The new year is upon us, and with a new year comes an enduring sense of rebirth and new possibility. Out with the old, in with the new. If you’re like millions of Americans, you will be participating in a ritual of change along with this rebirth of the solar calendar: New Year’s Resolutions.
All resolutions are about changes you hope to see in your life – to be kinder, to lose weight, to work harder, to be more patient, to seek help, to get healthy, or to learn a new skill. Some are global declarations: “This is the year!”
In particular, you might be seeking a new job or career, to make more money, or to go back to school. Whatever your resolution may be, there’s one simple exercise to make your resolution stick: make it a New Year’s Intention instead.
Intention vs. Resolution
The difference between a resolution and an intention may seem purely semantic at first. If you take a moment to recognize your physical feelings related to each word, however, you’ll likely discover the difference. The energy of a resolution resides exclusively in your head, whereas an intention resides deeper in your body, in your heart and chest.
To make a resolution to do something is to make a determined decision, like an earnest boy scout. But true life changes cannot be made through will power alone. Pure human-will exhausts itself quickly without emotional fuel.
In an emergency, you might find that with fear and hope, your determination can move mountains. But over an extended period of time, the will to change your life requires sustained devotion as well. Sustained devotion comes with a deep belief in the cause for which you are acting, and a love for the recipient (you).
Take a Step Back
If you want to change your life – make an intention to do so – an intention that is grounded in your love for yourself. If you can’t find that love or belief in yourself, then you need to take a step back. Your first New Year’s intention may need to be “2014: Learn to believe that the changes I want are possible.” It may also be valuable to make the intention to learn more about yourself.
If you want to change your life or add something to your life, start from a place of forgiveness for whatever you’re trying to rectify. If you make a decision to change your life out of self-hatred or judgment, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment (and the suffering that comes with it).
Once you’ve forgiven yourself for not already being where you’d like to be, then make your intention for changes in the future.
When You’ve Got Your New Year’s Intention
When you’re clear about your New Year’s Intention, write it down. Write it down and put it on your wall, your refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror.
Whatever it is, write it proudly. Write it big. Add details. Add color and images. Make it visible to help you believe that it can be a tangible part of your life.
Then, make a commitment to your intention with your whole being, not just your brain. In committing to your intention, allow the time you need for that change to take root. Plan to check-in on your goal regularly throughout the year.
Putting Money in the Bank
Focusing on positive life changes and your belief in those changes is like putting money in your psychological bank account. With self-love and intention, you’re enhancing the resources you need to fund your desired changes for the future.
The opposite is also true. By making resolutions that are based in judgment, self-hatred, and “shoulds“, you’re stressing your personal resources and robbing your energy bank of what you need to transform your life.
Helpful Advice from an Ancient Poet
There is a beautiful quote from the Sufi mystic, Rumi, that I hope will provide a little fuel in your mission to make a New Year’s intention based in heart and not mind alone. Whatever you hope for your future, in the depths of your being, is information for the guiding force of your individual life.
“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Q: I am in a house that is overrun by wild animals. I walk into a room, the nook just off the kitchen, and I see a Monitor Lizard buried head first in a big vase full of flowers and scummy water. He scurries up and out of the vase as I enter. Outside in the back, courtyard area, a couple of large cats are sitting, maybe a Lion and Cheetah. They were in and out of the house as well. My mom was there, along with other female family members. The animals did pose some danger to us, but there were wary of us as well. It occurred to me that they wanted water, that they were here looking for water. Is that why they had come in from the wild? I assumed that wild animals have ways of getting what they need in the wild, but not anymore, I guess. Not these days. As we stood looking over the yard from above, I wondered to my mom about filling up a kiddie pool with water for the animals. She suggested we do it tomorrow as trying to navigate around them at that moment would be dangerous. I felt for them, though. Tomorrow is a long ways off if they’re really thirsty.
A: Thank you, dreamer, for sending in this dream. You shared with me in writing that you woke up from this dream with the word “Menagerie” in your head, and that you hadn’t been entirely conscious of the meaning of that word: “a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition.” This word, and the tone of its definition, may provide an interesting insight for us as we explore the rest of your dream. You also shared with me that you weren’t feeling physically well at the time of the dream and you wondered if there might be clues to that in the dream.
Indeed, the animal nature of your dream suggests reference to your own animal nature: your physical, instinctual self. The animals have come in from the wild and are invading your home. They’re thirsty. I immediately began wondering in exploring this dream why they’re thirsty, and what they (you) are thirsty for exactly. I wonder too what it means that they’re displaced. The realities of environmental degradation and global warming are bound to show up in the dreams of anyone living in the modern era (we’re consciously and unconsciously experiencing it), but the image should still also be looked at symbolically. The ever expanding cities and shrinking natural world has a psychological correlate for us all. In the modern era, psyche becomes heavily weighted towards the conscious, literal, rational mind and further distanced from the interconnected, mysterious realm of the universe in which we live. The modern psyche is raised to be narcissistic and sociopathic, with ever expanding egos and ever decreasing reverence for whatever it is that we can’t understand. But, whether we like it or not, the wild comes back to us. The grass grows up between the cracks of the concrete, the ants return just when you thought they were gone, and the winds and rain may bring a city to its knees with little warning. Is that what’s happening in your life? Your wild nature is demanding attention. It’s reclaiming territory and making its presence known.
I’ve written a few times about water in dreams, the absence of which makes a showing in your dream. Before exploring the deeper symbolic layers of Water, the first “interpretation” of this image might simply be that you’re thirsty. Really. This fact may be buried in your consciousness, something which you’re not terribly aware of and therefore shows up with your animal nature stating what it’s feeling: “I’m dehydrated.” Whether or not this could be a symptom of your sickness or of a tendency for you in general, I don’t know, but it’s a simple reading of the dream that might be valuable for you to explore. The unconscious inhabits all of us, our cells and our muscles, not just the dark reaches of our mind.
On a more symbolic level, I’m going to start by offering you what might seem like another simple statement (or a stoner’s attempt at profundity): Water is central to life. Without water, there would be no existence as we know it. Adult humans are nearly 60% water. Social centers have typically been built around major water resources, rivers or lakes or oceans. Fountains have been placed in the center of city landscapes and kingdoms. Water is central, literally and symbolically. So we know, instinctively, to bow to the water within us and outside of us. What might this mean for your dream? It may be that you’re feeling somewhat disconnected from life itself, that you’re needing to reconnect to the life force in some way, to your emotions (another aspect of water in dreams), and to the spiritual, soulful realm that gives life meaning. This could also be seen as the Yin aspect of life, the feminine, anima, source of life that animates material existence. This nod to the feminine seems to arise in particular with the mention of your mother and the female members of your family, a theme also echoed with the particular species of cats you mentioned.
The Monitor Lizard in the vase of water is curious to me, especially in that he is situated in “the nook just off the kitchen.” I’m curious here again about the way this dream may be orienting you towards very specific parts of your body. The kitchen tends to be correlated with the stomach in dream symbolism. The kitchen is the place where food is chopped and cooked and broken down, where the alchemy of food digestion begins. So the language around this lizard’s hiding place just make me wonder if there might be an illness or imbalance (not necessarily serious) associated with your liver perhaps, or spleen. I also wonder this because this particular animal is named from the Latin root word Monit, to warn. What, perhaps emotionally, might be stuck in one of the smaller organs near the stomach? You might explore Chinese medicine for some answers here, or visit a good practitioner. The image of the lizard in dreams can also be related to lineage; that from which we evolved. This might tie in again with the appearance of your mother and family in the dream and what you might be working through in your physical and psychic inheritance. Perhaps there is a lineage of disconnection from some emotional depths that you are working to heal. And, of course, perhaps you have personal associations to Monitor Lizards that are valuable for further insights into why this animal is there, off the nook of your kitchen.
Finally, to return to the word with which you awoke: Menagerie… Menagerie. The notion of captivity that defines that word is resonant to me in working this dream. It makes me wonder: are you feeling trapped? Are things feeling too controlled and confining in your life? Are you needing to be more wild? Ask yourself these questions. Spend some time really sitting with the notions. Is your life feeling as though you are in captivity and that your deepest self is not getting a chance to roam and be free? If there is an inkling that this might be true, see what you can do to rectify the situation. In your psychic landscape, you can transform the wilderness, bring the flow of water back to where it belongs, and encourage the animals to return to their natural environments where they want to be. In the future, hopefully in the near future, if you can bring more flow back into your life, your dreams will reflect these changes and it will be you who is visiting the animals, out in the wilds where they are most alive and free.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com