The Most Important New Years Resolution

Nearly a year ago I wrote about detoxification and now that New Year is upon us again I can’t help but return to this…

2010 has been an interesting year, an intense year, a year of study, more travel than I ever thought I’d do, having dreams come true, and then realizing I couldn’t support the reality of the dream, because, actually, I didn’t want to, and theres some things you just can’t ignore. I also, for various reasons, studied the meaning of detoxification more.

I looked at the physical aspects of it- what happens to an overstressed system when we overindulge or do too much- even if we worry too much. How we can attack ourselves from within due to what we think, as much as what we eat or what we do. And what became apparent was that a lot of the eastern traditions, including Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are based on seeking this balance, this way of being and I should acknowledge this more. When you look at Yoga asana practice, some of the key postures such as twists like Ardha Matsyendrasana obviously have physical functions in how they stimulate key lymphatic regions for example. And I realized that although my lifestyle by no means has been perfect over the past few years, I have maintained a good level of vitality and strength and I think I am so used to the asana practice maybe I didn’t appreciate it enough. Or I abused it by sometimes pushing too hard. And so I made a few health resolutions of my own for this year which to support what I already do.

This year I went away and worked on a ship, doing Personal Training and Yoga classes. And running detox seminars. Some of the people I met were amongst the wealthiest on the planet and that taught me an awful lot about perception. People who are often envied but really, how someone on a six star cruise ship in a luxury gym, everything their hearts could desire laid out for them can let the fact that the rowing machine has a queue ruin their entire day….! The only freedom we have is within. And if something trivial on the outside can easily rock our boat then we have serious work to do.

What are your resolutions this year? What are you going to give up? There is only one thing we should give up and that is guilt.
Its a waste of time. Forget about it. Why apologize for who you are and what you like? According to Wikipedia, In psychology, as well as in ordinary language, guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done).
Guilt and its causes, merits, and demerits are common themes in psychology and psychiatry. It is often associated with depression, and sometimes anxiety.

Basically its like this- if you live a certain way, are used to certain things, you may believe that you are somehow inferior to the ideals we are bombarded with by the media. And even the Yoga media’s guilty of this. I wonder how many people don’t go to Yoga classes because the first website they look at is full of super bendy people smiling beatifically while they tuck their foot nonchalantly round their neck? And they think that is what Yoga is and so it’s not for them. That saddens me, especially as I never wanted to feel like I had to be part of a clique.

If you believe that whoever it is you are NOW, in this precise moment, is no good, then how the Hell are you going to change? Because you can change your mind, and your body, but it will still be, YOUR mind, YOUR body…

And how do we know what is good for us anyway? This is why we need teachers, this is why we need our gurus. And they’re pretty thin on the ground in much of the world- yes, theres lots of people that can take your money and tell you about your past lives, and all this may have its place. What I’m talking about is the kind of teacher who cares enough about you to tell you the truth, to tell you what you do not want to hear. To be the one who might even cause pain, like Aslan in the CS Lewis books ripping away Eustace’s scales… To give you tasks you don’t like, and chores that are a drag. I was lucky enough to have a teacher for seven years and I think I was blessed. And last night I was thinking about him and he was a Yogi in his way. He said that you can do all these things that we are so keen on at New Year, avoid meat, live a holistic lifestyle and that is fine. Just don’t identify with it. Its not the ultimate answer to everything. Your chosen lifestyle is your chosen lifestyle, it is not the whole of you, its but a detail so if you know it makes you feel better then do it, but really, don’t be a bore. Or a preacher.

When I remember his advice he advocated ritual in a sense- like the tapas of the Niyamas. This could be asana practice, if performed with dedication and humility. In the tradition of Kriya Yoga, tapas goes hand in hand with Svadhyaya, which is usually interpreted as observing the self but actually its root ‘I’ (aya) means to go or to move. Adhyaya means ‘to move towards’ (from the verbal prefix adhi) and sva means ‘self’ or ‘one’s own’. So it means to move towards oneself- to return to ourself through observation. My teacher didn’t bother with the Sanskrit but he told us to keep a wary eye on our own dark thoughts. Specifically, if anything makes us snap or react negatively towards ourself or another then it is certainly worth exploring. There are three parts to Kriya Yoga- the third is ‘Isvara Pranidhana’ which basically means to open your heart and your mind to the divine. This is usually translated as surrender to God but that is to limit its meaning. What this really truly means is that you accept you are a part of a greater whole, that which sustains you, that which gave you life and to which you will return. Like giving up self importance.

The study and practice of Yoga is about letting go, breaking apart, about sinking to the bottom, drowning and then rebuilding yourself from the driftwood that still floats, a lighter and more versatile vessel on every level… It might also make you more bendy but then again thats just a detail…

The main thing I feel about making resolutions this year is that they should be creative. They should be expansive. Lose the guilt before you even make them.

SO- my suggestions are-
If you want to give up alcohol, resolve to drink more fresh clean pure water. If you want to quit smoking resolve to breathe more clean air, maybe by getting out more- treating yourself to time in nature. If you’re unhappy about your body then resolve to eat MORE good natural nourishing food, and no nasty additive laden diet stuff. Resolve to buy a juicer and use it. Resolve to listen to your inner voice. Sometimes if you listen hard enough, other cravings or habits you have will mysteriously disappear…

Always go for more, not less- why start January with deprivation? As if the post Christmas slump isn’t hard enough sometimes.
Start the fire of transformation burning within you now… MORE nourishment, more quality time to yourself doing what you love, following your bliss, and if kids are a responsibility you have, then resolve to share them MORE or take them out MORE. Resolve to learn from everyone you can, to find a teacher, or several. Always more. Be creative, see what you can come up with…

And if you think that change is too hard, that living a healthier life, whether thats physically, or mentally (comitting to meditate, to explore your issues whatever) is too far out of your reach then consider this. Human beings have always struggled to lead cleaner lives, to discipline themselves. Because if change was easy there would be no religious communities would there? When people in the past committed to change it often meant leaving their homes, their families, everything. If you genuinely feel that now is the time to change perhaps you need to be in a more supportive environment? That could mean changing who you hang around with or seeing less of some people you love. And they won’t like it. But this is how change can be made manifest. Be careful.

Real change is not about a list of 10 ‘must nots’ that will be discarded be the third week of January……

Let 2011 be your best, most incredible year yet, that you can grow and learn, and be happier than you ever thought possible.


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