Do you usually create a New Year’s resolution for yourself? What’s your m.o. in this realm?
What a wacky practice. The beginning of the year often brings with it the opportunity to initiate behavior change, both in the West and throughout the world. The tradition of New Years’ resolutions is an ancient one; the first people to have made resolutions at the year’s beginning were the Babylonians, over 4,000 years ago. Although the practice has religious roots, today it is mostly a secular. We no longer make our promises to the gods, but to ourselves. We now mostly dabble in the realm of self-improvement, and not that effectively. According to the data, out of the 45% of Americans who make resolutions, only 8% are successful.
What’s up what that, America?
I know for myself, resolutions come from a place of mind-over, I WILL DO ___________, fill in the blank of the appropriate self-improvement moment. In my world, resolutions historically have been in the arena of lifestyle, which is amusingly both the problem and the solution. (Think about that; Lifestyle is the problem. Lifestyle is also the solution.) Notice how many people, like sparrows to Capistrano, flock back to the gym in January. I admit, this year, I will be one of those huffing sparrows gingerly making my way toward the treadmill. How many of us gym-returnees will sustain a viable exercise routine?
I suspect our Western mode of resolution-making ultimately becomes unsustainable because of a few flaws: only our minds are utilized, we overpromise ourselves while being unrealistic about what is possible, and we ask our minds to guide a body-centered process. As a coach, I sometimes think my job is simply to talk people down off the ledge of over-commitment. When we get ready to change, we are so hot to trot—watch out, it’s happening. We go for it, and often, that energy sizzles out. We set ourselves up for failure, bummer of bummers, and prove ourselves ultimately right: “See, I knew I couldn’t do that.”
However the yogic practice of intentionality, sankalpa, is more empowering a vehicle of realignment. It works, as yoga does, from inside, out. In creating a sankalpa, we practice listening to and identifying the longing of the heart. By attuning to our inner longings, by listening within rather than looking around, our dharma, or right purpose, reveals itself. It’s a quieting down, rather than a ramping up. Then, of course, once the larger sankalpa has emerged, right action is needed, in which to ground your intention into reality. Longing is not enough, nor is the right use of will. Together, however, everything becomes possible.
Here’s a meditation practice utilizing sanklapa. Remember, living yoga is about living skillfully. We can choose how we live. See if there is anything helpful for you in this practice. And yes, 2017 needs us at our best, to know, to speak, to live our truth, in the face of power.
Sit comfortably. Breathe and relax. Imagine you could release any stress that your body doesn’t need in this moment. Breathe right into your belly. Feel the rise, the fall of your belly. Feel your tension dripping off of you, like water off a little duck. Softly close your eyes. Look inside, as you soften your inner gaze. See yourself walking into the New Year, 2017. See the moments unfolding; see yourself moving forward with integrity and with grace.
What are you longing for this year? If you could see yourself fulfilled, in alignment with yourself, what would be ignited in you? What would be reestablished? Invoke your sankalpa, with this words:
In this New Year, I choose ___________ for myself.
Notice, breathe and feel. Perhaps you need to sit with yourself, to walk with yourself, to bless yourself. Let this process unfold, in its own right timing.
Once you have established a direction, consider a few right actions. How will you ground and make stable this intention? Answer the questions—
Specifically what would this practice look like?
When will you practice?
For how long?
Remember, a practice is ongoing—remembering, forgetting, and allowing the forgetting to be the doorway to a deeper remembering. In this New Year, may we grant ourselves full permission to be human.
Dear Readers, may the highest unfold for us, all. May all living beings be blessed with light. May we live within the solution. And, as usual, please do keep me posted.