How can we approach the new year with joy and wisdom?
The new year is about rebirth, which seems too hard to think about, much less achieve.
If it’s hard to keep conventional resolutions (lose ten pounds, quit smoking, pay off the credit card), how much harder to promise yourself “become new again”? But actually, a spiritual resolution is easier. Losing ten pounds depends upon the mind, and the mind undermines itself. “I must get this weight off” has to contend with thousands of other thoughts in the year to come, which are bound to contain “what a wonderful looking chocolate cake!” and “one more slice won’t hurt.”
Spiritual resolutions aren’t created by the mind – they express your being, your true self. At the level of being, you don’t have to resolve to renew yourself. It’s already happening. The only time that is eternal is the present moment, because it constantly renews itself. Every day is a new world. Even the body is constantly renewing; every cell in your body knows this truth and how to obey it. A typical cell stores no more than 3 seconds of surplus oxygen and nutrients. This show its absolute trust that its life will be renewed.
We struggle to trust in our lives, to escape the fear of death, to exist without struggle. Yet your body couldn’t continue without all three. Christ spoke to the mind in the Sermon on the Mount when he told his hearers to trust in providence just as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field do. The body didn’t need a sermon. “Live not for tomorrow” came naturally already.
How can the mind reach the same state of trust, fearlessness, and peace? It has to prove to itself that renewal is real. The new year is a good time to resolve to be new again. Experts in the psychology of happiness have found that the secret to long-term happiness is to make today happy. So there’s a good start. Renew your commitment to be happy every day. How is that done?
By making choices. Throughout the day you organize the next moment by what you decide at this moment. Standing back before you choose to do anything, consider every moment a fork in the road. Depending on which road you take, you are shaping your future, both short term and long term. At each crossroad imagine a finger post pointing the way:
To trust or mistrust?
To surrender or control?
To let be or interfere?
To pay attention or ignore?
To love or fear?
To engage or escape?
As you can see, you aren’t choosing things. You are going beneath the surface and choosing a state of mind. This is self-awareness in action. Without self-awareness, the surface of life is inescapable. Most people think the same thing today as they did yesterday; their actions are either impulsive or habitual. Their core beliefs were shaped higgledy-piggledy by a mixture of experience, painful memories, second-hand opinions and social pressure.
Even so, as conditioned as we are to obey inertia, the greatest gift – the ability to be new again – is part of the human design. What our cells do every second, we can aspire to every day. Rebirth is fact of existence, but it is also a choice. You alone can decide to reconnect with your being. It’s a never-ending process, which is something to celebrate. Thank God ‘to live’ is a verb and not a noun. You can’t do better than to realize that truth every day in the coming year.
Deepak Chopra is author, most recently, of “Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.”