Research has shown that one of the keys to true and lasting happiness is a belief in the way the world works. Well, at least something a little more positive than “heading towards chaos.”
One of the prominent belief systems that supports the philosophy of yoga is that the universe runs in cycles. Specifically, creation -> maintenance -> destruction.
Then, back to creation. Destruction is not the hell-fire and brimstone of finality. It is the means to wipe away that which isn’t working and make way for that which will.
In general Hinduism, these three steps in the cycle are personified in a trio of deities. Brahman is the creator. He is light, wisdom, and intelligence. Krisha maintains. He is stable, strong, and supportive. Shiva is destruction. He dances away the existence (of things).
Shiva is graceful. He understands that all things must end. The only thing eternal is Purusha – the universal principle.
When Shiva has destroyed, he has made way for Brahman – again. Brahman will come when he’s ready.
As we change the calendar, we go through the transition from destruction to creation emotionally. Once the emotions are invested in something, the body and mind are easily guided, too.
This is why the idea of New Year’s resolutions is so easy for us to continue. We want to change. We want to be this extra, other, better, thing.
And so we rush to create a list of new check-boxes to complete. Our year’s goals!
Most of us pick a day and say “I’m going to create my New Year’s Resolutions.” We sit down and write down – or even just think about on a train – these goals that will guide the rest of our year. Then, we dive in! Assuming, of course, that we have the dedication; that our emotions are invested in those goals.
In this process, we give but a short window to Brahman. Yet, in the Trimurti, creation is equal to maintenance and destruction. Creation is wise and intelligent. Creation comes in the space after destruction, not directly on it’s heels.
Neural pathways. Samskaras, in Hindu philosophy, are imprints made in the mind from our actions. Since the imprint is already in our mind, it is easier for us to repeat the action – even if the result of the action was negative.
Science points to something called neural pathways as responsible for tendencies and behaviors. Essentially, they’re the recordable equivalent of samskaras. Habits are easier to repeat because we’ve already got a path built in our brains.
When presented with a situation, the time we have to process it is inversely proportional to the probability a samskara or neural pathway will be used to decide the action.
How many times has “get healthier” or “spend more time with family” appeared on your resolutions?
While these are things that we likely desire, our emotions are not invested in them enough to override our behaviors and making the resolution itself becomes a habit.
Create Something You Don’t Want to Destroy
Rather than sitting down and scribbling a couple “goals” down, take some time. Allow the space for intelligence and wisdom to be involved in the creation. Maybe take a notepad with you and if something pops up in your head, write it down.
Mull over some ideas. Consider the “why” of your knee-jerk goals. Ask friends what you seem to always say is missing in your life.
Creation doesn’t happen while destruction is happening. It happens in the space that follows. Give yourself that space.
Yoga was meant to be practiced in the real world, not simply a studio. Take that philosophy and let your new resolutions come to you while you’re living your life, not while you’re sitting in a closed off room.
If you have a physical practice, consider holding some traditionally transitional poses for a few breaths. Flat back monkey for five breaths, sit still in table, or pause in low plank until I tell you to continue…