Skip to main content

New year’s resolutions need nurturing

How are your new year’s resolutions going? According to a survey, almost a third of us give up our pledges within the first month. But I believe there is hope for us all – and it has nothing to do with will power. In fact, will power may well be part of the problem.

Don’t despair: mother nature has a whisper of encouragement – and today is a good day to stop for a moment and listen to what she has to teach us.

We have only just crept into February, but the quality of the light has changed and the days are getting noticeably longer. The young sun, reborn at the winter solstice and now beaming a smile across the fields, seems to give everything a gentle glow. We have had some glorious, though cold, days. Winter is still at our heels and warmth has not yet returned, but this time of the year is more about light than heat. Life is returning.

Today is Candlemas – a Christian adaptation of the seasonal festival of Imbolc (pronounced im-olk), which celebrates the first stirrings of spring. Imbolc is believed to have meant either “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk” – referring to the lambing season.
It is traditionally held on February 2 but our man-made calendars do not always tie in with nature’s rhythms. In fact, it was just before the full moon last January when my stepdaughter told me she could smell spring in the air. January is generally regarded as still winter, but it was a sunny day and then I spotted snowdrops starting to push through the leaves in our garden. That’s proof enough for me that warmer days are just weeks away. We live near grazing sheep, but there is something about these delicate flowers that, for me, embodies spring’s gradual awakening – like the first light of day before the sun has risen.

And, associated as it is with St Brigid (who took over, it is believed, from the goddess Brigid), it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate, and be open to, the gentler, feminine aspects of ourselves and the world around us. It is a time of listening to our quiet inner voice; of the arts and creativity, such as poetry; and inner and outer healing.

It is a time of clearing away the debris of winter and preparing the ground for planting, and choosing the seeds we hope to harvest later in the year. A good time, too, for a spring clean. February comes from the Latin for ‘purification’ – an important aspect of Candlemas.

What has this to do with new year’s resolutions? Everything.

Imbolc may see the first stirrings of spring, but there will be some wintry days ahead before we get into spring proper. Nature reminds us to rejoice in our small, sometimes overlooked and apparently insignificant, achievements. The fact we have planted the seed of a resolution is enough. Now we must be patient with ourselves and allow the seed to grow. There may be times when we fall short of our expectations. But we often learn more deeply from our failures than our successes. So, we acknowledge we slipped, pick ourselves up gently, and carry on.

Resorting to will power can result in a destructive inner battle of wills. In terms of “carrot and stick”, most of us are carrot people – we achieve most through positive encouragement (company managers should take note here if they want to improve productivity!). Very few of us do better after criticism – and so beating ourselves up for failing is counter-productive.

Imbolc teaches us that you cannot force spring. The seeds will grow in their own time, if we love and nurture the soil we plant them in. The same goes for new year’s resolutions.


Popular posts from this blog

One man and his dog - and the healing power of nature

She’s staring intently at the ground, eyes fixed, body rigid, ears up, head slightly cocked to one side, the occasional swish of her tail brushing the dust.
I’m looking back towards our small white fluffy terrier-like dog from further up the farm track, having realised she is out of sight - she’s usually well ahead of me, jumping through hedges or grass, or nose hoovering up smells along the path or verges. But not this time. Something has grabbed her attention, and held it, so I wander back slowly to have a look. She doesn’t move. I peer at the spot that seems to have her transfixed. Nothing. What is she staring at? I peer closer and there, hidden beneath the early blades of grass is a tiny, wiggling, furry red bottom poking out of a hole in the earth. It’s our first bee of the year. We both stay watching, transfixed by this miracle of nature - tiny and magnificent.

And this experience sums up the nature (excuse the pun) of the following weeks and months as I use this sudden gift of re…

When the fields are brown

There is a sense of quiet settling across the once-busy fields, now shorn of their wheat, barley and rape. The flowers in the ditches are no longer as riotous or plentiful in colour and variety and the birdsong is somewhat muted.

The cereal harvest is gathered in and there is a sense in the air of that pause that comes after frenetic work to get a project completed by deadline, that moment of relief that it is now done and the opportunity to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the sense of completion. There is satisfaction in the air but also a kind of melancholy, knowing that spring has gone and summer is nearing its end, the days still have the upper hand but they are now perceptibly giving way to the nights.

But the year is not yet done with colour and fragrance and song. Still rosebay willowherb, knapweed and tufted vetch are abundant in the ditches, the set-aside is full of speedwell and scarlet pimpernel and butterflies still flit from flower to flower. But this not just a tale of…

Looking to the stars for answers at our feet

Another year has passed, another year older – yes, I recently celebrated my birthday and, like many people, looked to the stars to see how the winds of life will be blowing in the next 12 months: I read my horoscope.
Now, I have no wish here to make a case for or against astrology; my interest is in what the mind does with information presented to it. And how we can use that information skilfully to write the story of our lives – because each of us is a character (and co-author) in the human chapter of a cosmic story that has been unfolding since the beginning of time.
Last week, I wrote about how we naturally seek patterns in life, and I have long admired the way we – as individuals, societies and humanity as a whole – try to explain what we don’t understand, often using stories, mythologies or parables, until science catches up.
For example, I love basking in the starlight, watching the constellations wheel around us, weaving stories in the night sky of gods and goddesses, heroes and …