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!