The new year is just about here!
(Or here already, depending on when you are reading this.)
Before you head out for your celebration (maybe it is with us at the studio!) take a look at the below article.
When I read this interview with Swamiji, someone I have followed for many years because of his wisdom, dedication and obvious heart, I figured I would share it with you.
This is from an interview with a disciple and the man himself.
I hope you enjoy it and take from it what you can.
If you would like to read more from Swamiji, click here.
Stick to Your Goals in the New Year: An Interview with Swamiji
Read below Swamiji’s advice and apply this wisdom to keep yourself moving forward in 2015!
"Swamiji, what should we do when life’s obstacles threaten to detract us from our goals?"
Inevitably life throws us curve balls. The challenge is to keep yourself focused. The easiest way to do this is to positively affirm your goals, and do it frequently.
For example, you could have a list of your goals next to your bed-stand. When you wake up in the morning, review the goals and visualize accomplishing them.
In the evening, re-read those same goals and think through how the activities performed that day supported, or moved you closer, to your goals.
You could also put the list on your refrigerator door or even near your computer at work. If you are a student, you could put them on your desk and review them occasionally during a break in study.
Remember, the more often you remind yourself of the goals, the easier it will become to make them manifest.
"I understand. The approach you suggest makes a lot of sense. However, I seem to get discouraged especially if I falter. It’s like the dieter trying not to eat sweets, but after eating one cookie, suddenly the cookie jar is gone! How do we keep from getting discouraged?"
The smallest of activities, accumulated through time, will support your goals.
The key to moving your life forward in the direction of your dreams is to keep yourself mentally positive. In other words, stay away from self deprecation and don’t get attached to your failures.
If you falter, become aware of it, accept that it has happened, and mentally move yourself back into alignment with your objectives.
Develop the attitude that just because you got side-tracked a few times, does not mean that you will let that happen again.
Please remember this key concept: your future is directed by the momentum built at any given moment. This means, we always have the opportunity to create the changes in our lives and to build the future of our dreams, and it can happen in a moment!
A small change can put you in a new direction. Keep going and don’t focus on the negative!
"Swamiji, my goals involve breaking some bad habits and replacing them with better habits. This seems to be very challenging. Will it ever get easier?"
It does get easier! It gets easier with time provided you stick to your resolution.
Behavioral scientists have found that it takes about 30 days of consistently stopping a bad habit before it takes permanent hold in your life.
Likewise, it takes about 30 days of consistently performing a new habit before it is permanently engrained.
Once the changes are permanent, you no longer have to think about them. They happen automatically.
Stick with your resolutions! You will find that after a month, they will no longer be challenging and they will become part of your regular daily activities. It is at this time that it gets a lot easier.
"I am finding that my New Year’s goals may have been a bit too ambitious. Should I rework them?"
I always monitor progress and make the appropriate adjustments. If the goal is too ambitious or too unrealistic in the near-term, it can cause a situation where you give-up on it all together. This is the wrong answer!
One approach is to keep those ambitious goals, but to extend the time-frame for accomplishing them.
We do this by breaking down the tasks required for accomplishing the goal into meaningful, realistic steps that are achievable. This approach has several advantages.
First, you are pointing yourself in the direction of your vision.
Second, you allow yourself to feel good about your progress because you know the smaller steps are achievable.
Third, you have not given up on your ambitious goals just because you feel, at this point in time, that they look too ambitious.
I am a big believer in the power of faith. If you believe in yourself and have faith and trust in God, you can accomplish things beyond your imagination!
I wish this for you all!
Sometimes the topic of the month will be based on my personal practice. Sometimes it is based on holidays or the time of the year, as it was for this current month, December. We always have savasana as the pose of the December month, and pratyahara goes very nicely with it, like peanut butter and jelly, so this month it was an easy to choice.
Imagine my surprise when the subject of the month chose my practice! About a week ago I came down with a slight cold which rapidly turned in to a pretty severe sore throat. I haven't experienced pain like this since listening to David Sedaris post hernia operation (no one makes me laugh more than that man).
The doctor told me there was nothing to do, no strep was present, and I should manage it with anti-inflamatories, hot water and ice cream. (I made up the ice cream part.) Then the Doc told me if it
didn't get better in 7-10 days to come back. I left a little dejected that there was no immediate relief offered, but it wasn't until I got home that the 7-10 days sunk in. Really, I could expect this to go on that long? I kept checking for the tell tale white spots that would indicate strep and score me some fast acting drugs, but fire engine red was all that stared back at me from my throat.
Pratyahara loosely means withdrawal of the senses. When our senses are triggered we will usually move outside of the Self to satisfy the desire or aversion that was triggered. When practicing pratyahara, we pull in instead of follow that outward movement. So how did this sore throat push me into the practice of Pratyahara? Some of the obvious, I couldn't really eat anything, not even the ice cream I felt I was entitled to. So hunger had to just remain hunger, there was no reaching for a piece of scratchy toast. I had to withdraw from all outside engagements- on doctor and husband orders. My biggest shift was from couch to arm chair to bathroom. Had I not been slightly panicy about the obligations I had to attend to (and therefore cancel) that week, I would have also refrained from email and texts.
The pain in my throat was INTENSE, especially at night. At night I would wake up from the sharpness of the pain, break out in tears, and then try to relax. That relaxation helped the pain to eventually just be pain, and with some practice, and thankfully a lessening of symptoms, it got easier to disengage from the suffering of it.
The other obvious part of this was I couldn't talk. As I had to cancel private sessions, appearances, and class after class, and my part in my daughters school event that weekend, I felt a current of unease run thru me as I recognized my extreme "self importance" and attachment to my identities. I know this is what was underlying my resistance to surrendering to the rest I required. After all, I had a good book, a thermos of hot water, it only hurt when I swallowed, and I was exempt from all housework, what was the struggle? Don't people pay money for this kind of retreat? It wasn't until a friend texted me "It will get done with out you" I was struck with how foolish my notion that the world will stop without my participation was and I began to enjoy my retreat.
Another strong result of the practice of non-speech was to experience not being able to defend myself. I mean just in small ways, like my husband saying something about the herbs I was taking, or my son saying something "wrong" in the car that I couldn't dispute, as I usually would. It was surprising to recognize the small, seemingly innocuous ways that I feel I need to defend or uphold my position. But more impressive was how it FELT to not be able to do that. There were many times I tried to communicate something, only to have the person repeat back what they thought I was trying to communicate, which was incorrect. Then they would turn, walk away, and leave with my mouth wide open in disbelief, my Ludens lozenger threatening to fall to the ground, no counterpoint available to me.
I imagined as I usually do when I am sick or something, that this was all part of my sadhana. Maybe it came on because of my Sadhana! (If that is true, I apologize to those of you who also suffered from the same virus. I will try to keep my sadhana to myself next time.)
So what did it give me, what insights came from this virus?
These were my take aways, things I want to be on the look out for. If I share them, I will be more vigilant.
Here they are:
Watch out for defensive speech:
Even with a healthy throat, it is exhausting and stirs things up unnecessarily. I am looking to see how it creeps into my emails as well.
Watch out for self importance.
Will the world continue without me? You bet. It may even function better.
Choose my words carefully.
I would like to make myself understood as efficiently as possible, and if I am misunderstood, I will try to just see what comes of that without having to fix it right away. Maybe I misunderstood my own intentions and the person interpreting me is actually right on.
And whatever words I do end up choosing, I want to make sure they are kind. I watched how a negative thought unexpressed affected my body- and understood the impact on me is less when I can say it out loud. I think that is why we say unkind things we really don't mean, because it feels like we are getting the toxins out of our own body so we don't have to feel them. But do we want to pollute the environment by expressing these thoughts? It is probably a better use of prana to turn those negative thoughts around before they become tangible, harmful words.
And then, something interesting happened when I was back in the world but not speaking out loud yet. Shopping, I whispered to my daughter what she should tell the store keeper when we were making a purchase. It was interesting to observe how I was treated after it was obvious that I was not talking. The clerk, who was quite friendly and lively when we approached, no longer made eye contact with me, nor did he speak. Even though I held the wallet, he made no attempt to tell me the total and it seemed difficult for him to hand me my change. This short exchange made me feel, well, inadequate or powerless. I unfortunately recognized this behavior from when I was a child and tried to take care of my parents in stores or where I thought people would not be able to understand them- while I thought I was helping them "manage'", I might actually have been disempowering them.
What wasn't surprising is that when I picked up my son over the weekend he didn't realized that I couldn't talk and that I had been sick- somehow it didn't seem strange that I wasn't talking in the car, or back at home. I guess he was so excited by the prospect of a non-questioning mother that he thought Christmas had come early. By the time the weekend was over and he was going back to school I had my voice back. THAT he did notice. Sorry kid, it is not christmas yet.
This month our focus pose will be
Savasana and Yoga Nidra.
This is usually everyones favorite pose, yet many of us resist resting when left to our own devices. Why is that? Rest is an important part of living fully. Much research has been done on the benefits of sleep, rest and relaxation. It is thought that during sleep our brain is actually detoxing. That may be why when we don't have enough sleep or rest it feels like our head is going to explode. Well, it might be ready to do just that!
Our thoughts, when we are well rested, tend to be more positive.
We tend to latch on to the negative when we are sleep deprived.
Our decision making muscles are stronger too.
The ferocious lion rests, can't you see the image of the pride laying in the sun? The Bengal tiger, the great white shark, all of the mightiest animals rest, and often.We do not perceive them as being weak, but for whatever reason when we consider resting we feel it does not shed a good light on us. Our society reveres being busy. How many people do you hear speak with pride about being sleep deprived, being so scheduled they don't have time to eat properly or clean their house,spend time with their loved ones, or are too busy to make it to yoga class. Consider what we are giving up to acheive this illusion of importance.
Think of savasana, or any quiet time, like interval training. Taking a break after a lot of exertion, or a lot of being in the world, will make the time you spend in action much more satisfying. You will be more efficient, you will work better and quicker, you will retain information gathered and experiences felt better, and you might even do the work with a smile on your face. The secret benefit it is during that rest time you connect with your true nature. The more time we spend in Kumbaka, or the pause between movements, the closer we are to our spirit. One dip inwards will sustain you for quite some time. The power is in the pause.
When you are in savasana or yoga nidra, the time you need for recovery is not as long as the time you spent wearing yourself out. It's not an hour to hour ratio.
A 20 minute yoga nidra has the rejuvenation power of 3 hours of sleep. Do the math.
It makes sense to indulge.
So please, don't neglect your rest time, and don't neglect your yoga classes, particularly now, when it seems like there is no time to spare. Yoga, like most things that are good for you, is most needed when you think you don't possible have to time for it. And the great news is that this month you can do your yoga AND get your rest at the same time.
See you in class! And bring an eyebag or scarf to cover your eyes during our long rest period. Let's really indulge this month!