The holiday season and the New Year may create the opportunity for us to reflect on the past and identify our goals and aspirations for the future, if we choose to take the time. The challenge for many of us is the busyness of the season which makes it difficult to do this. If we never take the time to reflect and plan for our futures our lives end up being a series of patterns in which we become stuck doing things out of custom, ritual, habit and expectation. Years may go by with no checking in our self to see how we are really doing.
A habitutated way of living creates a bi-product of expectations which we project on our self and others. When we live with expectations we invariably find our selves suffering when the outcomes that we expect don't materialize, or our own actions lead to disappointment.
We can think of habituated living as living an unexamined life. There will eventual be a reconning for this, perhaps as late as the final moments before one's last breath. We need not wait this long.
True happiness comes from living an authentic life, one that honours our soul's purpose. If life is a series of habitual actions and attitudes we miss knowing our soul's purpose. Living a dream life with a family, a dog, a big house with the white-picket fence and financial wealth, does not necessarily equate to happiness. Underlying subtle and persistent tension which may not even be readily perpectable is a signal from our soul that we are not living our purpose.
Breaking the Habitutated Life Pattern
Yoga teaches us to understand how to step into observer mode. In this mode we are able to see our self act and be in the moment, to observe, to reflect and to witness from a neutral place devoid of judgment, criticism and analysis. We begin this journey on our mats while practicing poses and working with our breath. We "see" how our mind responds to various aspects of practice: conscious use of the breath, retaining the breath, working through challenging poses, holding poses, balancing on one leg, inverting the body, relaxing deeply, etc. Eventually, with practice, we are able to master our breath and our mind. Eventually we conscouisly choose how to be in the world.
Practicing this observer mode is the training ground for meditation. When we begin to systematically still the mind using various techniques, we get greater insight into our true essence. This is the departure from habiutated living; the reactive and habitutated way of being no longer has full-rein. We are able to find a small pause in any given situation and in this space consciously choosing how to act.
What regular practitioners of yoga find is that they begin making choices that are more aligned with their higher purpose. Old patterns of diet, lifestyle choices and beliefs begin to disappear, replaced by ones that are more consciously made. This is a fruit of practice known as "right thought, right action" with "right" meaning aligned to one's true nature rather than a social standard, custom or belief.
With regular practice of yoga we are able to drop into deeper stillness more quickly and use this place as a guide to our lives. We experience a deep connection with our source when in stillness. For those who practice this way you know the abiding peace, joy and love you feel in this space - an experience that is beyond the manifest world and one from which all humanity would benefit.
Equanimity is the Answer
Breaking out of the mould of who we are and what is familiar, comfortable and constant is not an easy task. Some might ask: "Why bother?" It does require effort and work, just like everything else in life that we want to achieve. The outcomes and benefits answer the "why".
With so many competing self-help modalities and systems why should one use yoga and meditation as their way in? There are many paths within the yoga tradition, no one path for all. Finding a teacher who can provide you with direction in the tradition is a huge help. Being open to a teacher and his/her input requires a degree of discipline and putting aside of one's ego, no easy task for some.
But even if yoga is not your path, find one that works for you. Finding the peace and equanimity that knowing ones true-self offers is really our birth-right. Life has a way of separating us from our true nature. The yoga tradition teaches that life's work is to align with our purpose and to realize heaven here on earth.
Hopefully this holiday season has offered you the space to reflect and take stock. There is no better time than now to commit to making some changes that could have powerful impacts on the rest of your life. Don't be afraid to act, it is often fear of change that keeps us stuck. If you're not certain about what changes you really need, get still, go inside, it is there where all our answers are found.