Resolution, Ritual, Revolution: the first in a three part series by Karin Carlson

resolution, ritual, revolution with Karin Carlson

RESOLUTION, Ritual, Revolution

It’s nearing the end of January. The dawns are so deep they break to ink blue. Stars are sharp. To say nothing whatsoever of the cold.

Only that it’s a hard kind of season. It’s a difficult time of year.

Resolution, Ritual, Revolution. Now that 97% of the human population has trashed, dismissed, or diminished their New Year’s Resolutions, I want to talk about them. 

This is the first in a three part series by Karin Carlson.

To be fair, I’m not a person who makes resolutions. I never have been. In the first 29 years of my life, before-the-yoga, I fully identified as a fuck up. I wouldn’t to commit to a damned thing. I wouldn’t commit because I knew I’d fail.  

I no longer think of myself as such a damaged piece of work. But I still don’t make resolutions. My reasoning is different, though; I don’t make resolutions now because I know that changes happen – beautiful, devastating changes – in spite of me. Change is an experience of grace.

Sankalpa – the Sanskrit word for intention – means the law that arises from the heart. It means the rule you follow above all other rules. And here’s where I think we misunderstand: intention doesn’t come from the goal setting and thinking part of us; it rises up out of the flesh like a baby. Or a disease. To try to think or plan or strategize our way into the new year is to misunderstand both human beings and change. The heart is going to do what the heart needs to do.

Being human is what traditional yoga studied.

Resolution, Ritual, Revolution by Karin CarlsonIn depth. From multiple angles. Down through the layers and into the shadows. Movement studies. Mind studies. One of the key things the sages came to understand is the inborn capacity for human beings to overcome, to heal, and to grow. Lay the ground, plant the seeds, cultivate the space, and the human spirit soars. Change is what human beings, do.

But laying the ground is decidedly different than a bucket list. It’s related to healing, not goal setting.

A Cultural Pull

There is a tremendous cultural pull, born in the holidays and proved in the longest nights of the year, that resurrects and reflects who we’ve been in our lives. The pull underscores ageing. It’s laced with familial roles – how sweet and sustaining they are, as well as how fraught with contradiction. It’s sourced in finances, commercialism, and gender roles while being boxed by cultural traditions. It trades in shame, hits our weak spots, and plays on self-esteem.

To top it all off, end of the year rituals are reminiscent of religious rites; even if we’re not religious, we want to be spiritual. We’re drawn to things that smell like candles in the dark, salvation, and promises. The resurrecting and reflecting pull is so strong we start vowing. We want a clean break. Never again, we say. Or this year I promise. From this point forth and so on. Sometimes it appears more mild: it’s true I’d be happier if I finally lost this weight, maybe. Or, now that I’m middle aged, I really should start exercising. I don’t know that these are actually mild. They’re rather passive aggressive.

Even if we’re not religious, we want to be spiritual. We’re drawn to things that smell like candles in the dark, salvation, and promises. Click To Tweet

Resolution and change are not the same thing. They aren’t even related to each other.  

The one is sourced by ego, master of phrasing self-hate as self-improvement and avoidance as self care. Resolution implies a problem needing to be fixed. But the problem here is the self. We so often make problems of ourselves. We try to change ourselves to fit in or get enough likes, without realizing that’s an endless hunger. We may stoke our ego enough for today, but tomorrow we’ll have to do the same thing. And the next day. And the next. The needing will never end. There is no ‘goal’; there’s only a hamster wheel. Or one of the minor circles of hell. Resolutions feed either our ego or our insecurities.

Resolution implies a problem needing to be fixed. But the problem here is the self. We so often make problems of ourselves. Click To Tweet

Our ego and our insecurities turn out to be inseparable.

ResolutionThe other, change, is sourced elsewhere. By god, maybe. The really real. By the ordinariness of biological, historical, genetic and teeming life. And let’s face it: ordinary life, in the power of the galaxy, the wonder of a seed, the outright miracle of human birth and the delicacy of minerals in the soil, is wonderous. I could go on and on. The ordinary life of snowflakes and sixty five million refugees, salt in the blood, the wild bones of children and the fact of guns in America; I mean racial wounds, feminine persistence, immigrant dreams and native wisdom. I mean hope and sadness, hope and guts, hope and the medicinal poetry of ancestors.

Continued in the second piece of the series.


Resolution, Ritual, Revolution by Karin Carlson

Karin was an anthropologist, a barmaid, and a journalist before she bottomed out. Yoga saved her; she figures it might help others. Karin’s teaching in jails, crisis centers, and church basements became a non-profit in 2007. Based in St. Cloud, MN, discover and practice with Karin online in her Collections for Gather Yoga or at


Featured Photos by Karin Burke, Alessio LinJames Marcom and JUSTIN Bridges on Unsplash