(Keeping my pledge to write thirty-four blogs on how walking the Camino keeps impacting my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this 500-mile pilgrimage.)
I write this just after a much-needed shower and some unpacking from six days at our wilderness cabin. With family and friends, we took in the beauty of Denali, skied and snow-machined, ate well, slept long, had a roaring fire, reflected on the year past and celebrated the coming of the NewYear 2023. I wrote some of the following for my weekly reflection about spiritual practices for my church’s bulletin.
“There is a practice that is traditional for this first day of the New Year. But I’m not so sure it is a spiritual practice. We’ve all done it—making resolutions for change in the year to come. The most common are to exercise more, lose weight, make a budget, start or finish a project, and/or be better at _____. (fill in the blank)
There is nothing wrong with making resolutions, but I think the reason they so often fail is that the resolution comes from the wrong source. Our ego and our inner critic usually make our resolutions, implying that there is something inherently wrong with us. And thus, the resolution feels like punishing ourselves in a way, even if it’s what we really want to do.”
I am unorthodox in my Lutheran tradition in my rejection of the concept of original sin, that we are born sinful and have no escape. I’ve never been able to adopt that part of the dogma because when I see any new baby, I only see a being that testifies to the essence of God in each of us. Before that baby has experienced any teaching, trauma, culturing conditioning, shaming or rejection that will inevitably cover this purity, it is simply a being that opens our hearts, touches our sense of perfect beauty and tells us the truth of who we really are, no matter what our age.
“But isn’t it a good thing to have goals and objectives,” asked a friend of mine.
It’s a good question, and I don’t mean to be misunderstood. But it takes a lot of awareness for a healthy goal not to become the source of judgment of ourselves, whether we make the goal or don’t make the goal. That is mistaking who we are for our ego, the thing with blinders on, unable to imagine our potential and our birthright as the essence of all Being.
It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but I resolved to do many things in walking the Camino: I would walk every step. I would walk it in thirty-four days. I would walk it in a “relaxed manner.” I would be kind to fellow pilgrims. I would trust that God would provide.
And when I only achieved that one about arriving in San Santiago in thirty-four days, I took no comfort in this compared to all the resolutions I was unable to keep. I judged my self harshly not only at the time, but really for some years afterwards. My ego’s pride and need for perfection could not come to peace about it. It wasn’t that making those goals were bad, but I thought they reflected who I was. I’ve always wondered how hearing that I was born a sinner affected me all these years, and how deeply that teaching imprinted itself on my soul. It seems connected to how easily I believe my inner critic, that has such a loud voice and can point out so clearly where I don’t keep my resolutions.
It’s not that I am without aspirations for the year to come. But I call them “aims” now. For me, aims are what my essence makes when it’s in touch with Essence. They are loving and attuned and are not kidnapped by my inner critic. I feel the rightness of them for myself and for others, but without the heaviness of needing to succeed at them, only cooperate with what is already unfolding. There is a gentleness about my aims. There is still discipline inherent in them, but not punishing. It’s the discipline that is a pathway to becoming more of who I really am.
As I write this, I realize I actually haven’t made aims, as much as they have simply started becoming part of my routine. Those aims, as beautiful as a newborn baby, need love and care and holding in the same way.
If you have made resolutions, perhaps your inner judge isn’t as tough on you as it can be on me and I applaud your intentions! But since we all have that inner judge, just check in now and then and see if those resolutions have any sense of heaviness about them, or are they making you feeling “less than” in any way?
I can only remind you and remind myself, you are not and never have been “less than” anything. Relax. Receive the truth of these words–and the happiness in your soul.