Here it comes, the scariest potential year since Y2k, if you buy the hype on 2012. Of course, the sages tell us that rather than ushering in an earth-shattering colossal end to the human experiment, what we can really expect in 2012 is an increase in human enlightenment, even if there are some growing pains along the way.
Setting yourself resolutions can even be one way to improve your health and sense of well being. One of my friends is planning to quit smoking this year. Nowadays, there are so many different types of stop smoking aids, it can be difficult to know where to begin. For instance, some people try to make the switch to vaping (a safer alternative to smoking which involves using an e-cigarette to vape e-liquids such as Humble juice) whereas others prefer to take up a new hobby such as knitting to keep their hands busy. Ultimately, it’s always a case of finding a solution that works for you.
So, in the spirit of thinking about what could be better in your life, community and the world, here are ten easy resolutions that you can adopt (or cherry pick) to help out without stressing out.
1. An attitude of gratitude.
In spite of all that’s wrong with the world today — wars, pollution, hunger, energy decline, injustice, plutocracy — there are plenty of comforts and opportunities if we only have the eyes to see them and the heart to enjoy them. Resolve to express gratitude across the whole spectrum of your life in 2012, including for the challenges and strains. Experiment with seeing how things might change if you choose to be grateful for everything in your life because you see it as either natural abundance, or where challenging, as a way to make things better.
2. Play awake.
When I was a dance student at Virginia Commonwealth University in the late 80s, the great Judson Church-era dancer Deborah Hay was an artist-in-residence one year. She shared with us her mantra of “playing awake,” which was an invitation to live, move, be, do and in the case of dance, perform, as an act of playfulness while fully conscious on multiple levels. This isn’t a concept to be layered over living or performing, but a seed to be born in human experience where we open our eyes really, from the dream or the habits to maybe reach “beginner’s mind” as the Buddhists say. I don’t know what else to say about it except to think about what it means to you and simply let yourself play awake.
3. Resolve to be resolved.
It’s difficult in our society to make the kinds of massive changes that bring about less energy use and ratchet down consumption because everything in our society and cultural paradigm conspires against it. We’re advertised to constantly and even told it’s our duty to save the economy through buying more. So it takes a lot of resolve to shift your own behavior, which is what will help shift the paradigm toward a greater focus on quality of experiences over quantity of acquisition. So simply resolve to be resolved. It could do a world of good.
4. See the embodied energy.
Almost everything we do, buy, or use, no matter how cheap or insubstantial, has an energy footprint and carbon footprint. In the case of things like plastic sporks and straws the energy input is huge and the use-value is minimal. There’s about five minute’s use for these petroleum-heavy, long-traveling disposable giveaways at KFC or TGIF. Let’s open our minds to observe just what it takes to make or fuel what we use, even if we don’t have to pay the fuel bill ourselves. When we understand how precious these disposable goods really are, we can stop taking them and the energy built into them for granted. And that could help us, next time, to leave the spork or the straw in its wrapper.
5. Embrace “enough.”
Forget dieting as a way to get fit this year. To want to be healthier and look better are only partial motivators toward losing weight. What’s deeper for those of us engaged with resource use questions is the question, How much is enough? In the modern industrial world we consume excess calories while living a predominately sedentary lifestyle. Try looking at your plate and asking, How much is enough? Where did this food come from? How did it travel to me? How much do I need? How active am I and therefore how much food do I need? There’s a Zen saying that “painted cakes do not satisfy hunger.” And though that saying can also be turned on its head in a deep philosophical twist, the obvious reference remains potent. Yes, celebrate some times. But how much are “enough” treats? Embrace the concept and reality of “enough” on food and appetite to see what it does for you and the world this year.
6. All politics is personal.
This will be an election year not only in the US, but in scores of countries around the world. So here comes the nonsense, the posturing, the mud slinging, the pandering and worse. Still, democracies are supposed to be ours, and they definitely have a “use it or lose it” feature to them. Farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry says that the act of protest matters more for personal dignity than it does for winning a cause. To stand up against injustices, to speak out against crimes, to demand accountability, to show up in unity with others is to claim an essential feature of being human: one’s right to stand up for what’s right. This year, from Occupy to the voting booth there are myriad ways to stake your claim to the process, whether victory is at hand or not. What matters is something bigger. What matters is YOU!
7. These boots were made for walking.
My husband went to a meeting recently about 12 blocks from our home. When it was time to leave he tried to scare up a posse of folks to walk together, allowing the meeting to linger on into an evening stroll. But it turns that the attendees who lived less than three blocks away, all ablebodied adults committed to the environment, had driven their cars. Wha, wha, wha what? Sure, not every person is able to enjoy walkability based up where they live or health conditions. But unless you have a doctor’s note, use your body to get around whenever possible because it will help with your bottom line in both ways, if you know what I mean. And if easy walking isn’t built into your built environment, find ways to add it in when you can — for example, parking at the back of the grocery lot, parking ten blocks from your ultimate destination, simply walking more just for relaxation. Get out there and move around. (Or get a bike!)
8. Fight nature deficit disorder.
Modern industrial societies are not exactly a study in harmony with nature. Quite the opposite. And we’re feeling it. Resolve this year to make some form of nature a part of each day’s experience. It can simply be eating food in its natural state — peel an orange, crunch a carrot, break open a walnut — or it could be about finally creating that garden or getting more house plants. Stop and smell the roses, seeing the beauty in the natural world right where you are or in the woods on a hike. Enjoy the sun dappling through a window or while sitting on a lawn. Listen for birds. Pet pets. Put galoshes on and explore the creek. Collect rocks. Make a wreath. Force bulbs for your apartment, plant bulbs in your yard. Use fresh herbs in your cooking. Breathe deeply and feel that you too are nature.
9. Up with people.
Depeche Mode sang, “people are people so why should it be that you and I should get along so awfully?” Ain’t it the truth. People are weird, difficult, different, and myriad other forms of “other” in comparison to ourselves. And people are beautiful, surprising, unique, engaging and wonderful in myriad ways, too. Life is short and then you die. It’s time to start treasuring this experiences and the freaks that we all are a little more. Even a bit more friendliness all around can go a long way to making this world a better place. Celebrate differences. Embrace what we have in common.
10. Explore the post-money economy.
German sociologist and political economist Max Weber used the phrase “iron cage” to describe capitalism. Far from being the endless stream of potential freedoms depicted by capitalism fans, Weber saw humanity imprisoned by a variety of mechanisms wrought by the money economy. Just think about all those who are underwater on a mortgage, bound by car payments or tied to a job just to get health insurance. More and more of the 99% are starting to agree with with Weber (and with peak-oil observer Dmitry Orlov) that the appearance of freedom in capitalism is masking a new, insidious kind of indentured servitude. Thankfully, economic downturn since 2008 hasn’t been all bad news. It’s actually spawned a variety of new (old) forms of work and trade that are more cooperative and often more fulfilling to people while actually increasing individual freedom. If you haven’t yet explored the post-money economy, make 2012 the year that you seek more experiences and money-free or commercial-free encounters. Then take the time to reflect on what makes you feel freer — cash or time or relationships or community? Or what ratio of one to another best serves your experience?
–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice