Ever since I began studying Ayurveda, I’ve found it odd that people allow themselves extra sleep, comfort foods and general coziness in November and December and then when January comes along, all those things go out the window.
In the new year, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the myriad promises of a brighter, shinier you. People embark on rigid diets, commit to intense workout regimens and deny themselves the sensory pleasures of the previous months.
You know what? The only thing that has changed is the number on the calendar.
The weather certainly hasn’t changed, and the body’s needs for warmth, nourishment and grounding (to fortify the immune system and insulate against the cold) haven’t changed either.
Our Bodies Mirror the Natural World
In Ayurveda it’s understood that our bodies represent a microcosm of the environment in which we live. What happens out in the world affects our physiology. When we take our cues from the natural world, it requires less energy to stay healthy — both physically and emotionally. When we don’t pay attention to these natural rhythms, imbalances are more likely to occur.
We only have to look around us to observe what nature is doing. The landscape is generally quiet. There is minimal new growth to be seen. Plants are in a state of suspended animation, drawing nutrients deep into their roots. To the naked eye it may look like nothing is happening, but this time of regeneration is essential preparation for a surge of growth in spring.
Cultivating Clarity through Stillness
New Year’s resolutions tend to have a frenzied quality about them. Many people take action from a place of wanting to avoid feeling bad instead of having a clear sense of how they actually want to feel. Not that there’s anything wrong with channeling dissatisfaction to ignite change…the difference is in how you work with the energy.
As 2014 begins, take a cue from the natural world and dedicate some additional time for stillness and reflection before diving into this year’s projects. Block out even more time than you think you need. Like the plants do in winter, direct your attention into your roots — the ways you draw sustenance into your life — and see what you discover.
In what areas of life are you feeling nourished? In what areas are you feeling drained? Do you go to bed most nights feeling satisfaction in a day well lived or are you constantly putting off pleasurable activities in pursuit of an elusive goal?
As you reflect, you may find that this process brings up some discomfort. I promise, this is a good and natural thing. Notice the very human tendency to want to distract yourself from discomfort. See if you can hold steady and just be with the uncomfortable feelings a bit longer until you settle into a place of clarity.
Don’t shortchange yourself in this process. You are worthy of this time for yourself, and your mind has the capacity to hold a vast range of emotions and thoughts. Do some journaling, asking what the discomfort or dissatisfaction is trying to tell you. If you don’t want to feel drained or heavy or anxious, what does that indicate about how you do want to feel?
How Do You Want to Feel in 2014?
Author David Campbell writes, “Discipline is remembering what you want.” Without a connection to what inspires you, it’s easy to burn out on a new practice within the first month or two. When you’re clear on how you want to feel day in and day out, it becomes easier to say yes to the activities and interactions that move you in the direction you want to go. Just as importantly, this clarity helps you to say no to the activities and interactions that distract you or actively move you in the wrong direction.
As you go through your day, do you want to feel bold, lighthearted, strong, embodied, loving, fiery, open, free, at ease, connected, powerful? If you want to feel bold, then practice doing everyday things that make you feel bold. Use your desired feelings to guide your choices, rather than believing it’s only possible to feel the way you want to feel once you reach your big, lofty goal.
If this process is challenging for you, Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map is a great resource for identifying your core desired feelings and then outlining the daily and weekly action steps to feel that way more often. I’ve found it to be immensely helpful both for myself and my patients.
Take advantage of winter’s stillness to ground yourself in how you truly want to feel in your life. From stillness comes clarity, and from clarity comes inspiration. Once early spring rolls around, you’ll be ready to ride the seasonal surge of energy right where you want to go.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.