Do you have an end-of-year ritual? For the past decade or so, I’ve come into the habit of carving out time to do a mindful reflection on the year that’s coming to a close. I thumb through my datebook, journal entries and memory files, scanning for highlights and patterns. There’s not a goal or purpose to this review, rather, it’s just a closing out of accounts, so to speak, to honor the path traveled in the past 12 months. I’ve already started my new datebook (yes, I still use a paper calendar) and have just a few more pages to fill before beginning a new journal. I’m ready for 2019, but I don’t want to miss the gifts so often revealed in reflection before I do so.
While I’m personally not in favor of making a resolution- it seems to me a premeditated disappointment- I want to take what I learned in 2018 and carry it into the new year. I am past the point of believing that quick, wholesale change is on the menu, but I want to thrive more, struggle less and I understand that it is, to a large degree, in my control. And so, I’ve decided to have a word for 2019. When the idea first came to me, I didn’t really even know what that meant or what I would do with that word when I found it. But it has unfolded.
I started out pretty lofty. A logophile at heart, I wanted my word to be a juicy one. Joy, adventure, gentleness, creativity. Yes, I do want all of those things. But some of those items are quite difficult to directly cultivate. Rather, it’s more about creating the right conditions for them to appear or take root. For example, anyone who works in the realm of creativity knows well that there is no better way to frighten off the muse of creative genius than to command “be creative!” It is a thing that can be invited, enticed, seduced, but not necessarily called forth on demand. And so, what is it that would make the field of my life fertile for things like joy, adventure, creativity and gentleness? What do I really need? I found my word in my practice. Which shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, because that’s where I find pretty much everything.
A yoga practice, to be of any lasting value or significant impact, must be consistent. It’s great if you get on your mat for 90 minutes once per week. It’s definitely better than not at all. But you’ll really make the greatest strides if you do some amount of asana every single day. Likewise, 5-10 minutes of meditation 7 days per week is infinitely better than a 45-minute sit once in a while. When it comes to practice, consistency is everything. I feel it in my body after missing just one single day on my mat. And I won’t even talk about what happens if I miss more than a day of meditation. Let’s just say things unravel quickly. I assure you, there is rarely anything remotely profound or transcendent happening on my mat and cushion each morning. But there’s absolutely an almost imperceptible magic that builds when practices are strung together, day after day. There’s exponential value to the daily dose of movement, stillness, silence, and connection to that which is vast, timeless, changeless, infinite. And so it was revealed, my word is consistency. Sigh. How very practical.
But consistency really is what I need in order to thrive more and struggle less. I think we are all creatures of habit to some degree, perhaps more so for me than for some others. Outside of my yoga practice and walking Padma, I am consistent with approximately nothing in my life. Not my eating habits, my schedule, not my daily routine; not exercise, writing, cleaning, budget-keeping… you name it. And so I’ve come up with a few practical and simple areas where I want to lean into the consistency I know and love from my practice. I want to take my yoga practice ethic to some of the basics of my life. I think it will make a big difference.
Consistency off the mat
Consistency in the house. If you were to walk into my home on any given day (or even at any particular hour on one day) you might alternately label me a neat freak or a borderline slob. I do so much work from home- from running the business to seeing private clients- that the state of my home environment matters to me a lot, because I’m in it a lot. And the truth is, I really hate the mess; it stresses me out. My need for organization is akin to breathing, and yet, the current situation of clothes strewn from my closet, bedroom and bathroom toward the laundry room are like some kind of embarrassing breadcrumb trail for the non-existent laundress, who I am always hoping will apparate and take up residence in my guest room. Let’s not discuss the pile of paperwork that needs to be filed. Or accounting work to be updated. Perhaps the laundry fairy does admin work as well.
The mess never goes on too long, because it really does make me crazy. I get to a point when everything else must stop so I can dervish my way through the house as though readying it for the queen. It’s one extreme or the other: everything in its place or nothing in its place. The solution is like the practice. It’s so simple. Take it off and hang it up. Pull it out of the dryer and fold it and put it away. (Viva la Revolution!!) Go through the stack of mail and actually file instead of pile. I’m the only one who lives in this house. Well, besides Padma, but aside from leaving trails, tufts and tumbleweeds of fur everywhere, she’s really pretty neat. Being consistent with managing the mundane details of life would not only take away the pressure the mess weighs upon my soul, it would save me time to just do it in the moment.
Consistency with the schedule. Similarly, I work for myself insofar as I make my own schedule. Granted that schedule is made 18 months into the future at any given time, which creates its own pressure, but nobody else is randomly dropping meetings, appointments, workshops, retreats, trainings, classes, privates or anything else into my book. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, I hold the pen. Over the years, I’ve made great strides in taking regular days off and creating The Rules of Schedule Engagement for Sanity. However, much like the laundry, dishes and paperwork, I inconsistently address what is right in front of me and abide by my own rules. The rules that I created. The rules that I designed for my own happiness and wellbeing. What is that about?
In my annual review, I took a good hard look at this one. There are so many things that I want to do in the realm of my work. I want to teach more workshops, see more clients, do more volunteer work, offer more retreats, the list goes on and on. I love what I do. But I also need to honor my limitations, which seem to become greater with each passing year. Even more, I want and need to acknowledge my desire for the time and energy to have a life that is outside of this work that I love. And that can only happen with the consistent application of The Rules. At least in this past year, what occurred most to upset the order of things were brief periods of spaciousness (when I was following said rules) that felt so good that I’d drop extra items into my schedule. I mean, it’s all great stuff! And in the moment, I feel wonderful! But The Rules were created for a reason: to honor my limitations; to acknowledge my desire and need for life outside of work. I have even found the algorithm that works for me, I just need to actually apply the template- without fail- to create the necessary breathing room. Because the truth is that I serve the best- through work and otherwise- when I’m in that spacious place.
These are just two examples of where I see in myself these patterns of extremes, and this is perhaps why my practice serves me so well. The discipline and consistency anchor me to what is most important, tethering me daily, not just once in a while. Inviting that power to seep into more of my life might be helpful, and I am willing to try it. I don’t want a resolution or a mandate or even resolve in the matter. I don’t need something hanging over me, waiting for my failure, I just want to lean into some simple places with my unsexy, unexciting, non-transcendent word for 2019. I would like to apply consistency with small things in hopes that it will foster spaciousness and clarity. Because I believe that if that actually happens, those other words that I was hoping for- joy, creativity, gentleness, adventure- will blossom in that carefully tended field.
I hope you’ll take some time to look back over your year. The high and low points, the lessons, the patterns. Outside of any label of good or bad, it was necessary to walk the path we walked in the last 12 months. Perhaps as you review, you’ll find a word for yourself for 2019. Not a resolution, and perhaps, like me, nothing glamorous. But something helpful, and needed at soul level for you to thrive more and struggle less– to create for yourself an environment and a life which contains the balance and space necessary for happiness and wellbeing to flourish in 2019. This is my wish for you. Happy New Year.