Aine McAteer
If I'm to think back to a memorable New Year's Day, there's one in particular that stands out. It was New Year's Day 1993, and I'd just read a lovely book I'd received as a Christmas gift, Betty J. Eadie's Embraced by the Light. It's a true account of her journey to the afterlife when she was pronounced clinically dead during a surgical procedure. In this book, she describes being taken by her "guides" on the other side and shown the true spirits of those who walk the earth—who they truly are beyond the facade that is the physical. In one part, she sees a beggar on the street in rags, but is shown that in fact he is a magnificent spirit who has made a deal with a kindred soul, a wealthy business man, to be there as a reminder of his humanity. I was deeply touched by her story and set an intention for my new year that I was going to strive to find the true spirit in everyone I encountered, regardless of the external appearance.

That very day, I got to put my resolution to the test as I boarded a crowded train going from upper to lower Manhattan to join the rest of the New Year's Day shoppers. Even though the train was crowded, there was one area, near a drunk man, completely empty for a radius of about four feet. When I caught the stench, I realized why, but I didn't let that deter me from what I saw as an opportune moment. I sat down next to him and started to try to engage in conversation. He wore about four coats, all in tatters, had several plastic bags of junk at his feet and seemed to be in a sort of drunken stupor, drooling down his chest.

As I tried to engage him in conversation, all I was met with was the occasional grunt. I persisted however, not being one easily defeated, and little by little, the man started to realize that someone was actually speaking to him. I asked him if he had made any resolutions and interpreted his grunts in response to mean, "I've already broken them." I asked him if he had any family, and that seemed to be the key to get through his many layers and elicit a coherent response. He told me he had a son and a daughter who were not so proud of him but that he loved them very much.

I have to say that the conversation that ensued is one that's left an indelible mark on me. As we continued our conversation, little by little the man perked up and he ended up telling me all about his children and the life he once had. At one point in our conversation, he looked at me with such sincerity and asked me, "Is there anything I can do for you?" I told him that I could use some more clients in my work, and he took a tattered little notebook from his pocket and scribbled down a number for me to call. He said it was a gentleman he worked with on Wall Street back in the day who he still kept in touch with occasionally and that I should call him and he would help me out. When it came to my stop, my friend followed me from the train and walked me down the street in a very protective way. He advised me to be careful in Manhattan and when we parted ways he shook my hand and told me I was a lovely girl. I told him he was a very nice man and that he should remember his New Year's resolution and strive to make his children proud. He promised me he would and sidled off into the crowd. I never did see him again, but that man touched my life and reminded me that inside everyone lies a beautiful jewel and a unique story.

How to visualize a better you in the new year
In my early days as a young traveler, I would sit and plan. My favorite book was my atlas, and I would sit with my atlas and dream of all the journeys I would take in my lifetime. However, I quickly realized when I set off on my travels that my plans really were not serving me, and the more rigidly I tried to adhere to my "plan," the less available I was for the magic and spontaneity of life. We just never know what surprises lie around the next corner—who we're going to encounter that will change the course of our lives. I realized after a couple of years of planning that I was much better equipped for my life's journey if I set my plans aside and instead had a vision or an intention of how I would like my life to unfold. This allowed for a lot more flexibility and creativity and left me open to the natural unfolding of my life.

Resolutions are a bit like dieting. We make rules for ourselves and challenge ourselves to adhere to them—and like they way they did for my friend on the subway, they very often go out the window as quickly as they're made. "Intentions," however, help us to create a vision for how we would like to see our journey unfold. At the beginning of a new year, I like to take a look ahead to the end of the year and get a sense of where I would like to be. Not necessarily the physical location, as in my life there are factors that make that quite unpredictable. However, I look at the overall picture: my health, my physical appearance, my sense of well-being and my relationships. I look at areas of my life that I could bring into balance and devote more time and energy to.

For many people, the area of food and diet is one that could use some attention and intention. When I'm trying to set an intention in place, I will often do a little exercise. I close my eyes and create a vision of exactly where I am in my life right now, particularly in regard to my intention. For example, if it's to lose weight or get more fit, I see my body exactly how it is or how it looks to me. I try to feel it, vision it and get an overall sense of how it makes me feel to be right where I am. Then I freeze frame and switch to my "future self"—how I see myself once my vision or intention is accomplished. I often visualize it as myself walking onstage—perhaps my current self moves more slowly, is a bit more lethargic and my future self dances onstage, is lithe and flexible, trim and toned, energetic and comfortable in her body. I try to freeze frame again with that vision clearly set in my mind. This is the goal I'm striving for and a picture I will bring up in my mind when I'm needing a little encouragement.

As the year unfolds, I will be offering tips, advice and recipes that I hope will support you in achieving your health goals, whatever they may be for you. I love to hear from you, as this guides me in offering you the best support. And if I spot you out chatting to beggars on the street or walking with them arm in arm, I'll know that you've been tuning in and were as touched by my story as I was by that lovely encounter on the Manhattan subway.

I'm wishing you a year of vibrant health, nurturing relationships and abundance, and I'm setting my intention to enjoy a wonderful and fulfilling year myself.

To start us off, I'm letting have your cake and eat it too with my recipe for Chocolate Cherry Bliss Cake, a sweet treat loaded with antioxidants.

Happy New Year,


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