I don’t know why, but the air always feels fresher in January. 2020 ran by in a moment, and there was little time to catch our breath. Now we’re here. Every end is a beginning – every step prompts the next.
I think the “fresh” feeling is our intuition. It’s not a thought or an emotion, but our collective experience in and of the world: the voiceless voice that speaks before we think to speak. It signals when something’s off about a stranger and tells us when we’re hungry, thirsty, and tired.
Intuition condenses the past, present, and future of an individual life into a moment of content determination: “Everything is right, just as it is, and here’s what I’ll do to make it even better.” Be it satisfying thirst or negotiating a deal.
Life flows smoothly when we’re attuned to our intuition. Without thinking, we walk to the kitchen and pour a glass of water, usually without injury.
Getting Out of Your Way
Mindfulness meditation connects our conscious selves with that voiceless voice by separating the experience of life from the experience’s contents. First, by noticing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations as they take your attention away from your breath.
Second, by labelling the sensation, “planning,” or “sadness,” or “thirst,” or whatever it happens to be.
Third, by separating the label from the details – the act of planning from the who/what/when/where/why of the plans – we get closer to seeing the world as it is.
This makes more sense as an example: You’re thirsty, but you tell yourself that what you’re doing is more important than that, so you ignore your intuition and get back to it.
Twenty minutes later, a headache sets in. You think it’s because Bob is making your job harder than it has to be. In fact, you’re dehydrated. You’ve taken “thirst” and labelled it “nuisance.” Now your head hurts.
When we try to overwrite our intuition, what we’re actually doing is trying to force life to fit our ideas, and that never works. It’s unscientific. Instead, we must adapt our thoughts and actions to the fact of life. We need to get out of our own ways.
Take the humble millipede: most of its body segments have two pairs of legs (that’s four legs per segment). Most millipede species have 34 to 400 legs, though some have many more.
When the millipede walks, do you think its insect consciousness focuses on footwork or locating juicy leaves? The leaves, obviously! Can you imagine how cumbersome it would be to choreograph hundreds of legs?! I’d trip over myself every step.
In much the same way, we don’t need to micromanage the contents of life. When thirsty, drink; when tired, sleep. All else being equal, prosperity is that simple.
Focus on why you act, not what the action is. Skipping dessert is easier when you focus on the purpose of the activity rather than the sacrifice of pleasure.
Commit to Yourself
Yes, it’s easier for an insect to get out of its own way because it doesn’t have competing priorities. We need to do more than find dinner, but the millipede doesn’t lose sight of its intent. It picks a goal and lets its many legs do all the work.
And just because it’s January doesn’t make it the best time to commit to a better life. You don’t need to wait a whole year to evaluate your present and, using your knowledge of the past, prepare for a better future. If you fail, take a day or two off, but don’t wait for next year.