Ever wonder why you keep turning over a new leaf-the same leaf-year after year? Ever wonder why you keep asking for forgiveness-for the same sins-year after year? Ever wonder why your targets never change even though you keep resetting them and trying harder to hit a bull’s eye-the same bull’s eye-year after year?
On the ninth Day of Awe, just as we are about to enter the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, we-I-ask ourselves why sometimes it seems like despite our best efforts to change our ways and to turn away from our sins and to turn towards better behavior-towards our best selves-nothing changes. Indeed, we remain the same.
Today we ask ourselves, “What’s the payoff for staying the same? What’s the payoff for not taking better care of my body? What’s the payoff for not fulfilling my soul’s purpose? What’s the payoff for not treating other people more nicely? What’s the payoff for not really trying to connect with God or have a spiritual practice? What’s the payoff for not realizing my full human potential or seeking out tools for personal growth?” When we find the answers to these questions, we address that issue so we can, indeed, create positive change in our lives this year.
More often than not, we get something out of not changing. Maybe we simply get to stay the same. Maybe we don’t have face our fear of change. Maybe we don’t have to work harder. Underneath all our pretty words about wanting to change, maybe we just don’t really want to change. The fact remains that if we aren’t creating postive change in our life from year to year, if one Yom Kippur after another passes us by and we are still asking forgiveness for the same sins and we aren’t seeing our best selves appearing, there’s a reason why. We just need to discover that reason.
For example, if I continue to lead such a busy life that I do not have time to exercise or meditate, what is my payoff? I get to avoid feeling guilty for taking time out of my day for activities my husband sees as simply time for me-especially when he doesn’t have the time to do this himself. I also get to be lazy, at least when it comes to exercising. By not meditating, I get to retain the frenetic pace of my life, which then allows me to be in synch with my husband’s pace of life-and, again, to gain his approval. Additionally, I get to avoid the messages from God and my higher self (soul) telling me what to do, which I sometimes receive when I meditate. More often than not, I feel I can’t follow this advice without giving up things that I feel I should or must do. This creates conflict within me; by not meditating, I avoid the spiritual connection and the subsequent conflict I feel. Not to mention the fact that when I meditate, I then want to spend more of my day on spiritual pursuits, and this creates more conflict within me; it takes me away from work.
Sometimes just becoming conscious of payoffs is enough to help you create change in your life. However, you can also take action. For instance, using my example, I can then address these issues by finding small amounts of time to exercise despite what anyone else thinks. I can simply commit to taking care of myself. I also can communicate with my husband about this decision, which might relieve some of my guilt. Additionally, I can add in to my day short meditation periods and try to incorporate the messages I get as best I can. I can put parameters around my spiritual practices so they don’t take up a lot of time at any one given period. I can make them practical: two short 10 minute meditation periods and a talk with God while I walk for exercise.
Finally, take a moment or more to forgive yourself for not realizing that you haven’t changed your way, you haven’t really done t’shuvah before, you haven’t really turned away from your sins, because these payoffs were keeping you stuck. Ask God to forgive you, too. Know that this year, you can truly turn towards your targets (old and new) and your aim will be truer. You are bound to hit more bull’s eyes.