How to invite changes in your life

Rev. Meg Barnhouse
January 7, 2018
First UU Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave., Austin, TX 78756

How are those resolutions? Still holding strong? Do you make the same ones every year? What might some good ways be of sneaking change past that mule that wakes up and resists everything different?

“The Intuitive Body”
Wendy Palmer

Our compost pile needs to be turned over. And at the right time, this rich mixture of broken dreams, pain, and fear and the fermented wisdom of our past seasons is spread upon the ground to enrich the soil and nourish our new crop of insights, ideas, and visions. Birth, growth, change, fruition, death, decay, and rebirth lead to more growth in a continuous, ongoing cycle. All of this happens naturally, whether we like it or not. It is our choice, our human prerogative, to open to life, to appreciate it, be awed by it …. or not. The choice is ours.


Here we are at the beginning of 2018, and many of you came to the Burning Bowl service and thought about what you wanted to let go of and what you might want to call into your life. Lots of us use the time after Christmas as a time of reflection and evaluation. Who would we like to be? What would we like to become as the new year blossoms?

Some people still make New Year resolutions. The Zumba classes are full, it’s hard to get a free lane at the pool, people are working on themselves. Most diets last 72 hours, so those are mostly done with. I have a friend who had the same resolution every year when she was young: Grow out her nails, lose weight, get a tan.

I fell into the habit of waiting for a resolution to appear. These resolutions were short but deep. “Be quiet” was one of the first ones. “How can I do that?” I thought. I talk for a living. Yet, as I danced with that thought throughout the year, I realized that there were lots of situations in which I could choose quiet. In groups, I used to be what people call “early dominant.” I would speak my ideas easily, have an opinion about everything, jump into every debate. As it turned out, I didn’t have to express every opinion. I didn’t have to start every discussion. Being quiet honored the other people in the group.

The next one was “Tell the truth.” Well, I’d always told the truth. However, as with the “be quiet” resolution, I found ways in which this idea could have room to grow. While being truthful with other people, I sometimes lied to myself, telling myself something didn’t matter when it did, or maintaining that I was fine when I wasn’t. There were a lot of little lies that smoothed over social situations. I learned to say “Oh yes, that touched me in a way I’m seldom touched.” I was glad when that year was over!

Last year’s was “drink more,” but that didn’t add up to much.

One of the problems with making resolutions is that we humans are made up of many layers: out childhood training, our interests and passions, all of the “shoulds” that rule our thinking, and then, as some wise ones taught, the layers which are below the level of consciousness. Those are the layers from which dreams come, where the elements that drive us without our awareness. Those are the places where our shadow side lives, where the qualities of our personality we aren’t happy with reside. If someone is constantly self-sabotaging, making choices that mess up their lives, where does that come from? St. Paul, in one of his letters, wrote “I do the things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do the things I want to do.” Well said.

Let me talk to you about two elements in the unconscious which operate in your as you try to make changes in your life. One is the critic. People have different names for the Inner Critic, but we all have experience with it. That’s the voice that growls “You can’t dance, why do you even try?” “You look bad in these colors, I can’t believe you thought you could pull this off.” “Why did you just say that to your boss, don’t you realize how it sounded?”

As soon as you start trying to make changes, the critic starts grinding on you. “Why even try?” It lays out all the times you’ve tried to do something before and failed. One teacher suggested that you take your critic and give them a class room with stadium seating and fill it with brilliant UT students who will nod and ooh and ahh and take notes as they speak eloquently about what a loser you are. Meanwhile they are out of your way and occupied.

The other element that awakens when you try to make changes is the resistance. I picture this as the Inner Mule. “I must eat more vegetables,” you say, and the mule wakes up and says “I want pizza!” I was very glad to find a way, not to make change, but to invite change into your life. Author Wendy Palmer is an Aikido master.

Try on different qualities. Not the “should” ones, but something that, when you say its name, you feel some good energy and interest in your body. Not “less of this or that,” but invite in. The way to invite this quality into your life is to wonder rather than to will.

Softness, gentleness, courage, awareness, openness, a sense of enough, playfulness, imagination, confidence

How would this work? Once you’ve chosen a quality to work with, just ask yourself in various moments “What would this moment feel like with more _________”


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