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Asking the clergy: Can faith strengthen New Year resolve?

No matter your stance on making New Year's resolutions, this week's clergy discuss how faith can give you a more likely chance at success.

Erik Larson, meditation instructor, Brahma Kumaris' Global Harmony House, Great Neck:

A way to strengthen resolve for the New Year, according to experts, is to do something with a partner. Our

spiritual life is much fuller when we have a partner, as well. So, when we make God our partner, our companion, and make it an open, close and loving relationship, it offers a greater likelihood of success. When we make that resolution, promise or desire for our well-being known to our friend, that gives us the internal motivation to follow through.

Through different types of meditation such as Raja yoga meditation, we strengthen the connection or remembrance of that being in our life. Yoga means link, union and connection. So, whenever we think about something, we bring those qualities into our mind or experience. For example, when you are trying to lose weight and think of a cookie, then you are aware of the

cookie's qualities and your desire for the cookie.

When you are in that practice of Raja yoga meditation, you are choosing the thought of God being with you and bringing his qualities and the experience of that relationship into your life. He can bring the extra strength but can also bring an extra quality. Perhaps food, that cookie, fulfills the need to feel cared for, nurtured, satisfied. Through meditation, you start to

recognize that God fulfills those needs on a spiritual level, alleviating the need for food to fill that void.

When you start to have those

spiritual experiences, they substitute for the need and physical sensations. You still need to eat and enjoy cookies, but are not looking to physical things to satisfy the deeper need for a spiritual connection.

Pastor George Dupree,

Living Water Full Gospel Church, Riverhead:

It's been said that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Without an intention for our life we will tend to meander and wander thorough our days and, before we know it, a decade can pass and we are left wondering "is this all there is to life?"

A passage taken from Psalm 31:14 says: I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, "You are my God!" My future is in your hands.

When I think about the New Year I will also look back at the year that's ending; this gives me perspective. This will help me to prepare and plan for the New Year.

You don't just get better at life, you have to have the desire to be a better version of you, but desire in itself isn't enough. Pursuit is the evidence of desire. So, you have to dream, plan and pursue.

Another passage in the book of Proverbs (3:6) translates to: In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

You should pray daily. Prayer is just talking to God. It is just like having a conversation with another person that you can't see. It should be very personal, not impersonal. It is not just a reciting of words. See it as a relationship.

Cantor Irene Failenbogen,

New Synagogue of Long Island, Brookville:

The New Year is a good moment to ask "What I can do within myself and to connect with divinity to feel the strength to go forward and find balance in my life?" Prayer is one of the ways.

For me, yoga is a very good way of slowing down. Winter is a time when nature slows down, and we should take a cue from nature and slow down and deal with the larger questions of our existence. What do we need to do with our lives? What changes do we need to make?

Religion and rituals help you to slow down and connect with yourself, with your divinity. As a yoga practitioner and instructor, I find a lot of great elements of spirituality in yoga and meditation. It allows one to connect with body, mind spirit and one's own breath.

In Judaism, we have rituals that also help. Every day, you're asking God for help and reminding yourself about this new focus. Just do one thing each day and build confidence in what you are doing.

The Torah offers many affirmations. One I particularly like is "Adonai li v'lo ira," which translates to "God is with me, I shall not fear." Fear is one of the elements that stop us from reaching our larger goals and dreams. Having the strength of the presence of the divinity helps us to move forward.

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I do everyday resolutions. Focus on the process. Focus on this particular day to start changing things.

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