The Buddha and New Year's Resolutions

At the start of the new year, many people make a resolution---some change they want to manifest in their lives. This is a wonderful task to undertake. If you're unhealthy (physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually), or if some of your behaviors are making you unhappy, it's great to try to change these habits.

The issue with human beings and new year's resolutions is that we often attempt to make an extreme change. Resolve to reach a healthier weight? Many will go from eating Christmas cookies and binging Netflix to joining an expensive gym and eating a raw vegan diet. Likelihood of success? Minimal.

What is more likely to create long-term change is following the Middle Path. To see an illustration of this path, we can look to the life of the Buddha.

The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, a wealthy, handsome prince. He had everything he could want--a beautiful wife, son and every pleasure one could desire, and he was isolated from the suffering of others. Surprisingly, even with all this wealth, he was a good guy. However, you can assume that someone born to this much luxury is unlikely to become one of the greatest gurus in history.

Eventually, Siddhartha does witness suffering, and he cannot go on with his life as before. He renounces his throne and leaves his wife and child to undertake a spiritual quest. He joins a group of ascetics who have renounced everything worldly and barely eat enough to survive (they make vegan Crossfitters look like gluttons).

Still, Siddhartha and his (likely very cranky) group cannot reach enlightenment, so Siddhartha decides to eat and drink even less. Eventually, he is on the verge of death, and a young girl from a nearby village saves his life by feeding him. Revived, he begins to meditate beneath a Bodhi tree and finally awakens.

Thus is born the Buddha and the Middle Path. Enlightenment will not be gained through wealth and sensual pleasure, nor will it be reached through extreme self-denial. It is only reached through balance.

Returning to your own life, no matter your resolution, consider the Middle Way. Unless a doctor orders you to do so (that's a whole other thing), don't swear off sugar entirely. See if you can enjoy it in moderation. Want to work out more? Find something you enjoy (best, bring your friends) and schedule it a few days a week.

There are lots of good books about creating and sticking to new habits, but I would urge everyone to think about the Middle Way and the story of the Buddha as they plan these changes. Challenge yourself to live healthier, but don't move to a commune of aesthetics and stop eating.

If you'd like to learn more about the Buddha, there's a great documentary that you can watch on YouTube. It's a decade old now, but it holds up, and it's narrated by Richard Gere!

#newyearnewme #newyearsresolutions #newyearseve #themiddlepath #buddhism #philosophy

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