12/31/2012 10:07 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2013

New Year's Resolutions, Enlightenment, and the Vision and Tools to Make It Happen


Seek enlightenment this new year. Make self-realization your resolution. Knowing you are the very love you seek, the compassionate embrace you long for is a goal worthy of you. The essence of all being, of all that is, and this includes you and me, is infinitely compassionate, loving, blissful awareness. Everything and everyone is a manifestation of this awareness.

Does enlightenment sound too ambitious for a New Year's resolution? Really, it's not. You don't have to become something new. It's like coming out of a tiny one-person tent after a long, long sleep and realizing it was set up in the grand ballroom of your palace. So, let's reset our vision of who we really are and then get to the work of waking up and getting out of this tent. We are so much more than we know. Yes, enlightenment is a very grand resolution, but also very possible, and the benefits begin from day one. Even just a peek outside the confines of our tent softens the edges of suffering and loneliness, anxiety and sadness, giving us more hope and comfort.

Here are five tools we can use to help us realize the truth of infinitely compassionate, loving, blissful awareness. In Buddhism, they are called the five perfections -- generosity, morality, patience, vigor/energy, and meditation/concentration. Instead of the five perfections, I think of them as five very practical wisdom tools.

Now, for a tool to be of any real value, you need to have it readily available. If it's a tool for self-realization and enlightenment, then you want it with you 24/7. Tools lost in the garage are of no real value to you. Smart phones left home don't help us. Resolutions I forget and wisdom tools I read but can't recall are almost worthless. I use acronyms to give me ready access to wisdom tools I want to use for reflection and self-examination throughout my day. For me, life is not about retreats and monasteries, wonderful as they may be. I need something in the moment, while I'm in traffic, shopping, in meetings at work, teaching or cleaning the house. I need something to make moments transformational, enlightening, and productive toward reaching my goals, toward fulfilling my resolutions.

For example, to recall this list of five wisdom tools I use the acronym "MV MPG." These five wisdom tools let me MoVe toward self-realization with good MPG. I MoVe -- I make progress toward enlightenment with (M)editation and (V)igor. My "miles per gallon" improve on this journey with (M)orality, (P)atience, and (G)enerosity. "MV MPG" -- the five wisdom tools we can use for enlightenment, for self-realization. Now that we have ready access to these tools and a vision of who we are already, let's look at how this vision and these wisdom tools work together to keep us on track toward enlightenment, toward self-realization.

We will start with morality. Morality effectively helps us toward self-realization when it is grounded in our grand vision of what is and who we are. We all have times when we have to decide to go one way or another, to choose to do this or that. These can be big decisions, like career choices or who to marry. They can also be smaller decisions, like will I share some gossip about that person or just decide to be quiet. Whatever the decision is, you want it to be consistent with your vision of what is and who you are. When you are puzzled about what to do or decide, be ready to bring to mind this vision -- the essence of all being, of all this is, and this includes everyone, is infinitely compassionate, loving, blissful awareness. In the "to gossip or not" decision, when looked at within the context of this vision, the choice becomes obvious. Of course, this is easier said than done, but these are the moments where the work of enlightenment really takes place.

To respond in the moment as I described it above is difficult. It demands a degree of self-reflection and personal mindfulness of your own emotions and expectations, as well as the vision of your true self. This is the work of wisdom and enlightenment. Here, the value of the two wisdom tools of meditation and vigor come into play. To be able to perform on this level takes inner work and practice. It takes an alert, vigorous mind. It takes a personal awareness, care, and respect for our own expectations and emotions. This is real mental and emotional work.

Why do you want to pursue a practice of meditation? Why develop mindfulness? Why develop of vigorous, alert body/mind that is questioning, thinking and self-reflective? Why develop a balanced and healthy emotional life? One important reason is for the power and freedom they give you to do the hard work of self-realization. To have the mindfulness and self-reflective skill to do all of this in the moment is the freedom to decide for the expression of your true self amidst conflicting emotional and personal expectations. Meditation practices and maintaining a vigorous, active mind give you the power to be free. Why eat healthy foods, avoid substances that damage our bodies and brains, exercise, and get enough sleep? Because your body, mind and emotions are your tools for self-realization in this life. They are the very expression and experience of an enlightened, realized life.

And what of the remaining two wisdom tools of generosity and patience? The practice of generosity is reflective of the oneness of all beings. Generosity is an expression of the compassionate love that is the very ground of being. Patience is a good barometer of our grasp of the fact that we already are what we most desire: bliss, compassion and love. Patience and generosity are great tools you can use to keep yourself on track for self-realization. If you are on a healthy, productive path toward self-realization, then they are growing in your life. If not, then it's time to pause, reflect, and make the necessary adjustments.

So be both visionary and practical this year. Know you are already infinitely compassionate, loving, blissful awareness. MoVe with good MPG toward the fulfillment of your New Year's resolutions. And if this turns out to be the last new year for any of us, then may this resolution help us move more peacefully into our next life.

Here's to a self-realized, enlightened life for us all. Happy New Year!

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