My dear friends, as we head into the New Year, I want to wish you only the best of the best for 2016.
By this I mean: first do no harm. Especially to yourself.
You can start off 2016 on a fabulous note by NOT making resolutions.
Winter is possibly the crappiest time to launch big shifts (hence the fact that most resolutions go kaput within weeks). ‘Tis the season of yin (yay!), and of the most mysterious of the four directions, the North, which the ancient Hebrews called Tsafon, or the place of concealment, where things are hidden — not so much scary as soulful, as in the dark night of.
You can instead birth your new self much more effectively in the spring, when the cycle of regeneration is living and breathing all around us. (Shameless promotion: we’ll be doing a passion-infused goal setting session at our Mexican Jungle Yin Yang Yoga Retreat.)
For now, consider focusing on a longer term intention, what the ancient yogis called a sankalpah — which you might think of as a affirmation of how you want to show up in the world. Judaism has a similar tradition which Benjamin Franklin followed, that of adopting one of the 48 middot, or qualities you want to embody. Pick something you want to work with over a period of time (such as until the daffodils peak their sunny little cupolas past the topsoil) and find an easy way that you can say it to yourself over and over again, like: “I’m the calm in the center of the storm” or “I’m generous with myself and others, knowing the returns I’ll receive will be better than Facebook stock.”
If mantras and affirmations are too woo-woo, choose a theme word. (Mine will be “upgrade”: Yael 2.0 coming to studio near you.)
It’s not that I don’t think it’s important to have goals, it’s that it’s important to have goals that totally fire you up. The best goals — meaning the ones you’ll achieve — require a lot of agni, Sanskrit for fire which brings us the word “ignite.”
Agni is a fundamental principle of Ayurveda, which is understood as both digestive fire — the metabolic force that turns matter (food) into energy (calories) — as well the spiritual phenomena of transformation. With all the stimuli in our world, we have an awful lot to digest, both literally (Christmas dinner!) and metaphorically (information, conversations, relationships).
One of the best ways to light your agni up is to pre-select things to digest, which we can think of as elimination on the front end. Even the good stuff — the purest of fruit, the most high-cultured forays — is not going anywhere if your body can’t assimilate it. So this winter, let go of what you can, keep yourself warm on the outside (fuzzy slippah time! self-massage-with-warm-oil-after-shower time) and inside (switch your salads for nourishing soups and stews), and make sure you take it easy, and press pause as often as you can.
(ps For those that want to start 2016 with a reflective practice space that interweaves yoga and writing, consider coming to my next Pen & Pose workshop, offered in DC on January 9th.)