Monday, January 2, 2012

following through with our intentions

I realize I didn't mention a couple important things in yesterday's post.

Re. the Releasing Practice and letting go of past habits, beliefs, etc:
One thing that helps me, as I mentioned, is once I recognize I'm doing something habitual, I stop and really feel into it. I feel the bodily sensations associated with the thoughts or actions. (And often a "negative" habit pattern is associated with intense feelings). And I take a deep breath.
I recognize them as energy, shakti, and I watch their vibration (spanda) and how they often transform when I pay attention. When I can see the feelings or thoughts as simply energy, then it helps me to soften around them. To recognize everything is vibrating energy/shakti helps me to let go of the story of it and just rest in the energy. This helps me relax around the contracted feelings of attachment that arise when I'm believing my story or stuck in a "negative" habit or thought pattern.

Re. following through on our New Year's resolutions:
What has worked for me this year is to schedule my new "positive" habits right into my daily calendar. I don't just remember my intentions, or even look at a written "to-do" list, I actually put down the new habits directly into my calendar exactly when I'm going to do them. Of course, this works better for an actual task than for a belief or thought-pattern. So with new tasks: for me one of them is practicing my cello, I write down exactly what time each day I'm going to practice and for how long. Then it's best if most other events of my day are also scheduled with realistic time frames (this is key) so I'm more likely to follow through on my plans.

At first, I found it useful to put down absolutely everything I intend to do each day and for how long. For example: I put down what time I meditate and do my asana, what time I'll be eating, when I'll call to make a doctor appt. or a date with a friend, what hours I'll be working, doing errands, what time I take a walk, cook dinner, laundry, etc. (In the working and errands time slot, I make a list of tasks I intend to accomplish and when I don't accomplish them, I put them into the next day's schedule).

It seems very rigid at first, but for me, it's actually been very freeing. It's given me a sense of peace to know it's all written down and I don't have to remember everything. I stick to it as best I can and move things when necessary. After a while, a couple months or so, I notice that I am following through with certain new tasks; they become a new positive habit that I want to do and I automatically budget them into my day. So now, I find I schedule only the non-regular stuff and the daily rituals are already accounted for.

Best of luck and please let me know how it goes and whether you find this helpful!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year- expanded version of 1/1/12 email newsletter

Happy New Year! I hope this Holiday time has been filled with great love and restoration for you.

This darkest season and time of transition into a new calendar year is a traditional time to reflect on the past and clarify our visions for the future. I like to do what I call a Releasing Practice. I look back over the last year to acknowledge what I've learned and recognize where I can continue to grow. Then I intentionally release any unhealthy habits or beliefs. A great way to empower this is to write on a piece of paper, in present tense, all that you want to surrender from the past. For example: I surrender my worrying about the future, I release my habit of blaming others for my experience, I let go of the belief that I'm not enough. Then you burn it ritually in a fire with the word Svaha! which means hail! or so be it! The ritual fire has been used in India for thousands of years. It symbolizes the burning of impurities and the offering of our prayers to Spirit through the rising smoke. This year, I am keeping it simple and only writing two things down which I want to focus on the most.

But how do we actually release our unhealthy habits and beliefs which are so deeply ingrained? Oh, this is a process. I believe we must return to them again and again with new consciousness and discipline ourselves to do something different, anything besides the old habit. It really helps to ask our loved ones to support us in making a change; they can remind us kindly when we're behaving in a habitual way, but it's up to us to stop the habit. Having support is super helpful in making change.

The complimentary practice, I call Intention Practice, is to write down what you want to manifest or focus on in the next year. A nice thing to do with this piece of paper is to make it beautiful using colors or artistic writing, etc. and put it on your altar or somewhere visible as a daily re- minder of your intention (sankalpa in Sanskrit). This year, I'm writing just one thing for each of these categories: creativity, spiritual life, social life, work, play, home, and health. Other areas might be family, finances, relationship, body, community, studies. Do you know most New Year's resolutions only last about 2 weeks? They say it takes 8 weeks of a new practice to create a habit. So don't let your resolutions slip away. Keep coming back and ask for support!

Ultimately, it is best to start with acceptance if we want to grow or change. Trying to force out the "bad" habits or beliefs is like fueling an inner battle. So we welcome all of who we are first, fully feeling into our sadness or pain or discomfort. Then with compassion, we embrace our whole self before choosing what to release. And every time we catch ourselves in the old habit, we compassionately acknowledge it and then choose to let it go.

I wish you the best in your 2012 journey of yoga off the mat!