I can’t believe I did that!?
How many times have we said this to ourselves? We have been changing our way of being for months or years, and then – BOOM – out of nowhere an ugly habit rears its head. We look back and say to ourselves, “I thought I was over this”. “I can’t believe I did that again”. “I must be slipping, or even worse—all of the change I’ve made isn’t real now and here is the evidence that I’m not okay”. This is not true.
We are OK. It makes sense that we slip back into difficult behaviors. This is how we humans work. Our old patterns don’t magically disappear (although we’d like them to most of the time). They slowly get overtaken by new ones. Even in the the famed Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is reference to the need to practice for a long time before it really takes a hold. We need to step back and take a longer view to actually see what is going on for us.
So what are the real signs of progress? It isn’t whether or not we binged last night. It is what we do after that counts. It is all about resetting ourselves and finding our practice again. Doing this takes effort as well as acceptance. The downward mental spiral where we judge our difficult behaviors is not useful. We accept where we are and then we use appropriate effort to practice, make sure to eat breakfast, go to bed on time, etc…
As we progress on our path, we see that our troubling behaviors lessen. Maybe last year we binged 3 times a week and this year we find ourselves binging once a week. Or maybe we fall out of our practice for a week before we reset but there have been times in our life that it was 6 months before we caught ourselves.
The more we accept where we are—celebrate our successes (no matter how small they seem) and accept the more difficult aspects of ourselves—the easier it will be to find our way toward living peace.
May we all accept what is, so that we may live fully today.
What stresses us? The unknown. When we are vague in our plans for self betterment, often we wind up unsuccessful. When our atmosphere becomes cluttered with unclear intentions and judgement, our mind becomes preoccupied with no consistent resolution. This is a stressful cycle.
We wind up here often because we have a misperception of freedom. We all want to be free but we get confused about what freedom looks like. At first glance one would think that having no specific plans creates freedom. These general intentions might look like, “I’m going to work out every day” or “I’m not going to eat too much”. These seem like reasonable goals/intentions yet the reality is that this generally constrains us. These thoughts to better our lives, although well-intentioned, are in-specific and keep us bound. When are you going to go to the gym? And on what days? What other aspects of your life must change for you to accomplish this goal sustainably? Do you intend to get there while maintaining a yoga and meditation practice, working your full time job, and walking the dog twice a day? Are there other factors that might be in the way of you reaching your goal? This week or this month? The holidays might be an example of another consideration.
We are free when we are experiencing contentment. Our mind becomes more still and we feel like we have room to breathe. Contentment comes more easily when our mind is functioning out of what is known with minimal vagueness. For generations, Yoginis have lived regulated lives for this purpose.
So what do we need to do? Make a plan! Keep it simple by building in a little space for your intention. From this place, you can experience the freedom born of contentment! Make a plan for the next 30 days. Build in the ways you plan to move and eat. Account for the holidays. Are you really going to do your practice or go to the gym on new years day? Or are you more likely to take a walk? Are you likely to stick to a really austere food plan through the holidays? Or are you better off having a plan to avoid one or two foods that cause you to binge?
Most importantly, once you make a specific plan, enjoy the freedom it creates. Allow yourself the space to not make any more decisions on these matters for a month. Your stress will be reduced by not adding more unknowns. You will find more contentment and happiness moving in the way that you’ve previously decided, without the extra judgement. You will find it easier to “stick” with your simple plan knowing that you will have the freedom to reassess in a month.
May we all have a taste of freedom into the new year.
And as always, please email with any questions.
Om Shanthi, Om Peace.