Starting the New Year Out Right

Perhaps John Lennon and Yoko Ono said it best: Another year over, a new one just begun.  As we flip the calendar to 2022, it’s impossible to predict what the future might hold. Hopes that Covid would blow on out of here in 2021 were dashed, but maybe we’ll turn the corner soon. In the meantime, I resolve to get “boosted” when necessary and keep wearing my mask.

I’ve made other New Year’s resolutions. Some are the same resolutions a lot of us make this time every year: You know the list. Eat better. Exercise harder. Earlier to bed, earlier to rise. But some of my resolutions are a little more imaginative. I want to read a lot of Wendell Berry this year. I want to rid my home of every single object I don’t need or enjoy. I want to get better at pickle ball, a sport I just recently learned and one that’s more fun than I could have imagined. I want to travel to places I’ve never been before. I want to learn to use my cell phone camera to its best advantage. I want to keep a close eye on how my legislators—from the Putnam County Commission to the United States Congress—are voting and let them know what I think about it.

The best thing about resolutions is that you don’t have to wait till any particular day of the week or date on the calendar to start. December works. So does November. Or you can wait a while. There’s nothing magical about January 1. Begin whenever you’re ready.

Resolutions are meaningless, of course, until they become habits. Behavioral experts say it takes three full weeks to turn an occasional practice into a habit. From my own experience, that’s true. A while back, my dentist recommended that I wear a night guard while sleeping so as not to grind and damage my teeth. I was resistant, perhaps because the bizarre rubber object seemed a little too much like a pacifier. “Try it for twenty-one days without a break,” the dentist said. “If you still hate it after that, I’ll give you your money back.”  Months later, I’m still using that night guard and my mouth feels fabulous.

A few weeks ago I began another habit, one that gets my day started just right. When the sunlight peeks around the drapes and wakes me up, I go downstairs and let out the dog and feed the cat. That’s nothing new. But used to be, I’d turn on the coffee maker and piddle around until the brewing was done.

Not anymore.

These days, I mash the Mr. Coffee button and then crank open the window blinds. On my phone, I pull up a YouTube video of Cat Stevens singing “Morning Has Broken.”  I cross my fingers that the five-second commercial that precedes the video will be something a little less jarring than the one advertising Mountain Dew. Sometimes I get my wish. Sometimes I don’t.

Once the music starts, I begin my sun salutations, perhaps the most famous of all yoga routines. I start in mountain pose with my hands at heart center. I move into a gentle forward fold, followed by a half-lift, plank, baby cobra, child’s pose and downward-facing dog. Then it’s back to mountain pose with hands at heart center. I flow through this sequence three times, which—not coincidentally– is exactly long enough for the song to finish. It’s also exactly long enough for the coffee to be ready.

It would be exaggerating to say this small morning habit has changed my life. But it’s a lovely way to start the day and is a practice I highly recommend. Peace, joy and love to all as we greet a New Year.

(December 31, 2021)