Ah… here it is that time of year again. Starting a new year — particularly after the one we just had — can be fresh, hopeful and inspiring. A new year is a time for change, and for many, a time for resolutions. Here are some thoughts about balance and moderation as you embrace this new year.
In my experience, it’s not uncommon for resolutions to be declarations of “all or nothing” attitudes or behaviors. Crash diets, vows of going to the gym every day, and visions of “perfect” behaviors come to mind. It’s also no secret that resolutions are left by the wayside once we hit February. Through the study of yoga (and years of discarded resolutions and self-loathing), I’ve come to learn that viewing myself only in these extremes is not in alignment with the teachings, or my internal, inherent truth.
In the book Meditations on the Mat, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison have this to say on the subject of brahmacarya, the fourth yama. “Although it is often translated as ‘chastity,’ brahmacarya is, …quite simply, a call for us to practice moderation.”
The book goes on to point to the root causes of extreme behaviors in the first place.
“At the core of intemperance in any form is the mistaken belief that we are not OK as we are. Convinced that we are imperfect, we carry real pain. The cause of our suffering, however, is not our imperfection but our mistaken belief in our imperfection. Acting under the erroneous assumption that we are imperfect, we reach outside ourselves to create balance, to end our suffering. Naturally this unsuccessful, so we redouble our efforts and demand even more. All our effort, all our striving, merely worsens our situation and deepens our conviction that we are somehow flawed. Caught up in this cycle of chronic suffering and misguided attempts to relieve our pain, we spend our days out of balance and in conflict with ourselves.”
So, when you look at your resolutions, ask yourself if they are coming from that place, a belief that you are not OK as you are. And what are the root causes of this belief? Answering those questions may indicate that applying an extreme resolution may be an act of self-sabotage. Yes, it may be necessary to give up alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors, to stop doing the thing that creates the imbalance. Getting to the root causes and taking mindful, conscious actions to make change can take courage, time, support, patience and perseverance, which, to me, feels more like self-study and self-love.
Here’s one more passage on the subject from Meditations on the Mat.
“When we choose to stay on the middle road though, we experience a sense of well-being. On the middle road I am free; in immoderation I am compromised, sidetracked, shackled to negative self-talk. As we experience these lessons, we begin to learn the extent to which the choices that we make affect our inner world. We begin to see that the only peace to be found comes through moderation. We eventually understand the hand we play in creating the world we live in.”
Here’s to meeting you on the middle road.
Yours in Yoga,
Michele Lawrence, Director