Sweet Intention


Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”

I very deliberately made homemade whipped cream to top the fresh berries I bought for our New Year’s Day dinner.  Austere food restrictions had no place at our table as we welcomed 2016.  If anything, I want to add more sweetness to the next twelve months – nothing sickeningly so, but as with perfect whipped cream, a touch of sugar goes a long way.

This year I’m making an intention rather than a resolution. In yoga, an intention is the act of bringing awareness to a quality that you wish to cultivate in your life, both on and off the mat.  It is the determination to act in a certain way.

For many, the new year brings harsh inventories of mental and physical defects that spawn Spartan-like regimens.  A resolution identifies a problem and promises an answer.  It’s an if-then statement.  If I do this then I will be fixed.

But we are humans, not math problems, and few things in life are linear or easily deconstructed. Most of us will find our ourselves looking at the same inventory list next January.

So this year I’m trying another approach. I’m visualizing 2016 as one long yoga practice.  On January first I set my intention to be willing to come from a place of kindness, more often than not.

As I climb up the decades, I’ve developed a mighty respect for kindness. I have watched it trump just about any vice or virtue as it ripples outward like rings from a pebble dropped into a smooth lake.  It brings us to the sweet spot between effort and ease, strength and weakness.

If I am kind with my thoughts I will be brave and more curious.

If I am kind to my body I will more likely choose to eat better, sleep well, and exercise. I will also unapologetically enjoy a splurge.

If I am kind to my family I will honor myself and them by holding steady and not falling prey to fear and anger.

If I am kind to my friends we will be become pillars in each other’s lives.

If I am kind to strangers I will be more open to people and new experiences.

If I am kind to my community I will lose myself in something bigger and lasting.

Contrary to New Year’s lore, none of us can completely erase our real and perceived less-delightful traits, but we can make an honest effort to befriend ourselves which will go a long way toward relief.

An intention is not inherently solution focused, it’s more of a gentle reminder of how we want to live and a guide post to get us back on the path when we forget. It’s in the failing, and the trying again and again, where the progress is made.

It’s as simple as coming back to the breath and a single thought. You can always start anew. That is why they call it a practice.


“I love my life, I regret my life. The lines eventually blur and it’s just my life.” ~ Tobi (Patrick Stewart) in the film Match

I took the photograph at the park next to the Palmer Event Center, Austin, TX.

The opening quote is from Dan Gilbert.


The Walk-In Fridge


I visualize January 1st as a doorway with heavy vinyl strips in the entrance like the kind you see in a professional walk-in refrigerator. During my teens and early twenties I worked at a lot of restaurants. The walk-in fridge was like a sanctuary behind the chaos in the kitchen. I would push through the tentacle-like tangle of plastic and stand still, surrounded by crates of food and a perfect coolness.

It was a dramatic difference from the hustle and sweatiness of waiting tables – a rare moment to pause while getting those little creams in plastic containers for the set-up station.

My younger self envisioned a more poetic threshold to the new year, one imbued with magical powers. I fantasized that January 1st would erase all my idiosyncrasies that kept me from my long list of yet-to-be-accomplished goals. I would become a different person, my best self.

My practical, walk-in fridge version of New Year’s Day came to me in my late forties and I’ve stuck to it ever since.  Today I see January 1st as a sanctuary behind the choas in my mind.  It’s a space to pause, figure out what I need for my set-up station, and then back to hustle and sweatiness of real life.

There are three guidelines to the Walk-in Fridge New Year’s Day:

One: You’re the same person before and after the walk-in.

I use the moment to embrace my totality and not annihilate my very being. I’m never going to completely rid myself of procrastination, Peanut M&Ms, or quick boredom. Whether it’s physical or mental, I try to spend less time thinking about what I can’t fix. From this perspective it’s easier to muster my good intentions and energy to make a couple of changes that I can truly achieve. I’ve learned to work with my positive attributes and not come from a place of deficit.

Two: Pick just a few things to bring back to your set-up station.

Think of the changes that you want to make as assets that will eventually make your set-up station better. Use your time in the walk-in wisely – lovingly pick the items that you REALLY need to bring back with you. If you need more salad dressing don’t bring back lemon wedges. Choose only a couple of items. If you overload yourself, you will drop everything.

Three: Once you leave the walk-in, the work is hard.

It’s been a long reckoning for me but I have come to the conclusion that discipline and stick-to-it-ness are the keys to life. It sounds boring and punitive but I have found it liberating. Showing up for your life will get you three-fourths of the way to your goal.

The only way I can sustain focus is through simple mindfulness. Again, sounds easy but it’s hard work. When I’m being mindful about how I treat other people and how I take care of my body and emotions, my life just goes better.

Ultimately change is an inside job. If you can make one modification in 2015, have it be that you treat yourself like an ally and not an enemy. Be kind to yourself while you are working hard. And remember, it doesn’t have to be January 1st to go back into the perfect coolness of the walk-in to pause and regroup.

Progress not perfection.