CAN I REALLY MAKE MY SELF BETTER?
One should strengthen himself like a lion to get up in the morning to serve his Creator, so that it is he who awakens the dawn
– Opening to Code of Jewish Law
We all desire to be better. Resolutions are one way to make the desire reality.
New Year’s resolutions come in many shapes and sizes. There are the fitness related – gym joining, eating healthy, jogging; and the relationship related – fall in love, spend time with family, have children. There are resolutions that aim to improve our professional lives – get organized, save money, start a new company; and resolutions geared to enhancing our quality of life – travel, learn something new, acquire a hobby.
Any one of these resolutions can better one’s physical, emotional, and intellectual attributes. Yet they don’t quite get to the root of the matter, which can be reached by making spiritual resolutions. To broaden the resolution pool, here are ten suggested spiritual resolutions – small practices that can have big impacts.
Committing to becoming more aware of our purpose in this world is no easy task. By following the natural patterns of the day, from waking in the morning to dreaming at night, we can indeed turn this upcoming year into a truly meaningful one!
AWAKE THE DAWN
Conventional thinking would have you believe that dawn awakes you. But perhaps you are given another day so that you may awaken the dawn? Every morning, before you do anything, acknowledge that you are awake today so that you can wake up the world. This will automatically put sunshine into even the cloudiest of days.
Your morning routine is set. Yawn, stretch, shower, brush teeth, in whichever order you prefer. Add one more element into that routine: wash your hands from the night that was, creating a clean slate for the day that will be. Picture an artist painting on the same canvas over and over again. Washing our hands in the morning (a ritual in Jewish tradition called netilat yadayim) marks the transition to a renewed self – from last night’s used canvas to the fresh canvas of today.
Assuming that you wear shoes, you probably don’t put too much time into how you put them on. Try this for an exercise: put on your right shoe before your left. This simple routine achieves something monumental: It states that I will always put my right foot forward first, and I will constantly strive to walk on the right path.
Before you step out of the privacy of your home and into the public domain of the world, stop for two minutes to meditate on the fact that no matter how chaotic the outside world may get, you will always have the peaceful serenity of your home.
You have all sorts of gadgets, thingamajigs, and ornaments sitting on your desk, shelves, and counters – pictures of your children, paperweights, awards- all of which give you something. How about displaying something to which you give? Having charity boxes in your kitchen, office, home, and workplace is a perpetual reminder and inspiration that you are here in this world (not only to take but also) to give.
In many ways this resolution is the most difficult. But it is also the most rewarding. In the midst of the storm it is most difficult to achieve calm; but it is then that calm is most needed. Every afternoon, in work, at home, stop what you are doing and say a five-minute prayer. The prayer may come from a prayer book or from your heart. The point is, you are putting everything on hold for a few minutes to reach for something beyond your own self.
Education is essential. Studying spirituality makes you more spiritual. Committing to daily, weekly, or monthly spiritual study is a huge resolution, and one that will have revolutionary results. Like the human life, it is much better to start small and to grow large than to start large and grow small. Perhaps read one inspiring sentence a day; or join a monthly class.
Dinner is when families can sit together after a hard day of school, work, or living. Turn one dinner a week into an occasion by sharing something meaningful at the table: a touching moment from your workday, or asking your child about something he or she learned in school. Every week another family member could prepare something soulful to share at these weekly dinners. This sort of dinner dish is, miraculously, both delicious and healthy.
You had a hard day. Say you got a fleck of mud on your cheek. Would you go to bed without washing it off? The same is true with the emotional and spiritual flecks. If you hurt someone in the past 24 hours, wash that fleck of mud off before you go to bed by apologizing to the person and making amends. Or, if someone wronged you, forgive that person before you retire for the night. Going to bed with a heavy heart will only make the bed creak.
What is the last thing you think about before you fall asleep? That may very well be the first thing you feel when you wake up. Think bright thoughts when you go to bed and your morning will be a dream. The best kind of dream: the conscious kind.
VIVA LA RESOLUTION!
Resolutions, like money, are easier to make than to keep. But, also like money, resolutions can truly enrich your life and turn the most mundane exercise into a precious commodity.
May our resolutions enkindle a truly blessed, spiritual, and meaningful year!