After we all toast to the New Year with champagne and make our rounds of hugs, kisses and best wishes, we all make our New Year’s resolutions: to lose weight, find a lover, get a new job, etc. While that January 1st midnight is the magical time where we must turn a new leaf, why do so many of us fail at fulfilling those resolutions? In my life, I have made multiple resolutions to exercise on a consistent basis, but I always end up on a roller coaster pattern, never really achieving my goal.
We all have the best intention to renew ourselves, but why do we have such a hard time sustaining change for the long term? We all have an illusion that if we “renew” ourselves, then we can have a new life. It has become clear to me over the years that genuine renewal does not happen by just setting new goals for ourselves, but by making a real internal shift by living in the present moment. Real change can not be sustained if we’re always living with future expectations for ourselves. In spiritual terms, when we have thoughts about the past or future and identify ourselves with such thoughts, it’s called the ego. When we live in the egoic state, there is no benefit to us because we’re dwelling on past or future thoughts that have no relevance to the present moment, which is the only state we ever live in. Therefore, the egoic state causes internal stress and distracts ourselves from being engaged in a constructive behavior in the present moment that would actually help us reach our goals, like losing weight.
Whenever you have any thoughts about the past or future, you are identifying yourself with the world of form, an illusionary egoic state. For example, if you say I’m going to exercise 4 times a week to lose 30 lbs., while there is nothing wrong with setting that goal, you are identifying yourself with someone who would only be worthy or lovable on the condition that the weight is lost. Such external or form conditions can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, which can actually be paralyzing. So, instead of doing something pro-active about losing weight in the present moment, the stress will cause you to become in-active, perhaps procrastinate, so we always put things off until tomorrow, but tomorrow never really comes, as we only live in the present moment, because the concept of “tomorrow” only lives in our minds as a fabricated thought.
The Universe has already designed us to live in the present moment and be perfectly blissful in it. When we live in the now, we are living in our most natural state as we were designed to do. When the ego, an illusion of self, tells us that we can only be worthy or lovable only when we lose that weight, we are creating stress for ourselves, which is when we start to engage in various dysfunctional behaviors, like anorexia or bulimia or over eating or hoarding or any other obsessive behavior.
In order to get rid of the egoic state, we must live in the present moment. Eckhart Tolle, one of our most brilliant contemporary spiritual teachers, says, “The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of Now — to be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you.” By being in the now, we are tapping into the stillness of our core — our natural state of Being — which allows us to be fully aware of what is happening within and around us. It is in this state of full awareness when we actually become the most alive, thereby making us the most productive and active in our lives. So, if we want to make a real change in our lives, like losing weight, we can do so in a genuine and sustainable way. People engage in extreme sports, such as sky diving or mountain climbing, to feel most alive because if they are not fully present in the moment, they will die. But we do not have to engage in extreme sports to be fully present and aware, which can be exercised within us at any moment.
One of the simplest yet profound ways to live in the now is through simple breathing. If you find your mind running rampant, you can just pause and focus on your breath, which connects our body and soul. And as thoughts arise, just let them go without any judgement. By just doing this for even a few minutes, you will immediately start to calm your mind, which is the key to entering your core, your natural state of Being. When you have entered this realm, you feel a sense of peace and calm, which allows you to think clearly without irrational thoughts or emotions. By just breathing, you are automatically renewing yourself in a fundamentally deep way, so renewal can be practiced on a daily basis.
It is also very important to spend some time alone every day, which is what the Dalai Lama recommends. Again, your goal is to quiet your mind in order to open your heart to your true nature, so by spending time alone, you are tapping into your spiritual Being and again renewing yourself on a deeper level. Also, through such quiet alone time, we can totally accept and surrender to the moment, which is the ultimate way to renew yourself because you are resetting an internal button to leave things as is. This allows you to refocus your energy on positive things and take actions hat can have a real impact.
The Universe has already provided us with the most amazing tools to renew ourselves, so we do not have to wait to do it only once a year when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st — we can renew ourselves every moment, every day of the year! Happy New Year and Renewing!
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living