Enter into the New Year with Gentleness

Winter 2003

I recently read that 90% of New Year’s resolutions are either about diet or exercise. Yet so many of us approach our lofty goals with such self-abasement that it is no wonder we can’t follow through with our ideals. What we do not need is tougher self-discipline towards our bodies. Instead, consider developing a more compassionate awareness toward your self and the ruthless messages your inner voices send.

The decision to face the unconscious messages of the mind is a much more courageous journey than continuing with the typical patterns of trying to “whip” yourself into shape. When you push, self-criticize, compare, and focus on what you aren’t or don’t have, you give your mind ammunition to fight back, rebel, and ultimately fail in reaching your desires-like a disobedient teenager.

I’ve learned through Feldenkrais that compassion is the most important tool to include in our backpack for this journey called “life.” As you decide to become aware of your internal messages of dissatisfaction, you can choose to think about yourself differently. Learn to listen to the messages that bring you down: “I hate my thighs,” “I’m just too tired,” “that was so stupid,” and “I’ve had such a hard day, I deserve these treats.” Only when you allow yourself to hear your internal self-talk, can you begin to choose differently.

Find what is good and true about yourself and focus on that. Learn to hear the ugly, harsh, and often mean words that sneak into your thoughts. Then, instead of pushing the unwanted thoughts away and contributing further to your self-put-downs, find a way to breathe with yourself. Bring kindness to these moments, like nurturing an emotional baby who is angry and frustrated, and really just needs to be held and loved. You may also bring laughter and lightness to yourself when you realize just how often you put yourself down, just as you lovingly joke with an old friend who needs a smile.

You can also empower yourself to appreciate the positive, in every simple or difficult task you encounter. Your first morning breaths, standing in the shower, and having the mobility to dress yourself, and walking through your house, are all blessings we take so easily for granted. The gifts we have as Americans are abundant – from the food we eat, to the cars we drive, to our families, our jobs, and, of course, getting to live in this incredibly beautiful part of the world.

Focusing on our blessings can take a certain kind of self-discipline. But to be effective, the discipline must come from a loving attitude towards oneself. As you become more loving towards yourself, your desires to be healthy can then come out of a deeper caring and appreciative attitude. You can thank your body for all that it does for you, and all of the places it takes you, and your love for this body can naturally lead you to making healthier choices. In addition, you may eventually realize that you are not meant to look like Superman or Wonder-woman, but instead appreciate your own unique qualities and how they carry you through life.

May you enjoy a New Year of compassionate health, and may your kindness be contagious to those who are dear to you.