Here we are in this difficult place, between coping with the effects of isolation and navigating our way in an unsafe world. This in-between zone is not only a harsh new reality but also a dramatic metaphor for the changes…
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
— Mark Twain
The new year is a time to think about what you want to achieve and to set new goals accordingly. Proceed carefully, because unless you’re in the minority of people who succeed, your new year’s vision will soon cloud over and nothing will change.
A 2018 YouGov poll found that one in 5 Americans stuck to their resolutions. Other research suggests the same stats, 80% abandon their resolutions in the first quarter. More radical resolutions fail faster. The reason cited is lost motivation. The remedy: Find tools and tactics to keep you motivated — a productivity app, accountability buddy, or motivational coach.
If you suspect that motivation is your issue, it could be wise to try these remedies. Personally, I’m not for externally imposed motivation. It takes me back to catholic girls’ college and cantankerous nuns killing all manner of fun.
But it’s not only my personal experience (trauma) that makes me reject external motivational. When it comes to falling short of a goal, I believe something more fundamental sends our desires sideways or to the back-burner, or into oblivion.
“As there is no worldly gain without some loss, so there is no worldly loss without some gain.”
– Francis Quarles
We, humans, are acquisitive creatures. The archaic drive of the hunter and gatherer also powers modern lives. But unlike our lean-living, itinerant ancestors, we inhabit a world of oversupply and stagnation. We tend to sit, dig in, and hold onto things long past their use-by date.
Just as planet earth suffers from human excess, we individually bear this burden. While the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up and zen-living gurus showed us — room by room, object by object — how to live with less, our less-visible hoardings still collect dust year after year.
Projects, skills, jobs, relationships, behaviors, and habits would also benefit from the life-changing habit because if we’re at full capacity with things set in motion in the previous years, piling on more won’t upgrade our quality of life or bring success — only the opposite.
The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and Brazil, November 2, 2019.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. It has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation’s schools. Many families celebrate a traditional “All Saints’ Day” associated with the Catholic Church.
Halloween is a fun celebration mostly for children to dress as ghosts and ghouls and delightfully spook neighbors. The Day of the Dead is more personal and familial. It’s aimed at remembering the departed, the loved and unloved.
And why not celebrate our dead, remember, and commemorate?
Your reasons need not be religious or cultural. Reasons can be found in the origin of the words, commemorate, memorable, memorial, remember, and memory itself. The Latin root for these is memor, meaning “mindful”, and the Greek word mermēra, meaning “care”.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
We remember to be mindful of and to care for the dead. Just one day, before we forget again.
Gone And Forgotten.
Obsessed with the here and now, the new and the better, we forget the past and the departed. It’s as though we suffer mass-amnesia.
Prolific intellectual, art critic, and poet, Clive James addressed this in his tome Cultural Amnesia, published in 2007.
Shining a light on the legacies of public figures that have shaped the culture and thinking of this century, James’ central idea of the book is that cultural amnesia is a deficit that touches us all in the Western world. He traces the origins of forgetting to the mass-trauma and ongoing grief of World War 2. We are compelled to forget the inhumanity of the Holocaust, and yet, in doing so, we are impoverished both culturally and personally.
This shared forgetting causes us to neglect the history that created our here and now, the cosmic soup in which we all swim.
We neglect to even know of the public lives whose legacies we benefit from, whether by liberation, peace, beauty, or empowerment. We forget our teachers, those accessible gurus who lit our path. In a hurry to become the teacher, we overlook rightful homage to the blessings bestowed upon us. We forget grandparents and ancestors who created us, whose essence and, to an extent, superficial characteristics and temperament, we embody throughout our mortal lives.
We forget the past not only because of cultural amnesia caused by trauma, but because we prefer tangible, finite, knowable things. The Western world is focused on material living. Unless we seek it consciously, the unknown makes us feel insecure.
Death is a mystery. Without attention to the mysteries, we are poorer. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Power of Myth, “It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor.”
Radiance and splendor are essential to wellbeing. Without them, we are possessed by mundanity.
The Fecund Void.
“Into the void of silence, into the empty space of nothing, the joy of life is unfurled.”
— C. S. Lewis
The void is more than half of our conscious existence.
Most of our actions are unconscious. We simply react in real-time.
Modern neuroscience tells us we are consciously aware of about 5% of our thoughts. Most of our behaviors and emotions are reactions to the 95 percent of brain activity that occurs beneath our awareness.
At the root of our automatic, knee-jerk reactions to life is a lack of self-knowledge. Modern wisdom says you should just be yourself: very appealing because no effort is required. Older wisdom says you should cultivate the self because a consciously directed life is much more likely to satisfy and bring meaning.
According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is:
Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality.
Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.
Self is your true inner nature, who you are, and who you always will be. It actually includes the ego and the shadow.
In many cases, identity and relationship issues, and mental health problems stem from these three parts of ourselves working independently (often in opposition) rather than in harmony with each other.
Psychological education and inner-reflection methods such as meditation create healthy, harmonious selves.
Where to begin?
Christine, a 40-year-old Australian artist, now living in the US, almost fell into the wrong career and surrendered her passion. But a conversation with someone she greatly admired re-orientated her life.
Words by Christine
Art and the artist’s life were my passion all through my 20s, but my 30th birthday and a broken 8-year relationship gave me a harsh reality check. Then, a steady income became more important to me than anything else.
I’d worked part-time in aged care homes. With my new aim, I trained to gain a better income, and I soon turned full time.
I planned to paint in my spare time, but it became unsustainable with a hectic social life that involved a lot of wine (and other substances), art openings, parties, celebrations, etc. Although I continued to call myself an artist, life was fun, and pleasantly uncomplicated without actually making art.
Years flew by without a single painting being completed. Then over a 6-month period, I noticed a fellow artist, Lucas (whose work I respected), turning out an astounding amount of work – a solo show one month, a group show the next, paid commissions the next.
“Have you hired a secret helper,” I joked at one of his exhibitions? “Oh yes, ten little fairies,” he joked back. “Seriously, what has changed”, I pressed.
“I did a course about life purpose, and it messed with my head, in the best possible way,” Lucas said.
I remember his words because, although I was happy with my therapy work and doing more training to advance my career, the fact that I did not know my life purpose made me quite sad, and very curious.
Medical science proves that purpose keeps you young, fit, and ALIVE!
One of the great satisfactions in life is to be fully aware of your life’s purpose. Equally, one of the great sufferings is to be ignorant of it.
Although the latter is far more common, many people give up pursuing their purpose too early and settle for less.
The question, ‘what is your life purpose’, can overwhelm us with anxiety, self-doubt, and existential angst.
People can become embarrassed and bewildered when the topic arises. Memories of failed efforts, regrettable life choices and a low opinion of potentialities can make us reluctant to venture there.
It can feel easier and safer to remain gilded to our habits, psychological patterns, and external structures even if they’re working against our best interests.
And it can feel destabilizing and risky to respond to the subtle voice of our inner calling because it almost always wants us to change and grow in an uncomfortable way.
You can resist your life purpose for years (or a lifetime) but, as many wisdom-keepers have advised over the centuries, a higher purpose can revolutionize your life.
Now medical science is substantiating this old wisdom and proving that life purpose directly impacts health and wellbeing.
Purpose as medicine
Various studies over the last decade show that a purposeful life positively influences:
- Psychological well-being
- Healthy brain function
- Cardiovascular health
- Muscle strength
- Sound sleep
The message is clear, life purpose is not something to be pursued at a (leisurely) later time.
Nor is it a luxury or indulgence only available to a talented few.
Life purpose is your individual gift. When discovered and expressed, it brings vitality, meaning, and satisfaction.