Right now, this same tree is barren. The leaves have disintegrated and its many branches are plain gray sticks. It will stay this way for much of winter. At first glance, the tree looks dead. But it is very much alive. It is resting to gather strength and prepare for the seasons to come.
So, what is the New Year’s wisdom from my fig tree? Its seasonal variations remind me that change happens gradually; that nature takes patience and time to produce its fruits – its goals. The tree is not making a resolution to produce a certain number of figs. It cannot. It is unable to control how much water it receives, unforeseen weather patterns, or the quantity and sweetness of the figs it will eventually yield. These factors could result in a failed resolution. Yet, it has a clear intention – to grow buds, and leaves, and eventually fruit. It patiently allows the process to unfold, honoring unpredictability, while maintaining its intention.
Like the fig tree, most of our life changes happen gradually, not between December 31 and January 1. Setting intentions allows the process to more organically unfold, being sensitive to setbacks. It is softer and more natural than a resolution which can often breed guilt and shame, when not manifested.
My process of setting intentions begins when I first take inventory of the past year, a tradition my family started 15 years ago. We start by thinking about the blur of the year, seldom recalling anything but the big events. But after a few minutes, and sometimes with the help of each other, we remember – oh yeah! I went to Barcelona solo, I presented at a conference I had been pining at for years, I received my meditation teacher certification, and I finished the first draft of my book. Yay me!
When I bring these milestones to the forefront, it helps me to close out the year with an appreciation of my strengths and ability to persevere. Then, I am in a place of power when I consider my intentions, as opposed to a mindset of where I fall short, which is often the starting point of declaring resolutions.
As you approach the end of 2023, take a few minutes to review your year and congratulate yourself for your accomplishments. Look at your calendar if need be or ask family and friends for input. Small gains are big, too! Then, allow your mind and heart to consider your intentions, rather than resolutions, for the new year. And, if nothing clear arises, remain patient and curious, like the fig tree.
Wishing you all a graceful, gradual entry into a New Year!