Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Make Your Resolutions Stick, aka I Think I'm Catching On

"There's a push and another push, the necessary dyings, the ground crumbling that lets wildflowers come up." - Rumi

The last day of January seems fitting to talk once again about resolutions or intentions, whichever you prefer, since by this time, folks have either tucked them away for another day or are making some headway.  In my last post on looking back at the gifts received in the previous cycle, I indicated that while my resolution-setting process looked much the same as in previous years, the outcome was actually quite different.

Much to my surprise, instead of dutifully making a list of all the projects I’d like to embark on, both ways to “fix” myself and things I think I “should” be doing (both of which turn out to be forms of self-loathing in a not so brilliant disguise) in the quiet aftermath of contemplating the previous cycle, a new question arose from within.  What’s next?  What is emerging?  What qualities are wanting to be more fully expressed in me?  I could feel these starting to bubble up from deep inside weeks before as the next natural direction in which to turn my attention.  There was no question, it was obvious. And so what next arose, effortlessly, was a very short, precise list of practices to support the emergence of these nascent facets of my being. For me these qualities are softness, easefulness, receptivity, and even (especially) vulnerability.  And the supporting practices: staying at home more and making my home a place I enjoy settling into, making more eye contact with folks – really seeing and listening, and establishing a longer regular meditation practice.  Now, staying at home more (and the attendant disciplines of eating less, drinking less, and spending less) and a regular meditation practice have been on my resolution list for years, YEARS, which obviously means something wasn’t working.  And yet, all of a sudden something is working, and these things have been mostly easy and even joyful; I haven’t even had to set an alarm and I’m up for meditation practice!  I’m shocked, truly.  What I’ve also noticed one month in is that at the times that I’ve not quite done what I’m wanting to do, there’s been simple observation and recommitment, no guilt, no self-flagellation, no giving up until next year, no drama. Geez, what a freakin’ relief. 

And the practices are having their desired effect.  Even though I’m as busy (and by that I mean engaged) as I was before, it feels easeful most of the time.  I even ran into someone I don’t see often in the grocery store the other day and she commented on how soft and grounded I looked. Wow.

So, what has been the difference?  How has the shift occurred?  I stopped trying to fix from the outside in to conform to what I think I should be doing and started working from the inside out, listening to this bigger flow of energy that is moving in me, as me, for me.  For the Anusarans among you, this is precisely why Open to Grace precedes Muscular Energy in our alignment principles.  First, get soft, sensitive, receptive, then the efforts that you apply will be loving and serving of the highest, not hard and punitive, and they will be more skillful and therefore more effective. You can do more and better with less. But isn’t that first principle the hardest to really get and teach, since we are so used to doing?

Even though these what seem to me to be seismic shifts appear to have happened all of a sudden, overnight, they actually have happened all of a sudden, overnight, after sixteen years of practice.  It’s been the sixteen years of practice, of internal investigation of the physical body, and then the energy body, and then thoughts and habit patterns, that have set the stage to hear the true voice within, to become sensitive enough to even be able to ask the question “what is wanting to arise from within” and then to hear the answer. In his book, Meditations on the Mat, Rolf Gates says that “When you do yoga, your bad habits drop you.” And in Christina Sell’s recent book, My Body is a Temple, she says that yoga invites us to a timeline that we are not generally familiar with. “This will take some time,” in other words.  Yet the time it takes is not most effectively nor efficiently spent in trying to rip out everything we think is unseemly about us, but rather in being dedicated to showing up to any practice that invites you into relationship with yourself. Then, when you get even a glimpse of who it is you really are, your natural impulse will be to say “yes” and those things which prevent the sweetness within from emerging will begin to fall away.
Freedom by Zenos Frudakis
Brent Barnidge
I have always loved the image of the sculptor faced with a new block of his raw material.  They say that the material actually contains within it the complete work of art, and that their job then is to see that form and simply carve away all that is not that.  That is exactly what yoga does for us, over time, and sometimes all of a sudden - it removes all that which is not really us, the calcified structures of conditioned personality (arthritis of the psyche, anyone?), in the words of one of my teachers, Christopher Wallis.  If you’ve not checked out his work, you should! He describes the work in this way:  Give up the self-improvement project, ground down into your essence nature, and then "self-improvement" will happen out of love, in service to the highest, as an inside job, and the process will mostly be joyful.  I think I'm catching on.


  1. Hi there, Diane from prAna. I love this post. I love how you mention that “When you do yoga, your bad habits drop you.” This is such a relief and something I continue to experience in my life through practice.

    Thank you for reminding us.

    Excited about future posts!



    1. Diane,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. The blog is a new labor of love that I'm jazzed about. And yes what a relief when the bad habits go seemingly without effort, or at least without what we usually think of as effort!