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Goals - and not getting there!

We're coming to the end of January, and mine certainly didnt go according to plan.

Each year I take January as a soft month - an opportunity to lean into the darkness of this post Christmas month, and deliberately turn towards a sense of quiet, peace and introspection. I may choose particular practices and wrap the whole container in small boundaries. No news, no socialising, no alchol, that sort of thing.

This last year I have been really struggling with a real sense not knowing. I'm going through a lot of change just now, and this means there are some big decisions to be made about where we live, and how we create income. The more I tried to make decisions, the tighter I was getting - at the centre of all this is where we are going to be living. The more I thought about leaving our home of 20 years, the tighter and more upset I became. I needed a break.

January offered me the opportunity for just that. I could spend the whole month, not knowing, inhabiting that uncomfortable space of uncertainty. And the practice I would choose to support that sense of spaciousness while giving me some sense of control, was walking. I planned to take long walks three or four times a week. We are really lucky enough to live somewhere with lots of choice of footpaths straight from our doorstep. Options to wander down to streams, walk high along coastal paths, through fields or woodland and saunter for miles along the sandy beach while the tide is way out.

Sounds perfect! This was to be my homegrown Pilgrimage. I was so excited and ready to get out there.

Until I got the flu.

Like so many of us, I spent several days stuck in bed, existing on a diet of Netflix, dipping into my Christmas book bag, and eating childhood favourites - boiled egg chopped up in a cup - lovingly brought to me by my nursing husband!!

I had plenty of time to think of that January wave it's so easy to get swept up in - the setting of goals, intentions - our twenty first century version of New year resolutions.

I began to develop a sense of where all of this one-pointed goal setting was headed.

Directly into our own potential of disappointment - with ourselves, and with life, what it's brought our way.

I have set goals and constructed plans time and time again over the years. To be fair, some of the smaller goals I've probably achieved. But those big "heart dream" goals so often seemed to be unachieved and they're still there waiting to be reset as each new year came around. And all I'm left with is a sense of how I am getting older, and maybe those dreams are never going to be fulfilled, and what does that mean about my life? What has my life even meant?

As I lay in bed I read so many posts on social media, full of high energy and encouragement - different ways of looking at and constructing the pathway to your dreams. Dont get me wrong - I have written and devised retreat days on that very theme. I'm not knocking it.

I just wonder if maybe there is a little tweak or twist, that could give us the chance for the whole year to take on a different flavour - instead of that high buzz of energy and intention, often difficult to sustain - and the inevitable, oh what the hell, of February, as it all begins to feel too hard - too unachievable, and the discovery that that high energy is unsustainable.

What if what the goal gives us is a direction, a path, to step on to. Small steps that we are actually going to be living each day. They will be our present - they are our present - right now.

If the path itself gets more of the attention, and the purpose of the goal is really to help us set foot on our path, then we can begin to relax into and enjoy each part of this year, each year, each month, each day.

A shift of focus, on where we are right now - a way of easing into each day as living the life we want to be living at this very moment. We're doing it!

The twist might even be, that the goal is to be happy with the path itself, rather than the goal. With a further twist . . . that the path IS full of twists and turns, and doesnt always head in the direction we expect.

So what do we do with those unwelcome, but so very frequent, turns?

Surely all we are really after is happiness?

The obstacle to mine, in January, was the fact that I'd chosen this path - or paths! that I thought I would be walking as the route to my happiness. Life - or flu - got in the way - and there was to be virtually no walking at all this month.

All I was left with, was to lean in, to the twist or turn. I wasnt always successful, and there were days of frustration, grief, depression. But there were one or two really spacious days, when I was able to just allow myself the luxury of all those treats that inaction afforded me.

By softening any ideas of the goal as the purpose, and leaning in to the everchanging path, I was able to dissolve the spectre of 31st January, and an unachieved goal of a series of ticked off walks.

Interestingly, I've been able to spend much more time writing, journalling, focussing on what I really love, and let my path turn to what I hadnt been able to see - what I really enjoy, and some of what gets in the way.

Much to my surprise I am ending the month, sitting here at my keyboard, taking another of those steps. Turning up, and sharing some of my experience.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this, and maybe are letting yourself off the hook for where your goal setting may not have lived up to all you planned this month, and yet able to see that you are still on a path, and can readjust and enjoy each twist and turn, and trust that those goals - treated with a lighter touch - can serve you to light up a path that is your day today, and tomorrow, and all the days following.

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