• Joy Swirl

It's a New Year | 2021.

Updated: Jan 6



No doubt 2020 gave us many opportunities to develop compassion and plenty of time to contemplate if you were paying attention. I sent out "Happy New Year" text messages and made phone calls to wish my friends and family the best. Of course, I want them to have a happy new year. I want them to be happy all the time. I bought into the New Year's Resolution list when I was younger. Now I see it as an arbitrary day. On January 1, we decide, "I'm going to improve myself," when we should think this every day.


Now I consider this time of the year my time to reset and go on retreat. For the past three years, I did retreat at the International Kadampa Retreat Center Grand Canyon; this year, I'll be engaging in some form of meditation retreat every day with Kadampa Meditation Center New York City.


What is a resolution?

A resolution is a decision to do or not to do something—a decision to enact our wishes. We believe improving ourselves is going to make us happy. If our desire to improve ourselves is so that we can benefit others, we have a pure motivation. Buddhist practitioners call this wish Bodhichitta.


Our wishes to be happy and free from suffering are our most basic wishes. These are the wishes that all living beings, without exception, have.


Resolutions like wearing a mask, wash my hands, stay 6 feet apart, and don't hang out with people who aren't in my quarantine bubble, started way back in March. By following these simple guidelines to control a pandemic, we can see that we can all operate in a web of kindness.


This year our resolutions allow us to examine our deepest wishes and live our lives more intentionally. This year we suddenly realize the preciousness of our life, and we resolve to cherish it--and the people in it with us. We can see more easily now that all living beings are connected. The commitments or resolutions that I'm working toward are a combination of reducing some bad habits and maintaining or increasing some good ones.


Unplug.

Delete Facebook, if you must. Stop picking up your phone, and turn off notifications. Stop sleeping with the phone in your bedroom, and make a decision to use social media and other forms of digital media less.


Meditate.

Incorporating just five minutes of breathing meditation into your day will result in significant benefits; imagine making the commitment to developing a practice. If you are new, learn to meditate. If you are a meditator, recommit yourself to your practice during this time of renewal.

Make Your Own Food Rules.

My food rules start with a couple non-negotiables. My food has never had a mom or mum, or a face. I am a vegetarian for many reasons, but the motivating one is I do not wish to harm another living being. Other food rules or guidelines I follow: 1) no processed food. 2) eat leafy greens and whole grains at every meal. 3) eat more raw food--add a couple cutie oranges or kiwis to your diet, and you will thank me later. 3) eat 6 free-range eggs a week. 4) I always need to drink more water, but I do not consume it out of plastic bottles. 5) eat organic & local as much as possible. 6) cook at home and discover the joy of cooking. 7) consume a little local dark chocolate, freshly ground coffee beans, and local wine.

I'm not super strict, but my body can tell when I've overindulged in something not quite right for me, so I would add, listen to my body as a final thought on making food rules.


Check out 50 Most Popular Vegetarian Recipes of 2020 on NYTimes.com


Move my body.

Exercise doesn't have to be a marathon, but if that's what you want--go for it! I'm looking forward to getting on a bike this year and have a plan set to increase my activity level. I'll be totally transparent, I'm not a gym type of athletic person, but I enjoy outdoor activity. I'm also known to put on YouTube pilates videos and get on the mat. Add a daily dance party and a few trips up and down the 4th-floor walkup, and I'm moving!


Have fun; relax.

Laugh. Go on mini-vacations if you can't take a longer one. We take day trips to explore the local area and do deep dives into history notes. We listen to albums and explore artists, producers, and genres. We watch the late-night guys, Stephen, Trevor, and Seth, who bring levity to most political memes. I can stay informed without completely losing my mind sort of strategy.

With extra time, my reading and watching lists expand daily. I'm rediscovering a Dharma text that I've studied in the past on my current study program, and I'm reading a book that is a poignant account detailing the author's year of grieving the loss of her husband and daughter. I'm enjoying the tale of the Mandalorian, and I love stories about strong women and superheroes.


Love others.

We all need to work toward equanimity. Our society is fighting battles face to face and over the internet. Social justice warriors and keyboard crusaders are inspired and fearful. Let's find ways to feel affectionate toward others, rather than focusing on differences. Cultivate and nurture friendships offline. Have date nights. Spend time with children. Have conversations.

Say, "I'm sorry," and also forgive someone. Say, "I love you," and "thank you," with sincerity.

Cleanse and detox.

Cleanse doesn't always mean "drink only juice for 2 weeks," although we can talk about the benefits of a clean food diet. In the past few years, I've come to embrace minimalism. Start with easy to access things like cabinets and closets. I started listening to podcasts and watching documentaries on minimalism to inspire my purge. Also, it's essential to consider a digital diet (see Unplug above). Delete emails. If you must keep Facebook, unsubscribe from negativity in your newsfeed.


Practice giving.

Above all, give love (see Love people above), give your attention, give food, give resources. Find ways to volunteer at a safe distance. Make prayers for others to be free from their pain and suffering.


Lower your carbon footprint.

I'm going to keep suggesting that everyone everywhere give up meat. Time to face facts, adopting a plant-based diet is the easiest and most profound way to affect climate change. We are finding ways to stop using plastic. I evaluate everything we are bringing into the house to see if there's another option for a plastic-free product. So far, we've switched laundry soap, I'm making my own hummus instead of buying, we buy peanut butter in glass jars and grapefruit juice in cartons. Beyond doing our personal best to decrease our footprint, we support Green Initiatives when we vote. I eat mostly organic and support local businesses. We all need to find some way to lower our personal footprint and to help heal Mother Earth for generations to come.


Financially speaking.

Money and how it comes and goes is worth a mention, of course. Making it and developing a healthy relationship with it seems to be a recurring theme in my life story. I've found it easier to approach the subject of money in my quest for a minimalistic lifestyle, but it's still a life-lesson in learning. Currently, I remind myself to 1) evaluate what you spend money on. 2) Lower your bills and stop buying fast fashion and non-essentials. 4) Purchase items for quality, not quantity. 5) Spend money on experiences, not stuff. 6) Maintain the reduce, reuse, and recycle motto to save money.


What are your resolutions for 2021?

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©2020 by Karen Renete Childers