The holidays and New Year are upon us and for many it’s a time of refection and resolution. While I’m a big fan of creating intentions and change, there are aspects about the act of creating resolutions that began to feel questionable to me a few years ago. An interesting thing though – since I stopped creating them, I’ve actually achieved more of my goals. Here’s why:
First of all, the “energy” around resolutions is a negative one. The belief behind creating resolutions suggests that we have to change or “solve” something in our lives because what we’ve been doing thus far hasn’t been working, that we aren’t good enough, and in order to “get where we want” in life, (suggesting it’s all about getting somewhere) we must commit to a “stepping up” of sorts. We need to be “fixed.”
While I do support creating change in ones life, there’s a tacit pressure attached to resolutions, which suggests that if we can’t successfully stick with our commitments, that we’ve screwed up – that in effect, we are screw ups. If we fail, we’re knowingly setting ourselves up to berate ourselves for not being good enough, strong enough, or resilient enough. So before we even begin to make efforts to attain our goals, there’s often a feeling of struggle or unlikelihood in fulfilling our resolutions.
“This time it will be different,” we say to ourselves, in regards to achieving our goals, but it rarely is. And we can’t understand why we’ve yet again failed.
Why is it that we commonly fail when our desire for change is so strong? The reason is clear and simple. We can rarely create change simply because we “resolve” to. Behind every unhealthy or undesirable action there is a habit – an unconscious belief that drives us.
“Ode to Failure” – A short film
Written, illustrated and produced by Tamara Levitt
For those who have fallen, or have yet to fall.
I call this painting “Teenage Angst.”
I posted it on my Facebook wall the other day and received comments and emails to the likes of “That was so me in high school,” and “Wow, I dated that girl,” and “That’s a spitting image of my own teenager…”
Everyone knows Teenage Angst – many of us carry it right into adulthood.
However, as we become older and wiser, we have opportunities to become more skilled in learning how to navigate angst. Ultimately, the best way to work with it, is to stay with it.
Learning how “be” with our pain is essential to compassionate awakening. But it’s a case of the hardest thing being the best thing.
Our instinct is to run—to be anywhere but here—but “here” is where truth and freedom live.
Pema says it best:
“To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.” ~ Pema Chodron
Learning to stay with emotion is tricky business. But with practice, it gets easier.
For me, breaking my habitual patterns has been excruciatingly difficult. But with patience and practice, it’s often possible. Here I share some of the tools that have been most helpful for me in attaining a bit of Prajna; a clear seeing of what is really happening, which is the most crucial piece when looking to break patterns.
With a focus on how to get unstuck from our shempas, and bring awareness to our habitual reactions, I also share a 4-step technique Pema Chodron has offered called the 4 R’s.
In my most recent video blog, I discuss the challenges and importance of working towards forgiveness. I share tools and techniques that have aided in my own forgiveness practice along with resources to hopefully support your own.
Penny Lockwood interviews Tamara on “One Writers Journey”, where she discusses her recently published book, and personal writing process.
Tell me a little about your book.
Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands is a picture book about a girl named leela who dreams of doing headstands. However, no matter how hard she tries, she’s unable to achieve her goal. She’s devastated by this as we usually are when faced with defeat, but through discovering that having a failure doesn’t mean that “she” is failure, she is ultimately able to find happiness.
This story offers an alternative to the “little engine that could” message that practice makes perfect and that if we just keep trying, we eventually reach a goal. The reality is, no matter how hard we try, we’re sometimes still unable to succeed in life. This book encourages cultivating self-acceptance, compassion and resilience in order to accept, learn and grow from defeat.
What gave you the idea for this particular story?
The story was in part inspired by my own struggle with perfectionism, which I’ve had since childhood and lead to a lack of self-acceptance or self-compassion. These were qualities I’ve had to learn as an adult and continue to practice as best as I can.
The beliefs we learn as children become our core beliefs as adults, so my intention through the work I create is to inspire healthy and empowering belief systems in children from the start, to help them become high functioning, happy, adults.
One of my fave Buddhist Blogs encourages it’s audience to check out Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands!
Check out this insightful post!
Tamara Levitt joins hosts Liza Fromer, Dave Gerry, Kris Reyes, and Rosey Edeh on The Morning Show to discuss the message of her book, and why parents need to be offering children the room to fail in our achievement oriented world.