The many sides of spirituality, and setting intentions (not resolutions) for 2021

Updated: Jan 25

A new phrase that I have taken onboard recently is from the work of Sonya Renee Taylor: radical self-love. It’s a beautiful concept, which Sonya explains as going beyond self-confidence (which can be over inflated) and self-acceptance (which can be less than empowering) and into the realm of our deepest connection to ourselves and the rest of humankind. I first heard Sonya speaking on Brene Brown’s wonderful Unlocking Us podcast (if you’ve not come across this podcast already, I’d hugely recommend it - I love that Brene brings so many different voices into my life through her work). Back to self-love - a friend and I were recently discussing the concept of spirituality, and how it can have different connotations for different people, from religion, to being away with the fairies, to sitting chanting Om (I actually do that last one sometimes). I met this friend recently at a women’s yoga retreat that she facilitated. I’m ten years older than her, we’ve had different career paths, but our lives have intersected, through her love of facilitation and holding space, and my love of yoga, women’s circles and being in need of slowing down and reflecting for myself. Sitting on the veranda at my house, we talked about what spirituality meant for both of us. She described her lived reality of spirituality as being self-love, and following intuition. I described mine as trying to know myself better, and through those explorations, our connection as a collective human society and the joy of this world. Reflecting on our conversation, and thinking about Sonya Renee Taylor’s radical self-love concept, I see a convergence.

I came back from the aforementioned yoga retreat this time last week, walking on air and feeling incredibly light. In the days that followed, I reflected that sometimes, as I read, meditate and delve deeper into my spirituality, I feel myself overthinking things, and becoming disconnected from my everyday life – my family, my job, my friends. So thinking about spirituality more as a journey into deeper self-love really resonated with me.

Last year, I almost burned out with the additional responsibilities of a promotion, running a department at work during the impact of COVID-19, working remotely, moving house in the midst of this all and general pressure I was putting on myself. I live in Sydney, Australia, where we have been incredibly lucky to have been impacted much less by COVID than other countries, though the impact has still taken its toll. Having taken a long break off work to recharge over Christmas and the new year, and spend time with my kids during their summer break, I’ve come out the other side of my burn out.

One of the intentions I set for this break was not to plan any holiday activities. This was a bit of a test for myself, usually I am a Holiday Planner in the extreme, with the capitalisations intentional - think spreadsheets, daily planners and weeks of intense internet research on activities! This time, I decided I was going to simply do gardening, go for walks, read, write, spend time with my husband and kids and take each day as it comes. I actually found that I’ve done much less than I thought I would (it’s amazing how quickly it can get to 3pm each day when you have no deadlines or meetings to attend and have just been taking the dogs for a walk, hanging out the washing and making lunch!). But despite this, or perhaps because of it, this break with no plans, and just day after day to go with the flow has been hugely energising, and given me the time and space to set my intentions for the new year.

I set these as intentions, rather than resolutions, as to me ‘resolving’ to do something feels more like forcing, rather than self-love. So, for anyone who needs some inspiration for some late-January new year intention setting, and to close off this first post, here are my intentions for 2021:

· Not to burn out - my husband questioned this being set in the negative rather than positive, but genuinely, ‘not to burn out’ feels most true to what I intend. Sitting on my bookshelf is the as yet to be read book Burnout, by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagosky, and I’m reasonably confident that with my other three intentions below, reading the book (I’ve heard the Nagosky sisters speak about it), and hey, maybe the help of this blog, no burn out for 2021! (You can keep reading my posts to find out!).

· Take things slowly – I have always been impatient and ambitious. I try to temper this as best I can with each passing year, and wow does motherhood teach you patience (or at least test it frequently). This year my intention is not to set unrealistic expectations of how quickly I can get things done, or what I can achieve in a day. Playing with my kids and doing a few jobs about the house or garden used to be something I felt should only take up half the morning. Now I realise that could be a whole weekend’s worth of activity if I just slow down and take in more from each moment.

· Laugh more – I hope I have a good sense of humour (don’t we all?!), but I know I get bogged down in what I consider to be serious issues or questions in life, which, when I look back, were nothing but passing niggles, or issues that resolved themselves in time. My intention here is to bring more light-heartedness and laughter into each day. That’s not to be unrealistic about difficult times or challenges, but to start at least with the reminder that I am not, never have been and never will be, the centre of this universe, and just to find the joy in each moment as they build upon one another to make a life.

· Control less – I know I don’t actually control anything just now, but it’s difficult to recognise that sometimes! I have a real ‘fixer’ mindset. As soon as I come across a problem, or something not working or annoying, I feel the need to try to find a way to fix it. I can dwell on niggles for days that really, I have no control over, and then spend time trying to influence, even though there is no real benefit. So my intention this year, with the ‘take things slowly’ and ‘laugh more’ intention, is to avoid the unconscious ‘how do I fix this’ mindset. I say ‘unconscious’ mindset for this one, as there will certainly be times when I do want to change things – I heard for the first time recently the quote from Dr Angela Y. Davis “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I am changing the things I cannot accept.” My intention is to be more conscious of where and when I spend my energy to try to drive change where it matters, rather than letting my energy seep out on little things that don’t.

So, I’ve written this post over two days between all the other distractions and daily jobs. In the spirit of taking things slowly, I’m going to count that as a highly productive few days. I’m grateful to you for coming to the end of this post with me. I welcome you to join me for some mindful intention setting for 2021. Perhaps you want to drop me a line with your intentions and inspiration. Be in each moment. Inhale. Exhale. Breath.

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