While New Year’s resolutions can be very meaningful and helpful, most seem to end up in the bin curbside awaiting recycling, their intended useful life somehow cut short. My personal preference is actually for vows rather than resolutions. They are similar to one another, but I think of vows more as ways I intend to “be” and resolutions as things I intend to “do.” The most meaningful changes we can make in our lives are in how we comport ourselves, how we respond to situations, how we actually live our lives.
A few years ago, I heard the Dalai Lama talk about how he starts his day by reciting the Bodhisattva vows. I was thinking perhaps I could start my days with those vows but as I listened to them, I quickly realized that they didn’t fully speak to me as they ended with “may I bring sustenance and awakening, enduring like the earth and sky until all beings are freed from sorrow and all are awakened.” While that is an admirable vow, I personally don’t believe that I will “endure like earth and sky until all beings are freed from sorrow and are awakened.”
Thus I was inspired to write my own vows in a more personally meaningful voice, something which I suggest to all of you to consider doing for yourselves. My vows are as follows:
May I be kind
May my words and actions be infused with integrity
May I be patient with myself and with others
May I be a vessel through which love and care flow
May I remember that life is challenging not just for me, but for everyone
May I find pause in moments of reactivity
May I know my own value and be compassionate with myself when doubt arises
May I share my gifts freely and generously
May I remember Presence which is here prior to any word, thought, action or feeling
May I be steadfast in my pilgrimage for truth and understanding
And should this day be my last, may others know that they have been loved, and may appreciation be my final companion
My vows had continued to ring true for several years until I decided to add “May I share my gifts freely and generously,” having become increasingly aware of my reticence to step forward in my life in a more public and meaningful way. As you can tell, these are not vows to exercise daily or to lose a certain amount of weight or to reach a particular goal, they simply are vows to become the person that I hope to become.
So I encourage you all to write your own vows. Who do you really want to be? How do you want to respond to others and life’s events? How do you wish to relate to yourself? How do you strive to manifest your deepest wishes and potentialities? It may take a few iterations over time. Just start writing and then read them each morning, adjusting as feels appropriate until they settle into their own unique very personal form. Reading them at the end of the day gives one the opportunity to reflect on the ways we did or did not live up to our own avowed intentions. That feedback loop can definitely help in becoming more aware of our ways which fall short of who and how we intend to be.
We all need words to guide ourselves as we navigate through life, and who better to provide those words than our own most wise and innermost guide.