Wise Intentions for the New Year

I call the moment when you fully know that a change is achievable realizing the imaginative possible.  When you are able to envision that an alternative is real, you experience a sudden energetic surge toward actualizing it, which becomes self-reinforcing.

 ….. Phillip Moffitt  (2012)  Emotional Chaos To  Clarity.                              Hudson Street Press/ Penguin Group USA

The New Year holiday is a natural time to reflect on the cycles in our lives – the beginnings and endings, the losses and renewals, the ongoing narrative themes that weave in, out, and through our life story.

In the ritual of new year’s resolutions,  we also have an auspicious opportunity to contemplate our aspirations and intentions, our longings as we go forward into the unfolding future.  

For more than I decade, I have had a personal new year’s practice of reflecting on and then writing about my goals and intentions for the new year.   I distinguish between goals and intentions.  Goals express our preferences for future;  what we want to accomplish;  what we want to bring into being.  They provide inspiration and direction as well as determine how we allocate our time and resources.  Intentions, on the other hand, are statements about how we would like to actually think, act, and speak in any given moment as we move forward towards our goals.   Together, goals and intentions describe our purpose—  the forward thrust of our energy going forward.

In my practice,  New Year’s is a time to focus on the “imaginative possible” (to use Moffitt’s phrase from the opening quote).     I bring my awareness to my deepest longings and I inquire deeply about what I am committed to in my life.  I reflect on the projects that I am involved in and want to bring to fruition, as well as those that are on the leading edge of my interest.

The wisdom in “new year’s resolutions”  is the fact that intentions can function as a blueprint for the changes we want to make, in several ways.  First, clear seeing and clear intention are essential in formulating effective strategies for action.  Second, when our purpose is clear and coherent, we are on course towards a particular outcome.  And third, intentions help us stay centered in the moment by keeping our attention focused on what is important and by helping us stay optimally responsive to changing circumstances and conditions.


Inquiry: The Practice of Curiosity

As Albert Einstein famously said, “we cannot help but be in awe when we contemplate the mystery of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day”.

A good place to start exploring your own experience is by asking questions. We can take inspiration from Alice in Wonderland.  Curiosity about what we Don’t Know has the potential to turn life on its head, revealing things in unexpected and marvelous ways.

The systematic process of curiosity is called INQUIRY.  Inquiry means investigation, exploration, but mostly it means wanting to find out. It is a questioning. “What is this? Why is that? What is happening? Where is it going?”

INQUIRY is not the same as analyzing or thinking about a question.   It means a systematic openness; an invitation to or receptivity to discovering something new. 

INQUIRY opens to whatever presents itself, whatever arises in our consciousness.    It is a form of deliberate invitation to the unfolding of our Inner Wisdom.

When practicing INQUIRY, we don’t decide on a particular route that we think will lead us someplace we want to go. Instead, we consider the experiential field we are in at this moment and discern a question, or a direction that is emerging in our experience, and we follow that.    Inquiry is not fundamentally about solving problem, although it can reveal many things that can be useful in solving our problems.


In the next two weeks,  have the intention to allow INQUIRY to unfold in the form of curiosity about one or more aspects of your experience (thoughts, feelings) .

INQUIRY has to be about something we don’t understand in our immediate experience, in our daily life—something important and relevant.

For your initial practice, spend 10 or 15 minutes by writing down questions about what you don’t know, what you would like to know, what puzzles you, or what interests you.  Do this by sitting with receptive awareness, writing down questions as they occur to you  (don’t exclude any!)