The wheel of the year turns, cycling us into winter, into the dark, cold days toward which we have been descending over these past months, cycling us toward a new year on the Gregorian calendar. With 2017, we take another step toward a future that looms with such uncertainty in these times; a year that will doubtless bring grief and hope, deep sorrow and soaring joy, collective despair and renewed determination.
There are two words that are gracing my mind right now. One is resolution. The other is revolution. The historical moment in which we find ourselves, the world in which we have long inhabited but which has come squarely into unavoidable focus with the results of the recent election, calls me to these words as it calls me to step into my highest self. What resolution, therefore, does 2017 ask of me?
Perhaps it is to resolve, with fierce compassion, to abandon resolution, to abandon the temptation of a final answer or clear solution that will satisfy the discontent and confusion that is so prevalent right now, but rather to hold the energy of the question in my body and bones. To focus less on resolution and more on resolve.
Resolve evokes the image of focused ferocity, and asks the question of what it is that I want to put my energy behind. It compels commitment, dedication, and not a little bit of willpower. It asks me what I really want, and whether I am willing to put my shoulder to the wheel in the work that it takes to get it. Resolve speaks to me of intention, and it means that the concept of resolution speaks differently to me this year than in years past. It insists that I look out beyond myself to see how my life overlaps and influences the world around me. Resolve says that intention is meaningless without action, but reinforces the importance of that very intention.
Personal resolution now becomes inextricably entangled with collective revolution, the wheel against which our many shoulders must lean. Revolution is the turning of a wheel, a cycle coming back to where it began even as it continues forth again. It is not a resting place, or a utopian destination. It is a call forth, as the constant movement of our lives—individual and collective—calls us forward.
Revolution is remembering the cyclical nature of life, of history. In this remembering we discover where we’ve already been- should we have the wisdom to see it- and to learn from our shared memories. Revolution is movement, even in its resistance. It is beautiful in its paradox, the constant of change itself.
We make resolutions as a way of coming back to solve, again. This spiraling movement of a human life growing toward something new even as it comes back around to where it has already been, is the volute of revolution.
But just as both resolve and revolution insist on movement, so too do they insist on stillness. When we follow the path of the cyclical nature of reality, we find the pulse of action and rest, of exhale and inhale, of day and night, summer and winter.
Winter can call us back to ourselves, just as plants are called back underground. If we allow, it can call us back to something both elemental and radical at the root of ourselves. It is revolutionary to turn inward. May we remember this, as this historical and political moment hastens us to action, and pull on our hearts with frantic insistence.
It is revolutionary to stop running and sit for a moment with our intentions, with our values, with the emerging vision of how we want to show up in the world, so that we might act from a place of rooted intention.
So many of us are already pulled in too many directions, worn thin from the demands on our time, energy, and empathy. There are too many opportunities to practice compassion, for ourselves, for those around us, for those we know and for strangers on the streets. There is an endless amount of work to be done, in our personal and professional lives, not to mention our political lives. Without rest and reflection, without moments of stillness and contemplation, it is all too easy to scatter ourselves ragged, to extend ourselves until we are stretched too thin. Without the clarity of purpose that inspires action, our efforts are unfocused. Energy dissipates. We burn out.
We are called forth by the moment in which we live, much as the wildflowers of spring are called forth by the warming and lengthening days. But we only draw the strength to emerge from the time that winter has allowed us. This time of reflection and inward focus, of spreading our roots that they might have access to deeper and deeper sources of strength, courage, and resolve, is what allows us the resources to act.
To focus my resolve, I must strengthen my vision. Clarify my intention. Deepen my roots. Turn inward and reflect. I am reminding myself that it is as much about living the questions themselves, as the poet Rilke counseled, as is the possibility of capturing answers.
These are the questions that I am holding as I step into 2017, with the spirit of revolution in my heart:
What is the story that I want to get behind, the personal vision that I hold of a more beautiful world?
What are the deepest values that I hold, and how do they inform that vision?
What are the projects or efforts, campaigns or causes that feed that vision, and toward which I want to focus my attention?
How can I best use my gifts, strengths, and resources to further the realization of my vision?
What are the small, daily actions I can take to foster the kinds of change that I seek?
How can I best care for myself—my body, heart, and mind—in order to continue to show up and do the work?
This vision is the wheel that I to put my shoulder to, the revolution that demands my resolve. I have heard that the truest measure of selfhood can be revealed in one's choices, as choice is what determines the actions that one takes each day. If that is the case, then the question of the choices that I make becomes a question of who I will be in these times. Intention and values and vision are the roots of action, creating the field of choice from which we source our daily lives.
May we draw our resolve in these times not from demanding even more quantity but rather quality from our individual selves. May we deepen our clarity of vision and intention, and let it make a way for focused action. May we allow our roots to twine together, strengthening our standing and bolstering our work amidst the quickening winds of our time. May we remember that we are stronger together, and that isolation and cold loneliness need not define our realities. May life be what calls us forward, the lengthening light of a vision of what our world could be.
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Jo Linden is an educator, facilitator, writer, and naturalist based in Portland, Oregon, with deep roots in the Yampa River Valley of Colorado. She is a co-founder of Root Down Rise Up, an experiential program for high school-aged women focused on personal empowerment for social change. Jo is also a lead facilitator of the Phoenix program, an intensive emotional growth program for youth. The threads of passion and curiosity that weave through her work include ecology and environmental science, spiritual wisdom and mindfulness practices, community building and group dynamics, and personal empowerment work, all of which flow together to create what she considers the inner work for the outer work.