by Jon Eisman
Winter has come. The solstice has passed, we have reached the darkest of the days. Almost imperceptibly, our world up here in the North is turning back towards the light. Throughout time, most religions have commemorated this annual event. Hannukah celebrates the way one night’s worth of lamp oil miraculously lasted eight nights for victorious Jews who were rededicating their temple. The Chinese and other east Asian countries observe Dongzhi, honoring the increased light as an expansive return in energy balance between yin and yang. In the Pancha Ganapati, a Hindu festival, the season affords a new beginning, and the mending of all past mistakes. And for Christians, Christmas marks the birth of Christ, whose full enlightenment will manifest at Easter, in the spring, as the Resurrection (“I am the light of the world…”).
Of course, here in late December, these holidays mark only the turning point in light; it is still dark out as I sit at my desk this morning. What we are celebrating is the promise of light, the anticipation that in a few months the whole world will be resurrected by the longer days of spring and warmth. We turn ourselves towards a restart, a new beginning, a mending of past ways. In our culture, for example, we make New Years resolutions. In short, this is a time when we revisit and reaffirm our sense of intention. However the previous gift of months unwrapped itself, we hope to recommit to prosperity and health and caring in the next array of seasons.
Our most core sense of being, what the Re-Creation of the Self (R-CS) calls the Organic Self, summons will and clarity to pursue most closely our sense of innate purpose. We vow to be kinder, because we know Love binds us all. We commit to going to the gym, eating better, stopping smoking or doing our yoga because we know our bodies are essential to fulfillment. We determine to finish our projects, or start new ones – fixing the leaky roof or organizing our poems – because we know our efforts and creativity evolve the world.
For our Intentions to manifest, we need to summon two other resources: Aliveness and Participation. Aliveness is the energy we bring to accomplishing something, the fuel required to drive the vehicle of the Self towards its Intention. And Participation refers not only to actually doing something to manifest the Intention, but also doing the appropriate things. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to diet and exercise; you can’t get there by doing nothing, or by watching TV all day with a bag of chips in your lap.
As Walt Kelly, the creator of the Pogo comic strip said, “It is not good enough for things to be planned – they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation.” To succeed, in short, Intention always requires Aliveness and Participation…
Whenever things are going well, these three are operating smoothly together. If not, we need to consider how one or more of them are somehow off track. We may be holding our Intention and Participating actively, but with little energy. Or we have lots of energy and are clear in our sense of purpose, but taking the wrong actions. Or we may have lots of energy and are doing a lot, but in the wrong direction: we have eroded our Intention and likely replaced it with another.
Typically, any of these obstacles to our dreams is caused by the habituated fragmentation of our whole Self. As R-CS describes it, the wounded sub-selves or little i’s we developed over time, originally to protect ourselves as children, gradually congeal into a committee of incomplete and immature senses of identity. The Organic Self may want to study piano, but some little i in there feels hopeless about ever succeeding. This aspect of self overrides the intention to practice and promotes instead, say, the intention of avoiding failure. It funnels aliveness to participate by procrastinating, or by reading books about famous composers, or by rationalizing other activities as higher priorities (“better get that closet cleaned out before we practice…”).
In short, it is not sufficient just to have an Intention, but also to recognize which part of us is holding the intention; who within us is using our Aliveness and in what specific ways. When our resolutions falter or fail, we serve ourselves best by searching within for the source. As Pogo himself said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
My wife Michelle once noted with great clarity that most people filter and frame their perceptions of interactions through their Intention, and not their impact or method of participation. “I only spanked you to teach you limits.” “I wasn’t trying to control you, I was just trying to help…” Because our Intentions are grounded in our sense of purpose – however whole or fragmented that purpose is – we feel a sense of innocence and validity about them. Our eyes look ahead, and the horizon we see feels like the right direction to go.
We are all still reeling from the appalling tragedies in the news this past month. No doubt the shooters, if we could talk to them, would describe their unfathomable-to-us actions as some reasonable use of their energy, some personal, disconnected intention that in the cosmology of their woundedness, felt wise or right or somehow necessary.
Reinhold Neibur wrote, “All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions.” Sin is not a concept I think about much. I don’t consider our moments of personal error as “sin.” But certainly our Intentions, when generated by our fragmentation, lead to troublesome and, unfortunately, even horrific consequences.
So let’s become very clear about all our intentions. Let’s celebrate the return of the light, and also be aware of the darkness. Let’s revel in the optimism of what’s possible, and sort out our options carefully. Let’s take a deliberate grip on the steering wheels of our lives, and choose consciously which way to go. All of us together: let’s summon the life force we each channel, and with the best of intentions, let’s engage with ourselves, and with each other, and with the world, and see what kind of bright and shiny year we can co-create.