“Life is about our capacity to love. That is all.” – Parker Palmer, The Growing Edge podcast, episode 48
Setting a tone rather than a resolution
A friend asked me last week if I set New Year’s resolutions. The answer that popped out of my mouth kind of surprised me – I told him that I like to set a tone for the New Year rather than setting a particular goal. It felt like one of those spontaneous “straight from mind to mouth” answers that gets right to the truth.
Setting a tone feels spacious to me. It allows room for me to drift off course. Better yet, it allows room for me to be gracious with myself when I return. A tone also feels broad enough to apply to the various aspects of my life – my work, my downtime, my relationships with others and myself, and even my pursuit of goals.
The tone I am choosing to set for myself in 2023 is love. My hope is that, as much as possible, love will be at the foundation of my thoughts, my words, and my deeds.
I’d like to be clear that, though I am a girl who appreciates Rom-Coms perhaps more than most, this is not the “tone” of love that I am choosing for this new year. I’m choosing instead a “tone” of love that aligns more with loving-kindness than romantic love. Loving-kindness focuses on friendliness, benevolence, good-will, and an active interest in the well-being of others.
Loving-kindness in action can look a lot like good manners. Being considerate of those whose paths happen to intersect with your own – be they drivers on the highway, servers in a restaurant, or the person who checks you in at the doctor.
It can also look like patience. Resisting the urge to interrupt when you think you know what the person that you’re talking to is working themselves around to saying. Allowing the people with whom you live or work to live or work “their way” – even when your way seems like the right way to you. Giving life the chance to unfold as it will without jumping into the director’s seat again and again (and again).
Loving-kindness in action can also look like generosity. To approach others with sensitivity and compassion. To give freely of your own gifts – be they time, talents, or treasure. To try to lead with “how can I help?”
To speak with loving-kindness is good for the world around us. It is also good for us. Proverbs 15:4 promises that “A gentle tongue is the tree of life.” Because we’re human, speaking from a place of love is easier said than done. This is why we have been admonished since grade school that “if we don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
It is not realistic, however, to live life authentically and never have to say anything that is unpleasant, difficult, or painful to hear. One of the wisest bits of yoga philosophy invites us to express such difficult truths with loving-kindness – in other words, in a kind way and as if we love the person we are speaking to. (The same goes for people we’re speaking about, by the way.)
Thinking with loving-kindness flips the intention of the practice to ourselves. Can we be gentle with ourselves when we mess up? Can we be kind to ourselves when we wish we had behaved differently? Can we accept that we will sometimes succeed and sometimes fail – and that both are OK? Can we sweetly, gently soften harsh thoughts of self-criticism by reframing our mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow?
This is AP-level loving-kindness, by the way. But it is also where the practice can bear the most fruit. For when we treat ourselves with loving-kindness – even (especially) when we’re doing silly, unimportant things like a yoga posture, or running a 5K, or attempting to knit our first scarf – we are creating a habit that will effortlessly express itself in the way we treat others.
P.S. the way we treat others sets the tone for the way we are treated
Yoga philosophy also promises that the way we treat others (in deed and word) sets the tone for the way we are treated. In other words, not only does it feel good when we act and speak with loving kindness, but we are doing what we can to create a loving and kind environment for ourselves to live in. Which, of course, makes it easier to maintain our “tone” of love throughout the year.
A New Year’s blessing for you
May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.
The light in me bows to the light in each of you. Namaste.
If you are interested in developing practices that can support the “tone” you choose for your new year, reach out. I’d love to help support you.