The New Year's Evolution

Happy New Year! 

Really, it's just another day in the continuum of life. Even still, drawing a line in time that says, "this is officially a new year!" reminds us of making a fresh start.

Enter the New Year's Resolution. Yikes!

Resolutions: an overwhelming To-Do list of items that never cross off.

I've always hated these three words put together. They are almost as scary as "Projections" or "Forecasts" except tinged with a thinly-veiled sense of greater control. And worse, we make these promises to ourselves (multiple ones, all at once!) that set us up for shame and failure right in the bleak dead of winter three weeks later. Well, not me. I have another way.

So, I Opted for a New Year's "Evolution"

Evolution: A long, unsteady and natural process

So much better. An "Evolution" is a long, unsteady and natural process (and hopefully going in the right direction). We know at the end of an evolution, the finished product (in this case, "me", or "you") will be different from what it is now. We don't need to know or control what that product will be. We just take note along the way of what is.

So instead of promising, "Starting today, I'm going to do blah, blah blah...", I take a key insight from the past year, months, weeks or days (something meaningful to me and others, hopefully) and watch how I'm evolving with it.

So here's one of my 2014 New Year's Evolutions. Are you ready? 

"I'm more aware of my plastic consumption."

Most of us don't even use these any more. Where are they coming from?

Taaa-Daaa! That's it. Are you surprised? Instead of starting or stopping doing something (aren't we doing enough already?) I've decided to simply become more aware of a habitual reaction to something. So sometime last year I had a moment like this:

Yikes! One look and you want to run out of there

It hit me like a Mack truck. Intellectually I always knew that there were healthier products and unhealthier ones. But the healthier ones *are* the unhealthy ones. I examined ingredients more closely. Apart from MSG, HFCS, BHA, and other obvious toxic chemicals there were literally hundreds more scientific names I'd never heard of. What were they? Were they deadly things pretending to be healthy or healthy things that just sound deadly? Tired, I left empty-handed.
Reading this would scare the bananas out of anyone, and yet it's perfectly healthy!

Even the fruit from the market was later eyed with suspicion. I can't always know every ingredient, so I made a promise then in the back of my mind, that I'd eat responsibly, eat well, eat happily and gratefully and be aware of how I felt after.

My plastic Evolution is similar. Not long ago, I was stuck in a space with the smell of melting plastic. Have you ever smelled melting plastic? Don't! It is noxious. It lingered in my lungs for a long time.
I was trapped by smells like this nose-pinching statue in a dirty Florence back-alley

When I got home I began noticing plastics around me, in my recycle bin, in the plastic bag storage. Even though I eat from the garden in summer, buy dry goods in bulk (bring my own containers), have carried cloth shopping bags for decades, gave up shampoo for a whole summer (trust me it was brutal) and generally am super sensible and sparing about packaging, I realised more than 50% of what I buy is still packaged in plastic. Oh, but it's recyclable, you say. I researched how it's recycled: a long and imperfect process and most plastic still winds up in landfills less than a year from the time it was purchased. Plastic near food and beverages is toxic and don't get me started on the environmental impacts! I became very aware that I wanted none of it.

Awareness of Direct Experience

This is the key ingredient to making it work. Awareness is the opposite of doing (or stopping doing) anything. So instead fearing being fat, ugly, old, broke, sick or dying and then doing something about the fear (dieting, exercising or quitting smoking for example), we simply become aware of our direct experience. And guess what? This awareness of direct experience is mindfulness practice. Come on, you didn't think I'd write a post without mentioning meditation, did you??
Isn't the skin enough? Absurdly over-packaged.

Evolution In Action

I notice every time I want to buy a package of rice crackers packaged in plastic. I may still buy them. I just become aware of my reaction (disappointment, whatever). The point is, I don't do (or stop doing) anything. I just notice what's going on inside. Eventually I may be so aware of the negative feelings that I lose the taste for rice crackers or become aware of alternatives. The habit forms or drops naturally, all by itself, when the mind is ready to drop it, not because I impose a Resolution.

Et voilà!

That's the whole method. Trust me if you're looking to form a healthy habit or stop a negative habit (listen up if you want to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more or sleep better!) this is the most natural, inexpensive and long-lasting way to go about it. Evolve!

If you were inspired into an Evolution with your own plastic habit, here is a handy-dandy guide to help you get started. Or tell me, what's your Evolution?