New Year, Same You (12/28/2021)

This reflection appeared in the newsletter from December 28th, 2022.


They say New Year, New You.  I say New Year, Same You.

Although, let’s be clear — change is the natural flow of things.  It’s happening all the time everywhere, as much on the grand level, like the coming and going of mountains, as on the minute level, like the constant, moment-to-moment coming and going of all sense data and mental activities.

And, as in the case of the New Year’s Resolution, you absolutely have the power to change your life for the better, like quitting soda, losing 20 pounds and feeling much better in your own skin, working on your relational edges and coming into greater intimacy and fulfillment, or stepping more purpose or meditative living.  In other words, what you do matters.

However, in this culture, we’re often bombarded with messaging around needing to change ourselves to be “better.”  As this can be especially strong around New Year’s Resolutions, I find it can be helpful to consider “New Year, Same You.”

So here you are, after how many decades on this planet, still watching the sun rise and fall.  Here you are, still a human being, breathing in breathing out.  Here you are, in this very moment, reading these words just like you did in the first grade.

Now consider who you are when you strip away all the layers.

All the possessions and bank accounts.  All the jobs and hobbies.  All the beliefs about this and that.  All the identities you put on like clothes on a scarecrow.   All the regrets and aspirations.  All the relationships that pull out different parts of yourself.

When you put all this to the side, what’s left over?

you that doesn’t need to go on a self-improvement trip.  

you that’s simply present.  Here for this moment.  And then the next one.  A sound strikes the ear.  A set of colors and patterns in your visual field.  A smile on your face.  This you is perfect as is — this you doesn’t need to do do do, doesn’t need to watch Netflix or travel the world to be entertained, and certainly doesn’t need to prove their worth to anyone.

This you, right here right now, is the you that I’d encourage you to get to know.  The one that doesn’t really seem to change with the years.  New year, same you.

As the days go on, and you fill your life with all of the above layers, noticing change in its grand and minute forms, taking empowered action, perhaps you’ll be able to simultaneously touch into that more fundamental you that you’ve always been.  It makes me think of the great quote by Shunryu Suzuki:

“You are perfect just as you are.  And you could use a little improvement.”

In other words, both of these are important, but in a culture where we focus 95% on the improvement, perhaps what most of us really need around January 1 is to touch into the part of ourselves that doesn’t really change, that is forever present & forever perfect.