If your new year resolution list includes losing weight, quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol, exercising, eating more plants, reading more books, meditating, and spending more time with loved ones (and on and on), I urge you to go higher. In fact, take two steps back and a few steps up. What do you see? From behind, it appears you feel your lifestyle choices at the moment are not health-giving. The nitty-gritty shitty committee in your head tells you this cannot go on as it convinces you to reach for the bottle/pack/pills/cookies/new bag as soon as you wake up because “well, it’s the holiday spirit and all will change —tomorrow,” a scene not unlike I imagine the dramatic paradoxes playing out on political thrones everyday. [Sigh.] From up top, it is clear what you need is nourishment, for your mind, body, and soul. 2020 can be different. We just need to go higher.?
Let me tell you how.
The kids are back. Our house is a mess. There is dog hair everywhere. The kitchen is operational 24/7. The television is on from 6pm. And I am always asleep on the sofa by 8pm waiting for the girls to come home from outings with friends. It’s the holiday spirit. Family during the day, food, mess, dog stink.
New year resolutions that look more like “to-do-lists.” My dog has one too. She wants to entertain more in the new year. [Sigh.]
And home videos.
A few days ago, my daughter dug up old home videos from 2002. It was my 30th birthday. I had a daughter holding my hand, and one on my hip. I was so young. I recognized the look on the face I saw. It was exactly the same one I had today during my yoga practice: bit lip, gritted teeth, and get-on-with-it eyes yelling, “Push on. Get it over with. You will feel so good after.” It is always about after. Never now.
I know I tried my best to be a good mother. [Still am.] I read all the books, followed all the rules. I refused help because I was worried the girls would not recognize their mother if I did not put them to sleep —every night. I was pushing on, waiting for after. That 30-year-old with the cutest kids in the world was counting the days till the girls were grown and independent.
Even as I was drowning, I still knew these moments were special, especially those with the grandparents. The girls dancing madly around my father as he prayed. I noticed as I watched that I made sure to capture those times, particularly the joy on my father’s face. I wanted the girls to relive that love when they got older. My father’s face was not like mine. His was pure joy, fully present in that moment. Now. Maybe I wanted his face immortalized for the lesson he was teaching me.
Our faces are two sides of the same coin of “heart-full” living: one half-hearted, the other whole and divine. And they are very much the key to successful resolutions, or more like to-do-lists that may or not get done depending on the strength of a forever depleting will-power from some mysterious external source versus intention-setting drawing from an infinite well of strength from within.
I was given Taming the Kundalini by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 2017. It waited on my bedside table until I picked it up two days ago. (I will not remind myself and you of the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.”) In his letters to his disciple —refreshingly a female as I happily deduced— Swami Saraswati explains that the key to consciousness is to begin to shut out distractions of daily life and honour one’s values, in the form of daily devotion to a series of practices that keep us cleansed, energized, and focused. The cleansing involves shedding lifetimes of conditioning and teachings. The values will come, when the cleansing begins.
I will explain to you only if you come to me after emptying yourself of all the borrowed knowledge that you have acquired.
—Swami Satyananda Saraswati, 1959.
This “borrowed knowledge” is loaded and life-times old.
Here we are on the eve of 2019 setting resolutions while drowning in layers upon layers of consciously and unconsciously “borrowed” impurities. This might explain why most of our resolutions, every year, revolve around purity. Life is smacking us in the face trying to get us to the starting line of whole-hearted intentions.
Purity of the body, the mind, and the soul is the precondition to whole-hearted, powerful, and successful intentions. They call this purity a sattwic state, a life in which we are in balance, living in harmony both within ourselves and with the world around us. This is not new. This is an ancient teaching, as old as woman. And it is our default condition.
Intentions are called sankalpa in sanskrit, and they are an integral part of the yogic life. [Please don’t stop reading here. We are all along the yogic path. We all want happiness. We all want connection.] Kalpa means a vow or resolution and san refers to a connection with the highest truth. This means that our resolutions are already within us, ingrained in our DNA and transmitted to us consistently. Most of the time, it is too noisy to hear. That is why a sankalpa is made —or rather heard— when the mind is not intellectually active with nitty-gritty shitty committee chatter.
When the committee sleeps, the soul speaks.
A sankalpa is very much like sowing a seed, explains Swami Saraswati. It is planted deep in the subconscious where all is calm.
This deep and powerful seed will eventually manifest itself again and again at a conscious level and bring about changes in your personality and your life.
—Swami Satyananda Saraswati
He calls it the force of will, the will that comes from deep within and has no relation to the other fragile will we cling to that will help us to lose weight, exercise, and quit smoking. It is a very powerful instrument and its purpose is not to please shitty committees and fulfill desires, but to create strength in the structure of the mind and a direction for the whole life, to influence and transform the life pattern not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
When sankalpa becomes the directing force, everything you do in life becomes successful.
—Swami Satyananda Saraswati
The intention that is heard from the whole heart is in and of itself whole and much larger than our individuality and committees. It is aligned with our purpose, whether we know it or not, and has an intelligence of its own that requires no material assistance from external sources. It is quantum, and it is far greater than the intellectual capacity of our committee-operated mind.
By definition, a sankalpa should honour the deeper meaning of our life. A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma, our overriding purpose for being here.
Seane Corn reminded me of the Four Immeasurables. These are friendliness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity, and are all intrinsic to our humanity. Immeasurable, yes, but also infinite and intertwined with purity. They were evident on my father’s face as he soaked up the laugher of his granddaughters.
It is that simple. We seek purity. And nourishment. In all we do. Small changes done consistently. Devotional practices we adopt every day. And they start from within.
The rest will take care of itself.
Reflection is crucial. I have always believed that in our desperation to find answers, mostly in pills and fast-track solutions that numb our pain and with it our hearts but never the shitty committees, we overlook the questions completely. I say let’s dig deep, straight to the why. The deeper we go, the higher we connect. The higher we connect, the closer we are to the signals.
Living whole-heartedly begins with asking the questions. Our bodies hold the answers, literally in every cell, gritted tooth, bit lip and all.
Happy new year to you and your loved ones on earth and in heaven with my father. May all be happy. May all be safe and protected from harm. May all be healthy and strong. May all live with ease.