting around for those parts of my personality and lifestyle that were wrong, and that needed to be righted, or that were flawed, and that needed to be fixed, was precisely the wrong way to go about it.
What I needed then was acceptance. Setting up some goal that I had to make, and that I might possibly fail at, would have just provided me with fodder for self-abuse, and while at that point I was recovered enough not to worry too much about relapsing, the danger was there. I knew the downward spiral of criticism all too well. And so I resolved to love myself, and to want no changes.
I think that might have been one of the most difficult resolutions of my life. Luckily I'd already been practicing for a while.
Now, a year later, I've attained more than I ever would have allowed myself. It's a little humbling; I know if I'd laid out a set of goals a year ago, or if I'd been asked where I saw myself - and even where I hoped to see myself - in twelve months, I'd be nowhere near the level at which I'm currently living. It's more than a little humbling; it's unbelievable.
This year, though, I'm torn. I don't feel I need such kid gloved treatment any more. I think I'd be fine with setting up a series of even challenging resolutions. I can set a direction and set goals and harbor expectations without worrying that I'll somehow fail to support myself if they turn out to have been too ambitious. Still, I'm torn. On the one hand, the overwhelming effectiveness of this project of self-acceptance is undeniable to me. The changes that happened over the past year seemed less demanded as they did merely necessary: they happened in spite of myself, because they were right, and because I could see no other way.
(These changes included, just to keep a list: finding a new full time job as a writer; getting into graduate school; moving into a new apartment in a different town; buying a new car; opening a coaching practice; maintaining a long-term-and-distance relationship; and all manner of small habits such as daily running and meditation, weight lifting, a healthy diet, and so on.)
And so, given this, I feel that it would be logical to set the same resolution for this year.
On the other hand, I am feeling the need, or at least I'm aware of the desire, to direct my life a little more. This is partly because I find myself suddenly in the midst of a bizarre spurt of extreme energy and enthusiasm and curiosity about life, and my own in particular. It's a strange situation to be in - feeling at once that my days are filled to capacity with for-now satisfying activities, yet at the same time feeling puppyishly eager to cast myself into some amazing future that I can sense but not quite see.
The desire to shape this future, or at least to think it out, is admittedly strong. I want to start setting out particular goals. I want to start actively moving toward something more ambitious than my degree, my practice. There are these things, to be sure, and while they feel right, even necessary, they don't quite feel sufficient. I'm hungry for more, but I'm worried only that I have no idea as to the scope of this call. What specific goals do I set? What do I look for?
But this is getting silly. I went from New Year's resolutions to major life goals. It's late; I'm getting sloppy. I think this writing, though, has helped something. I'm holding last year's non-resolution, and adding a rider: being open to the most absurdly grand possibilities.
And being open, too, to laughing uproariously at my own fantastically naive ambition.
Posted by Siona
A friend of mine asked recently about whether someone who was vegetarian, but who wore leather shoes, should be considered a hypocrite.
My response was no, or at least that it depended on that person's reasons for their diet. If they were vegetarian for health reasons, or even environmental ones, their choice to wear birks isn't necessarily at odds with their decision to eschew meat. And even if this alledged perpetrator did claim to be a veggie because he or she wasn't comfortable killing animals, there's still no reason to lambaste her. After all, she's doing something. Every little bit helps.
The topic got me to thinking, though.
I'm not a vegetarian. I was vegan for a while, macrobiotic for a while, ovo-lacto for a while . . . etc. I have no moral pretenses for my diet back then: I was anorexic, and just wanted an excuse to cut out as many foods from my life as possible. What's funny is that now, most days of the week, and most weeks of the month, I eat an overwhelmingly vegetarian / low-suffering / low-ecological impact diet. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, a little dairy, whole grains, with some variety of fish for dinner. It just occurred to me, actually, that, in the six months since I moved in, I haven't cooked any variety of meat in my apartment.
Still, I do like to indulge myself. I don't care for even the taste of mass-produced, factory farmed chickens or cattle, but if I'm at a restaurant and there's foie gras on the menu, I have no qualms about ordering it. Ditto a nice grass-fed steak. I'm not really interested in justifying these decisions (I like good food and I like treating myself), although I do know that the sort of restaurants I favor do tend to obtain healthier meats, not the sort you'd find packaged on styrofoam supermarket trays.
Again, I could do the calculus and say that, on the whole, my diet now is much more earth and animal friendly than a) it's been in the past and b) that of most Americans. I say this because I now buy farm fresh produce and eat no (literally no; it's one of the problems with being celiac) processed foods. At the same time, again, I don't really care about the cost / benefit ratio, or about arguing with others about my position.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that, again, every little bit counts. I think one of the big detractors from people adopting a vegetarian diet is because of the all-or-nothing approach. What's wrong with eating mostly vegetarian? It beats rejecting the practice entirely. Subscribing to a vegetarian diet and swearing off meat forever is a daunting prospect, and I think both the ecological and animal-rights causes would be more effective overall if they'd just encourage people to just cut down a little.
Secondly, these are the sorts of decisions people need to make up their own minds about. If you don't feel compassion for a cow, or if you don't feel the earth is something that should be treated more gently, no amount of arguing is going to help. Even comparisions (you wouldn't eat your dog, would you?) aren't effective. Beating someone over the head with their moral failings is really not the way to bring them to your side. Encouraging their deeper, more compassionate nature is. And the only way to bring this out is to show that you understand them.
But now i'm getting off topic, and flaunting my beliefs all over the place. While I'll agree that awareness raising in schools helps, and increasing conversations about the misery of factory farming is important, once people have this information, there's no need to give them more. In this equation, compassion is more crucial than knowledge in bringing about change. Argument defeats the purpose.
As does the fear of being hypocritical. Again, as long as you're not screaming at others that they're murdering cows, it's fine if you're a vegetarian-for-moral-reasons who wears leather shoes. You're doing something. it's better than naught.
Posted by Siona
I feel the need to say a little more here. I want to place at least one more footprint, with the intention of following with more. I'm looking forward to coming back to this place. I've missed it.
There were a number of reasons for letting go of NEN; the purpose of the journal originally had been to track my recovery process through a manner of less-than-happy addictions and troubles, and I the more I moved forward in my life, the less I wanted the repository or monument of my struggles to define who I was. This is not to say I'm somehow denying my past; rather, I feel I'm so much more that now, and I don't want my earlier challenges to precede who I am now. Also, my school and later job meant that I could no longer be as candid as I'd been in the past: I had the privacy of others to be aware of.
In any case, I've missed the process of writing as myself for even a minor audience, and I feel grounded enough now, here, to start thinking about re-starting the practice. It seems all the more essential, too, given the number of projects I'm involved with, that I create a public space for myself in which to keep checking in with my committment to myself and to others. After all, I believe whole-heartedly in the value of sharing one's path.
I've found myself putting an unusual amount of time recently into pushing myself to define what it is I want from life, to making my values explicit, and to actively writing down my goals and desires. I'm looking forward to writing more about this process, but for now, I'll share only the vision by which I've directed my life for the past six months. I came up with this statement at the urging of a fellow ITP graduate, who made explicit to me the difference between a mission statement, which has more to do with your objectives and how you intend to reach them, and a vision statement, which has more to do with the way in which you want to live your life. I've found that my own quick statement serves as a reminder of how I want to behave on a day-to-day basis, helping to ground and clarify my actions.
I live my life with awareness, assurance, and compassion, loving myself so that I might help increase the capacity of others to be aware, to love, and to be loved. I create connections. I commit to peace.
I'm tempted to write some kind of disclaimer here, about how even a year or two ago I would have rolled my eyes at such a silly exercise -- and even more so at the embarrassingly sentimental results -- but I've gained a firm and intensely experiential understanding of the power of really and truly accepting oneself, and my vision is something I believe in deeply.
I may come back and write a little more about the process of discovering (or creating: use what works for you) a vision statement; if not, I'll move on to values next. It's funny: I sat down with the intention of jotting a few words. It turns out I have more to say than I thought. At this point, though, this should not surprise me.
Posted by Siona
I'm excited about this
. It came along at the perfect time, although I'm not sure whether the invitation to join that community was what precipitated my recently redoubled efforts in actively creating my life, or whether it was just another synchronicity that happened to coalesce. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that over the past month I've been more committed than ever to making sure the life I'm now so blithely enjoying is the one I want to enjoy. And I'm excited about this project.
I suppose it's part of the reason why I've chosen to disable comments. I recognize that this, on the surface, is a fantastically narcissistic pursuit. I'm working on such seeming banalities as fitness and productivity and self-improvement, and I don't particularly expect or want a great deal of feedback - or advice - on how I'm doing. What I want is accountability, and, too, to be helpful, and to inspire. The words 'on the surface' and 'seeming' in the first sentences of this paragraph were there for a reason. In my heart of hearts, I believe that projects like these - projects in which individuals make a radical commitment to accepting themselves and living their own truths (I hate how trite this sounds) and to both recognize and grow their own essential values - are what make the greatest difference in the world.
In any case, I'm excited to see where this is going to end up. End up? With luck it won't. I'm excited about the process.
Posted by Siona
I'm taking this up again not because I have the time. I'm taking this up precisely for the opposite reason: that I don't. Between my work and graduate school and a long distance relationship and, most recently, this new coaching venture I'm embarking upon, I feel spread thin. This does not trouble me as it once would have; I'm no longer worried about the consequences of stress and overwork. Still, I can feel that I'm losing touch with myself, and I don't like the acid defenses I adopt as a result.
So I'm taking this up again in hopes of creating a space of dialogue and recognition. I know how much more beautiful the world is when I operate from a place of authenticity, and I want to do this as much as possible. I'm taking this up again because over the past months I've been pushing at others to examine their own lives, to ask themselves whether they're happy doing what they're doing, and whether or not they're content with who they are, and it's impossible for me to ask these questions of anyone without, at the same time, questioning myself.
I could attach a summary here, a brief overview of where I am right now, from the perspective of education or career or family or spirit or in terms of my relationship to myself, but I'd prefer to let this unfold naturally. I'm writing because I want to be more accountable to myself. It's this that matters.
Posted by Siona