Spiritual Approach to Re-Inventing Yourself in the New Year
About Spiritual Goal Setting
At the start of each year many of us get into the buzz we call New Year’s resolution and we make note of things that we are giving up or taking on. More often than not it is all forgotten before January comes to a close. My New Year’s goal setting is done as a formal spiritual exercise organised by the spiritual community to which I belong – The Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living – and it takes the form of a workshop focused on setting goals and intentions. The event typically begins on the first Sunday in the year with an introduction to the philosophy, then is followed by the workshop on Monday starting at 6:00 o'clock p.m.
Instructions regarding the conduct and philosophy of the workshop and information on preparedness are divulged during the Sunday message. Preparedness begins with a private inner contemplation of the thoughts and emotions which serve no positive purpose but instead generate the negative energies which restrict self-actualization and promote fear, pain and stress.
I refer to the strategy as ‘proven’ because ordinary members of the congregation have consistently attested to the direct results they experience.
Proven Method in Spiritual Goal Setting
First Concept – cleaning out, making space for the birth of new experiences
This refers to a physical cleaning out and disposal of things that are no longer of use to you, and things that clutter your living space. Examples include clothing closets, desk drawers, kitchen cupboards, shoe closets. In my own cleaning out exercise I compiled a huge package of clothing and two smaller ones containing shoes. These are items that are out of fit, out of style, no longer useful to me, or no longer considered age appropriate. Items that are thought to be tawdry or damaged beyond repair are unbecoming of gifts and are therefore thrown away. My gift items are usually divided between the Salvation Army and persons of need in my mother’s rural community. This year I added to my list a young teenage girl whose needs I became aware of recently. It took me three-hours to unclutter my clothing closet and another one hour for my shoe closet, not because of the size of the closets but because of the decision to keep or not. I do get very attached to things I own because I am a very selective buyer, but I live in a small apartment and so there is a limit to what I can efficiently store. About three years ago my partner impressed upon me to throw out some of my old technology text books and I grudgingly complied but though I successfully uncluttered my living space I still have regrets at having lost books that I now long to thumb through especially when I write or talk about the old technology days. Being a senior citizen and a technologist, such discussions are not uncommon when I am among my colleagues.
My friend Sue had a different clutter reduction experience. Not only is she a publicist, but also an avid journal writer and scribbler. Her accumulation consisted of mountains of files and documents, old envelopes intended for recycling, paper folders with labels scratched out or pasted over in preparation for re-use at some future date, copy paper for recycling as scratch pads… and more. Sue told us that her accumulation had got so far out of control that her uncluttering had to be more like amputation. And so she discarded her entire store of items designated for recycling leaving only files and documents which had no existing digital copies as backup.
The experience of stepping into a new clutter free space is almost cathartic. Some of the words that I’d use in my attempt to describe the feeling are purifying, pleasant, inspiring, free and light, spiritual calm. As I think of the experience I am reminded of the now hackneyed saying - cleanliness is next to Godliness. How true!
Lesson - making space symbolically for the creation of new experiences in one’s life.
Single-mindedly Focused on Your Intention
Second Concept – Mental and Emotional Cleansing, Releasing Negative Energy
Negative energy blocks the natural vibrancy of living
The Bible in Romans 12 advises ‘… be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind …’ Negative energy extends beyond the obvious emotions of malice, hate, non-forgiveness for instance, to include customs and attitudes which no longer serve your life’s purpose and therefore become a drag on your natural vibrant well-being.
In this exercise each person takes a sheet of blank paper and is asked to articulate privately and in writing the experiences in his or her life which continue to promote feelings of anger, depression, shame, weakness, fear, or simply induces a feeling of being less. The list should also include behavior traits which are proving to be debilitating or unhelpful to declaring a progressive life experience. The statements may not name persons as agents of the felt injury but instead should record the experience or the felt emotion. This is important to understanding and acknowledging that we are in charge of the direction of our lives, not someone else. Let me share some of the items which have been on my list in recent years:
- Procrastination – I continue to postpone important projects particularly when they seem to require new learning
- Continued feeling of anger and bitterness for past comments and criticisms from someone I considered close at heart. These feelings are close enough to the surface that they are triggered often by small arguments. I can often feel the negative energy that is generated.
During the workshop the lists are collected and burnt. Burning of the lists is a notable event symbolising the act of renouncing, of turning one’s back on the things which cause the build-up of negative energy, things that are not supportive to creating new experiences.
Lesson – expunge the mental barriers to creating new experiences in one’s life.
Examples of the Expressions of Negative Experiences
Third Concept – Declare Your Intentions
Set your Goals
This is the actual process of articulating your personal goals.
At this point in the workshop each participant takes a few sheets of paper headed “My Intention for 2018”. About thirty minutes are allotted for contemplation and listing of one’s major positive accomplishments visualized for 2018. Intentions are expressed as accomplishments, not as wishes or the desire to have.
Before this exercise actually begins a period for testimonials is assigned where persons take the podium and briefly describe their successes resulting from goal setting exercises of previous years. The importance of this exercise is not to be underestimated. It serves not only as a forum to encourage expression and gratitude, but also to re-enforce the concept of power in the word and thus in the declaring of intention.
Here are excerpts from two of my favourite testimonials (reworded for brevity). The first was given by Nardia (name disguised) who is a devoted practitioner of the teachings of Science of Mind.
I had been facing significant financial difficulties, and with my two young daughters headed for the university and enrolled in expensive courses I knew that I had to make significant financial demands of the Universe. I even needed to purchase a second car in order that their transportation to and from university and their other activities could be managed effectively. So I declared my intention for a job with a salary twice what I had currently been experiencing. I placed my requirement in the hands of the Universal God in the certain knowledge that as promised –‘ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find…’ – the solution will manifest. I am happy to announce that about six months ago I was offered and accepted a managerial position in my area of skill from a significant organization. I had not gone out seeking this particular job. It was simply brought to my attention and the salary offered was exactly as I had stated in my declaration. Thank you God.
Another testimonial which I found interesting was given by friend Zandra (name disguised). In a previous goal setting workshop she had expressed her intention of being a trained professional teacher of transcendental meditation. She needed financial assistance. After a period of disappointment at being denied one of the few scholarships offered to her institution of choice in Asia she was eventually offered a half-scholarship in February of 2017. At first the joy was only half-realized because the question of airfare and the cost of the other half tuition arose, but not for long. Friends and relatives delighted at her good fortune came forward with gifts of money which allowed her a fully paid up tuition and paid airfare. Now that she has returned, waiting to receive her official certificate she is ready to establish her practice.
One of the fundamental tenets of the teachings of Religious Science is that ‘thoughts are things’ which means that thoughts are likely to materialize into experience and thus we can and should use the power of thought to create the experiences we wish to have in our lives. The period of contemplation and goal setting is supported by the knowledge that God provides, that the Universe is intentionally generous. Philippians 4:6 ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’. Treatments or prayers of thanksgiving such as the twenty third psalm, are acknowledged and reflected upon during this process.
Lesson – our thoughts and words become our reality
Words Exemplifying Expressions of Goals And Intentions
The last engagement of the evening of goal setting activities takes the form of a prayer of thanksgiving for the coming manifestations of the New Year 2018 and beyond. The congregation is advised to put away the listing in a private place where it is not in the open view of friends and loved ones who sometimes criticize and deride even without meaning to create offence. It is also noted that though there is no necessity to keep re-articulating one’s stated intentions it is prudent to refresh and remind one’s self periodically of the intentions as articulated in order to remain focused..
Below is an excerpt from Dr. Michael Beckwith’s book titled Spiritual Liberation which I have chosen for additional insight into the power of positive thought (cf. setting your intention).
Dr. Beckwith writes :
Patterns of thought and action develop over the course of a lifetime. Some of these patters support us while others undermine us. They impact our quality of life and interactions with our world…. Once we become conscious of the patterns we have formed we can revisit them and make new choices where we feel necessary, or as a practice to keep ourselves flexible, or simply to consciously exercise our power of choice.
Just as we have been given the power to create patterns of thought and action, so do we have the power to change them … we are each of us kings and queens sitting on the throne of consciousness ruling our lives….
The workshop ends with a prayer of thanksgiving and a reminder that with daily practice of thanksgiving and acknowledgement of all the wonderful gifts that we experience in our lives we grow in consciousness and faith in the truth that - it is done unto you as you believe. [cf. Matthew 9:29 (Common English Bible) Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, "It will happen for you just as you have believed."].
Quotation from the book " Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul's Potential"
by Michael Bernard Beckwith