New years’ resolutions, fasts, diets. All things we do to attain certain goals. But somehow, they flake off and we are left half way feeling a little, well, under-resolved. But why not distill all these things down to a few core habits and attitudes, which, once practiced with resolve, will lead to happiness and discipline in all other aspects of your life – be it in eating, relationships, self-confidence.
There are countless religions and cultures that prescribe giving up things like food and other pleasures in order to express grief or repentance, to deprive yourself in order to remember the true source of our utmost joy, to purify yourself, some even say to express your piety, obedience and love for God. A case of abstinence leads to appreciation.
I get the idea. I think it’s a great thing to remind ourselves to be better and to find ways of doing this. I just don’t know if the conventional way its done is as effective as it could be.
Let me be super clear on this: a fast or resolution should never be for punishment or harmful in any way. Nothing good comes of either of these things.
At the core of it, fasting is not just something you do. It’s a delicate balance between discipline and purpose/intention. There is no fast without the structure of discipline, and no discipline without the vehicle of a fast. Which begs me to question whether I’ve been doing it correctly and for the right reasons.
Giving Up Food
Food is something entirely necessary for survival, productivity and, most especially for me, a decent mood. To deprive myself of it is a little pointless and a lot counterproductive. I honestly can’t imagine a God, or whatever power may be, who would find this deprivation, in any way, honorary. And I do not find myself being a better person as a result. I consider myself to be a balanced and fairly disciplined eater. Not that a fast cannot be used to help you become more disciplined in eating. But if that is your purpose, make sure it’s one that is balanced and practical to sustain into the long term.
Some of you may fast to empathise with the hunger felt by the poor, in order to motivate you to do good deeds, and to help become detached from worldly things. Again, it’s easy to feel something like this when you know it’s short-lived. You know in a few days’ time you will be able to watch and catch up on your favourite TV programs, conveniently recorded on your PVR, eat that slab of chocolate sitting in your kitchen cupboard and down that beer chilling in your fridge. You’re still attached to these things and don’t understand what it is to not have them at all, ever. You haven’t truly given them up. If, after fasting, you do truly feel empathy, and you give up those things forever and use the money or energy, otherwise spent on the superfluous luxuries, to do something more productive for those that are less fortunate, this is a winning formula for you. But, sadly, that’s not always how it goes. Which is why a fast often starts and ends, and nothing much really changes. If you can put in so much mental conviction and effort into starving and depriving yourself, surely that same conviction and energy can be used to doing good in the first place. Why not cut out the part where you are drained of energy and productivity?
Giving Up Things
Yes, we tend to worship things (material things, transient things), rather than God himself. But giving up something material or desirous for a limited period of time isn’t going to change anything in the long run. Aren’t the qualities listed above supposed to be how we live – all of the time? Changing a habit for a short time and reverting as soon as time’s up doesn’t do much. Ergo, a fast, as we know it, does not create a sustainable way to honour the original purpose of a fast. These things require a more regular, practical and permanent change in mindset. Fasting (no matter what material thing you’re giving up – food, TV, alcohol, intercourse, etc), is fighting a symptom temporarily more than a cause permanently.
Giving It Up… but Just for a While
You can’t set a time limit to a fast. If you understand the true reason for a fast, you know that it is something you do as, and when, it becomes necessary. A fast is to free yourself from the clutches of your senses. To remind us of the sheer power of discipline. It happens naturally once you regularly become more aware of yourself and your tendencies. The idea is to fully enjoy and experience this world and all its wonders, but not to overindulge and want more. We are all guilty of this at some point or another. It’s only human. To simply remind yourself in the moment that what you are pursuing is not as beneficial as you may think, or not in your greater interest, is a far more powerful fast that one that is stipulated to occur over a certain period of time and which starts as abruptly as it ends.
Food for Thought
For me, it makes far more sense to give up or let go of things that hold us back, cause us pain, stress and suffering, in order to help remind us of our inherent happiness and exercise the discipline required in order to maintain and become established in that blissful state, more often. Because it is this very state that makes us better people and everything else – the repentance, the seeing past material things, the redirecting of our focus to less earthly things – falls into place naturally. I would much rather implement a constant discipline that lays a foundation to purify my thoughts, speech and action simultaneously.
If, like me, you find starving and not watching TV for a few days to be a little ineffective to your purpose, I have found this list of practical, day-to-day things to give up/let go of by Luminita Saviuc quite pertinent to fighting for my purpose from the inside, not just superficially, to creating the kind of mental stance I know will set the foundation to a discipline that will cultivate a higher sense of respect and love for myself and others and allow me to experience my wholeness regardless of what I’m depriving or not depriving myself of.
1. Give up your Need to Always be Right
There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question:
“Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” ~Wayne Dyer
What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
2. Give up your Need for Control
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better that will make you feel.
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.”
3. Give up on Blame
Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
4. Give up your Self-Defeating Self-Talk
Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.”
5. Give up your Limiting Beliefs about what You Can and Cannot Do, about what is Possible or Impossible
From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind”
6. Give up Complaining
Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
7. Give up the Luxury of Criticism
Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different to you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
8. Give up your Need to Impress Others
Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all of your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
9. Give up your Resistance to Change
Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
10. Give up Labels
Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open.
“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”
11. Give up on Your Fears
Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only fear we have to fear, is fear itself.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
12. Give up your Excuses
Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people;
to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.
~ William Arthur Ward
13. Give up the Past
I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all, life is a journey, not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
14. Give up Attachment
This is a concept that is, for most of us, so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at it with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
15. Give up Living Your Life to Other People’s Expectations
Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.
We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.