Sunday marked the transition into the new year. The calendar year changing provides many an entry way to set new goals, visions, and dreams for the days and months that lay ahead. Visions of finally picking up that hobby you have been dreaming of for years (insert hobby here… playing guitar, learning another language, sewing, drawing). Goals of running a race, or two. Hopes to fall in love, or begin to love again. Pulls to feel lighter and more at ease. Drive to declutter your home, or your body, and or your mind of excess. Commitments to be more present with those you love and less attached to those things and relationships that are pulling you out of integrity. Tackling your finances. Taking a vacation. Whatever the goals may be for you on this turn to the new year, all our goals share a common thread to live a healthier lifestyle. This can be refined even more by asking, why? To feel better in our bodies? Why? To feel and experience more love and joy in our lives. YES!!
I love to strive. I love setting goals. Evolving is part of our DNA. We are born to thrive. Feeling vibrant, strong, and alive feels amazing. I want that for myself, my family, and my community. But, lets face it, year after year we may realize that sometimes we don’t meet all our goals, sometimes we just don’t feel motivated to keep on the go and strive, or, the bigger universe has a different plan for us. Does it mean we are any less or that we failed?
In the past I have put so much pressure on myself to achieve and do, that I have forgotten one of the ethical guidelines on the pathway of yoga, which is santosha. Santosa, one of the five niyamas, self observances, is finding peace with what is rather than busying ourselves with the next big thing. Luke Ketterhagen states, “Santosha, or contentment, means keeping a positive attitude in difficult times. We can choose to wallow in darkness and difficulty, or we can rise above our challenges and see them as opportunities for transformation and the discovery of immense and lasting joy. The more we choose contentment, the more we are able to grow.” I see Santosha not only during difficult times, but, being able to be content and settled into every moment that this wild life unfolds.
My goals, or perhaps intentions, is better stated, for this year include becoming more mindful with that which is true for me, in any given moment. Knowing me as a loving self. Knowing me as an evolving self. Knowing me as part of this bigger community at large. What is going to best serve me, my family, and my community? I want to be present enough to be able to answer that question authentically. I want to be awake enough inside my own body to sense what it truly needs in any given moment. I want to be alert enough to really hear the stories of friends, family, and those in my community at large and show empathy and compassion. I want to be engaged enough to experience pure joy. I am deeply interested in learning, relearning, and growing my understanding on what are the actions or habits that will help me get there?
These goals of waking up to what I truly desire is not new. This past summer really marked a transition in my old patterned thinking. In years past, a typical pattern for me would include setting a goal to do such and such race, and of course, aim for and hope for such and such time. Training. Feeling strong. Completing the race. Done, easy. But, the not so easy part for me would be what would follow. For days, sometimes months on end, a litany of judging and self depleting thoughts would flood in. Thoughts of could have or should have gone faster, better, stronger. Yadda yadda yadda, the monkey mind doing its wild act. As I grow as a yogi, I have started to really see my thoughts for what they are, just thoughts. And, recognize my role in the storyline that I accept as truth for me. This past summer I signed up for a race, but, went in with the intention to just enjoy the experience. Like any other race, I trained hard, played hard, and got the butterflies before the race day. However, unlike other races, once the race was over, I did not look at the results externally. Instead, I looked inside and asked myself, how was that? Did you feel strong? Did you enjoy the experience? To this day, I still have no idea the place I came in, or what time I got. And, the flip is I freed myself from days on end of “should have” agony. Instead, I let myself experience it for what it was. I let my body perform in a way that felt authentic for that day. And, I was able to better support and cheer on the other athletes as the race was in session.
Maybe a race will help me stay committed, strong, and focused. Maybe goals to stick handstand for 5 mins in the middle of the room will keep me inspired. But, what in the end will keep me embracing my whole self with open arms? I am learning and growing to know that it is the smaller goals I set, how I live my life moment to moment, that truly are making the most impact on my life, my health and the lives of those around me. Whether I find myself on my mat or meditation cushion, or watching my anger rise as my loving boys push my buttons, or watch the bridge start to rise “at the wrong time,” it is these moments that I want to start to really wake up to and find contentment with what is. I want to know and begin to really see how I show up for it all. I want my moment to moment habits to be those which support my best self. As Aristotle states, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit”.
Set goals, strive to grow your edge, sign up for races, dare to grow your garden, practice, income, what have you. Step into the best version of yourself possible. But, as you do reach and aim high, let the practice of yoga remind us all that what we are striving for is not outside of ourselves. We are all whole and complete as we are.
Join us this month on your mat to be reminded of your whole self – your goal driven self, your loving self, your human self. Get sweaty, find ease and peace, and deepen your understanding of what this life is.
To all of us feeling more love, peace, and ease in our lives.