Many people are inspired with the new year to evaluate the past year or years and make lasting changes for the better. But we all have a voice in our heads that speaks against beginnings, and it goes way beyond protecting our basic survival needs. Let’s call it our internal judge.
It’s made up of the combined voices of every criticism we’ve ever heard from parents, relatives, teachers, friends and others. We inflate this voice to an imbalanced proportion in our minds. It sits in our consciousness, always ready to negate our dreams and the dreams of others. Make no mistake: This is not our conscience, that presence that speaks to us the wisdom of our soul and inspires us. No, ultimately our internal judge is the voice of defeat.
We are both frightened and fascinated by change, although changes in ourselves, others, and the world around us are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. And it is only the alchemy of change that allows for growth, that allows for beginnings. Perhaps what we fear the most.
Fortunately, it’s all right to fear growth, as long as we don’t allow that fear to dictate our choices. Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i faith, tells us that at the beginning of all things is the knowledge of God. And although we can never fully know God, spiritual teachings from all paths strengthen our divine connection — to ourselves and to our Creator — and support our resolve to change for the better. In fact, knowledge is the key, but it’s a knowledge of the mind/heart/spirit variety.
Look at the evidence. You are not who you were a year ago. Experiences, all experiences, are capable of teaching us in valuable ways what this life means, and what will aid or defeat us. Baha’u’llah says that everything in life is there for our education. In one year the amount of wisdom accrued is significant — but only if we allow it to be.
When we look toward new beginnings, we need to question every negation that our internal judge or others mete out, as we carefully identify what we want to accomplish. We should question this voice of defeat as we consider what would represent an improvement in our spiritual life, in our health, or in our creative life. By that I mean activities or practices that enrich us or others, be it fishing, painting, gardening, writing, hiking, crafting or any of the multitude of other wonders that life offers us.
We also need to release our stranglehold on the past. Don’t let previous difficulties color your present opportunities. It is one of the great mysteries that the trials of our lives can be transmuted into the gold of a more loving, resilient soul.
Choose perhaps one or two goals to set for the New Year and then attend to them daily. This is important. Our attention is what allows our dreams to flourish, and lack of it is the number one reason for their demise. The attention to our goals can look like daily prayers, written reminders, talking with family and friends, success logbooks or writing about them in journals. Periodic rewards are also a good idea. Make it inspiring and fun, be motivated by love, and don’t berate yourself. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition (again, the judge sets us up for failure.)
Embracing not only our capacity to change but also the necessity of it is what allows beginnings to occur. The Baha’i Writings counsel a growth that is little by little, day by day. And the more optimistic and thankful we are about our goals, the more likely we will achieve good progress on them this year.
So rise and begin again, for each day is an entirely new creation.
Cynthia J. Keys is a member of the Baha’is of Douglas County.