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The Rose and the Rock: Making Resolutions and Keeping It Real

Updated: May 4, 2023

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Hello, New Year Me. I see you — all spacious and full of promise. Disciplined and focused. You make me look so good.

But let’s get real. I’ve broken so many promises to you that I don’t trust this feeling anymore. My staying power never matches the initial fervor of my intentions. I look in the mirror and proclaim, “This year, for REAL,” and all my new behaviors start melting right away, like snow on my tongue.

It’s not that I don’t have good goals. It’s just that every year, they fizzled out in the unconsciousness of going back to work. The priorities that were so clear and clean on my first day…I don’t know, they just get eclipsed by…life. Rationalizations take over. Excuses. “Reasons.”

And like clockwork, here I am again, making a list of things I know are good for me. And vaguely aware of the coming disappointment because I know I won't follow through.

So how to break this spell?

Through trial and error, I've developed this thing called my rock & rose practice. So far, I've only used it on New Year's Day, but you could probably apply it to any momentous goal you've made. It involves holding two very different energies in one place, and letting them be. Here's how it works.

1. If you can, buy a fresh rose. This represents how you feel about your goal.

Appreciate its beauty, and appreciate the fact that it will die soon, no matter how well you care for it. This rose represents the emotion that inspires your promises to "New Year You." These feelings are essential. They are like a match to kindling, a crucial component to any commitment. Without them, you'll never make it to the next step, which is the Rock.

2. Choose any rock, stone or crystal to represent your commitment to your goal. I have a collection of small white rocks, and a black permanent marker that I use, but you can choose any solid kind of rock, stone, or crystal.

3. With a measured mind and a tender heart, choose your promises for this coming year. Choose a few--no more than two or three. Each promise will live on its own rock. Write one word on each rock--a word that will remind you of your goal.

For instance, by the end of this year, I want to have completed the first draft of a sequel to the fantasy novel I finished last year. So on one rock I will write “Book.” And for the daily meditation practice I want to revive, I will write “Sit” on another rock. These rocks represent what I will do regardless of how I feel about it in the moment. They represent what I will do after the initial fervor has died down and I don’t care anymore like I used to.

Tend to the rose as mindfully as possible while she lasts. If you can afford it, you can buy another rose when the first one goes. Or you can choose an image of a rose, to remind you of that first fire of commitment you felt. try to keep it in view.

And keep the rocks either on an altar or a window sill--somewhere that you'll see them every day. This way, you can honor the fire and air of dedication felt at the beginning of any good endeavor — and also honor the water and earth, the mud of discipline required to bring any good endeavor to fruition.

4. One last note, perhaps the most important: Plan to fail a little.

Plan to execute these promises imperfectly. Plan to mess up, to forget, to blow it off. It will happen. Just get back in the game right after. Following through perfectly without ever failing is not what counts. It's redoubling your efforts after failing that shows true commitment.

May we all let ourselves feel the sweet fervor of every new beginning. And may we all develop the tolerance for tedium, and the will to keep getting back up after falling, so we can--inch by inch, day by day, boring hour by boring hour--manifest all our worthy goals.

Blessings to all as we navigate the many challenges and changes of this very strange time in our history.


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