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Drowning in Potential

How mindfulness can save us from drowning in our expectations for ourselves

by Georgia Pettit

dawn 2Mindfulness meditation suggests we start the new year not with criticism and condemnation, but with an appreciation for the mind, body, and heart we have today.

One pop culture highlight from 2015 was the release of Jenny Lewis’ album “The Voyager,” particularly the song titled “The New You.” Ms. Lewis reminds us, “It’s a new you every day, putting on a different face.” This line defines that thrilling sense of potential that’s available to us each morning. We wake up with a desire to have a happier, more meaningful day than the one before, but when faced with the challenge of shifting our outlook, we may find that changing our face is easier than changing our mind.

This cycle isn’t reserved only for the morning. As the holidays transition into the start of a brand new year, that inspiring sensation of freshness can start to feel less like a clean slate and more like a crucible. What begins as an aspiring sense of potential can quickly become a vehicle for us to hyper-focus on our the exterior needs, nitpick our personalities, and construct unrealistic expectations that are impossible to uphold. Meanwhile, that little voice that just wanted a slightly more meaningful existence gets drowned out by the sound of new wheels spinning.

It can often feel like the world is purposefully blurring the line between self-improvement and personal inadequacy. Sometimes it feels like we are living each day for the one we’ll be good enough to enjoy, and of course, the bullseye for “good enough” is a moving target.

breeze of delightThe Shambhala Meditation Practice suggests we start the new year with appreciation for the mind, body, and heart we have today. Learning to feel that we are fundamentally good, with or without an “improved me,” is the basis of mindfulness meditation. We are learning to be open with ourselves, in order to reveal a true picture of both our problems and our potential.

By opening up to ourselves, the everyday challenges we are struggling to fix one at a time will stabilize. Awareness will transform our relationship to our own life, and soon we’ll find that we ride our potential with precision, addressing our problems with directness, instead of letting them ride us.

This year, let’s stop avoiding ourselves with smoke and mirror resolutions. Let’s get past the feverish construction of a “2016 me,” and learn how to appreciate ourselves, as we are, today. Let’s skip the inevitable crash that follows when, come March, the anxieties, depressions, and boredoms remain the same or worse than before we ran ourselves rampant with hefty promises of a better self. This year, let’s go straight to the root of the resolution.

We are all voyagers starting a new year, and as Jenny Lewis sings, “The farther that we run from it, how will we overcome it? It’s a new you every day.”

Georgia Pettit is a member of the Shambhala sangha in New York. 

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