29 Mar Sustaining Your Resolutions: Inertia, Integrity, and the Power of the Earth Element
Are you someone who sets ambitious goals at the beginning of the year but then struggles to follow through on them? We’ve been there. It’s one of the reasons we created our Dreambook – to teach people how to set goals, how to break these goals down into simple actionable steps, and how to get them scheduled. But there’s one critical factor in the achievement of goals that’s a lot more difficult to teach or impart, and for most people it matters more than all the other skills.
That factor is a commitment to have personal integrity, specifically around keeping agreements. If you are driven to be utterly dependable – to always follow through on your agreements, both with yourself and with others – then tremendous power will be at your disposal.
It takes sustained energy to lift ourselves out of inertia. Physics tells us that inertia is “a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.” Or in Isaac Newton’s words, “a power of resisting by which every body … endeavours to preserve its present state.”[i] The first definition states that inertia must be changed by an external force, but when we’re talking about objects with volition (humans, for example) that force can be an internal one.
How can we strengthen the force to change our course? It can be fortified in multiple ways. One is the vision which inspires us. It’s important to make yourself remember why you want to make a change. What gifts do you have that yearn to be awakened and shared? How will you and the world benefit from this change? I recommend that you practice remembering your inspiration throughout the day in a multisensory way, ideally in a relaxed, meditative state. What is it going to feel like? What will it look like? What things will you hear people say? Take a breath, tune in, and embody the change. Each instance need not take more than a minute or so.
Because such inspiration can wax and wane – and inertia can be exceptionally strong, like the body’s resistance to changing its weight – it helps to have another power to sustain the impulse to change, and that’s what integrity can do. Sometimes it’s conflated with what we call “willpower,” but using willpower implies a fight. (Since time immemorial that struggle has been between human willpower and “temptation,” which is defined in the Bible as “one quarter-cubit [roughly a pint] of the Benjamin & Jeremiah brand of ice cream.”)
In contrast, aligning ourselves with virtue of integrity is simply strong and clear. It can help us through conflict, but it doesn’t imply conflict. Coming from a nature-based spirituality, I see the earth element as the ideal model of integrity.
In nature earth embodies integrity in that it holds its form with great consistency. The plates of the earth will barely move within our lifetimes. Neither will our mountain ranges change. Healthy land resists erosion, and strong riverbanks contain the rushing water in a path that hardly varies from century to century.
Integrity in earth and humans implies great stability and reliability – even predictability. We all trust in the solid ground beneath us. In the same way, a person with integrity is predictable in that they can be counted on to act in accordance with their word. Thus, the trustworthy, consistent feeling we have about the soil under our feet is something we embody when we cultivate integrity. Likewise, it’s how people feel about us when we embody integrity. The expression “you are my rock” speaks of this virtue. Imagine being that for your loved ones. Imagine being that for yourself.
If you’ve made commitments for change in the coming year, I recommend tuning in to the earth element to experience a felt sense of this integrity. There are many ways to connect to it. Here’s one.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Have a slight bend in your knees, as if you were sitting on the edge of a high stool (you’ll feel it in your thighs). Engage your inner thigh muscles to bring your knees out so they are aligned with your feet. Straighten your spine by slightly tucking your tailbone forward and drawing your chin slightly back. Imagine that your spine is a clear vessel between the earth and the sky.
Bring your arms out in front of you as if you were resting your palms on a giant round belly. Your palms face your body, and there should be a bit of lift in your elbows, an openness in your armpits. Let your chest and heart relax.
Imagine there’s a string attached to the very top of your head and it’s lifting you to the sky. Imagine there’s also a string attached to the tip of your tailbone and its pulling you to the ground, prompting you to remember to stay in a slight squat. These two opposing forces make you stretch in both directions.
Now bring your attention to your feet and your connection to the earth. See if you can feet each of the nine points of contact shown in the diagram above – the five pads of your toes, the two balls of your feet, the outer “blade” of your foot, and the pad of your heel. Try to distribute your weight evenly between these nine points of contact. As you do so, imagine that a strong root of energy is emerging from your sole and growing deep, deep, deep into the earth.
Relax in this posture, remembering to lengthen your spine, soften your chest, keep your knees and elbows open, and maintaining evenness on the nine points of contact. Meanwhile, imagine these roots from your soles are powerfully connecting you to the essence of the earth. Ask to be nourished. Ask to be taught about integrity. And see what happens.
You can hold this standing meditation for as long as you like. When you’re done, lay your palms on your lower belly and feel your strength consolidating there for a few moments. Try doing this on a regular basis. Over time, stand for longer and deepen your squat. Your legs and your focus will become stronger. Notice how this fortifies your commitment to integrity. And feel free to share about your experience with our community.
[i] Andrew Motte’s English translation: Newton, Isaac (1846), Newton’s Principia : the mathematical principles of natural philosophy, New York: Daniel Adee, p. 72