happy new year dear ones and welcome to 2012...the year of possibilities, of love, of taking steps into the unknown, and of living each moment with passion, creativity, delight and a sprinkling of 'ooh la la!' (well..these are my wishes for the year ahead :-) !)
so we are at this time again when the year ahead beckons invitingly with its blank pages, the images we draw, paint, scribble and invoke as yet to become clear..a little like those magic markers we used to play with in our childhood years!
and just as we crawl outta bed on the new side of the year, our lists of intentions become once more of pleading importance for our future self..maybe this year we will change this behaviour, maybe this year we will let go effortlessly, maybe this year, just like that, we will step into a brand new 'me'
and yet, as the fog of the festive season begins to lift, and the reality of another monday morning dawns, all is the same, and nothing has magically shifted in the wee hour of the witch (which apparently is between 4 and 5 a.m.!)
but before you sigh in resignation and the wonder of whether next year will bring about the seemingly impossible lets take heart and seek a lil deeper understanding from mister patanjali himself (the 'father' of modern yoga, and the scribe of the yoga sutras)...and lets start at the very beginning of the 8 fold noble path of yoga...
in brief, patanjali likened the different practices of yoga, to a tree, with each branch neither more or less important to another...these 8 'limbs', are: yama (worldly observances), niyama (self observances), asana (postures), pranayama (control of energy, prana, through the breath), pratyahara (drawing inwards away from the outward sensory experiences), dharana (concentration on a chosen object), dhyana (meditation, or total absorption with that object) and samadhi (a state of oneness, or, enlightenment).
most of western yoga, and i say this with equal concern as well as respect, chooses to concentrate on asana, or postures, as the 'main' aspect of yoga practice, and yet patanjali hardly offers much guidance in this area..however, for the purposes of this post, i want to focus curiousity on the first limb, yama.
'yama' is often descibed as a 'restraint of...' certain behaviours..almost a list of should nots...the 5 yamas mentioned in the sutras are: non-harming, non-lying, non-stealing, non-abuse of our sexual energy, and non-grasping....yet why does he not just say 'be kind, be truthful etc...'?...surely thats what he means?
and yet, it is precisely the wording of this list that shows us exactly how we can work with these 'intentions', for that is what they feel to me to represent...intentions..just like what we all make at the beginning of every new year...with all the wishing in our hearts and bones to be kind, to be honest, to be living in a state of graceful flow, we are simply human, and to jump from one way of behaving straight into another does not bode well, and ususally does not last long...so what patanjali suggests, and im so with him on this one, is to take one lil step by lil step at a time...so instead of suddenly becoming the most honest person in all of manchester, for instance, start the practice of non-harming gently....
first, we need to notice each time we go to 'harm' either ourselves, or each other, through our thoughts and words and actions...we need to begin by cultivating the witness aspect of the self, to observe when we 'fall down' into that particular habit pattern..we may still do so for a long time, but we start to notice this more...and then comes a time when we realise we have a choice, either we react in the old way, or we can choose, just in that moment, to respond differently...each time we do so we start to create a new pattern, one more in line with our hearts and higher self...
its not enough just to quickly change behaviour...most of the time it isnt the actual 'behaviuor' we need to address, but the underlying reason for doing it in the first place...perhaps, as we appraoch each choice with awareness, we may find that underneath, we meet our loneliness, or hatred, or sadness...normal human emotions, but ones we chose to cover over long ago with those exact patterns we want to change
i realise i have written a goddamn essay here, and those of you still reading i offer gratitude for your interest in these words...before i sign off though, something else about the word 'yama'...Yama is also in hindu mythology, the god of death....and it is exactly this dying of our ego patterns that happens when we begin to practice the yamas...as we slowly and gently shed the leaves, and maybe one day the root of certain habits, we are transformed and more energy becomes available to us.
so, be gentle with yourself..have compassion for your journey, and remember, lil step by lil step is the way.
blessings, love and joy to you