Opening to Love ~ Intentions for the New Year
Moving into a New Year, what we generally hear are the ringing in of resolutions, renewed hopes for better days, leaving behind pain; all the bad things we'd rather not remember from this our most recent year past. Resolve to change, to be better, to do better. This one, 2016, I think most of us can agree, was fairly fraught with pain, fear, loss, and grief of all kinds. The 2016 spectrum of loss and grief is long, tall, wide, and deep. While much of what we can agree upon as a people has been called into question, I think, on this, we can all concur: 2016 has been a hard, painful year.
I have never been much on resolutions. Rarely do we keep them (full disclosure: I have never kept a resolution in my entire life) and though they usually have to do with something seemingly good for us, generally they also come from a place that says, "There is something wrong with you that needs fixing." And then, when we do not keep them, we get to find more reasons to feel even worse about ourselves.
Far more preferable, in my opinion, are intentions. Yes, I know what the adage says about intentions and the paving of roads--good, bad, or otherwise--and I think whoever made that one up didn't quite understand intention. Intention has to do with thoughtfulness; about our aims and objectives, about purpose. Intention is about paying attention. When a yoga teacher talks about setting an intention at the beginning of class, what she's doing is asking you to think about what it is that you would like to receive, to accomplish, or what you might like to bring your attention to in the space of time in which you are practicing the thing called yoga. A good teacher then asks you at some point to remember your intention. She may ask you to recall it again at another point in your practice. And again at the end. She may ask you to carry that intention out into the world.
I remember listening in such an instance to a yoga teacher-- as well as to my own constant inner dialogue--which all of us have--and saying to myself, "What does that mean? Intention? What does she want, what should I be thinking of? What is a good intention?" (probably not without some ingrained thoughts about paved ways to varied Underworlds and possibly other real or imagined places I didn't want to visit). In that hour and a half though, I came to the realization that what having an intention really means is to have some idea, some hope, some goal which, infused with good will, hope, and ultimately, my own force of love, can eventually have some effect, impact and influence upon my life. Possibly also upon my the lives of my family, my friends, my circle of existence. Perhaps in the larger world in which I live, of which I am a citizen on this planet we call Earth.
Despite their reputation, intentions are kind of a big deal. Intentions mean quite a lot. They mean a great deal. In my own life, day to day, moment to moment, I can change absolutely anything and everything with my intentions.
On that day, that realization, in that yoga class, was a revelation. I can change anything and everything with my intentions.You can do that too. We can do that collectively.
What is even more amazing is that intention can be a revelation every single day for each one of us.
What if we could all have intentions instead of resolutions this 2017?
What if we all intend to be more present to our experience in the moment with others?
What if we intend to practice kindness toward others daily?
What if our intentions as a collective people--as a planet--were to be more compassionate?
In all things, to all beings?
Can you imagine the changes?
I think you can.
What if we intended to learn whatever we can from whatever situation we are in, with whomever we happen to be next to?
I do a lot of things in my life, but truly, the more I do and live and work, the more I realize that yoga is the underpinning of everything. The word yoga means union. Yoga is about the unification of us all. For each of us individually with each aspect of our inner selves, and for us as separate individuals cultivating the recognition that we are more alike than we are different, for us as an entire people to recognize that we are all One, living here together on one planet.
This is yoga.
Yoga teaches us that we are whole and perfect as we are.
We don't need resolutions to be better. In fact, the essential teaching of yoga is that we are whole and perfect as we are.
Right now. In pain, in grief, in what we may perceive as a state of complete deprivation and heartbreak. Yoga teaches us to accept who we are, where we are, how we are right now. Yoga points us toward a knowing that we are more than our feelings, whatever they are, while allowing and supporting our experience in life as it is right now. Yoga helps us see ourselves, our world, the universe, even our beloved dead, differently--in ways that can lead to peace, even within pain. Yoga allows us to be exactly where we are, when we are. Yoga supports us in accepting where we are physically, cognitively, emotionally, mentally, spiritually in this moment—and then in this one, and again in this one, and when it changes, now, in this moment.
Yoga teaches that we are whole and perfect just as we are, even if and when we do not believe it for ourselves.
What if we intend to see that as a true possibility?
Really--what if we intended to see that as a true possibility?
I am whole and perfect, just as I am, right now, exactly as I am.
What if, right now, we all decide to create an intention to be as compassionate as possible toward ourselves? Knowing that if we do that; if we truly do that, we can also be as compassionate as possible toward others whom we come across in this life. Whether those are our nearest and dearest or those we meet in the street. At the gas pump, in the grocery store, at work, at school, in the doctor's office, at the gym, at church, temple, in the woods,in the club, on the mountains, the beach, the mall, the spa, the side of the road, the bank, your neighborhood, in yoga class, the soccer field, your mom's house, your best friend's house, the neighborhood bar or restaurant.
Can we find that anyplace can be the place where we can have the very best of intentions for ourselves and also for those we meet?
What if we intend to see all of life as yoga, as love, as union? Just imagine that. How amazing that would be.
I am setting my intention right now and you are part of it. This is my intention.
I hope you will join me.
Mudra Practice ~Namaste~
Most people who have taken a yoga class have seen, and most likely engaged in the practice of taking anjali mudra (see photo above).
The pressing together of the palms calms the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This is true no matter the placement of the hands. When we place the joined palms at the heart center, we calm our minds and bring our attention to the beating of our hearts, noticing our own rhythm in that specific moment of our life.
Bringing the palms together at our heart center, we bow our head. We say,“Namaste." We say this to the teacher, to the other students, to ourselves.
The word and the gesture, is a common greeting throughout India and other parts of Asia. Nama means “to bow." As means “me,” te is “you.”
Nam-as-te = I bow to you.
The bowing and the greeting is in acknowledgement of the Divine within.
The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.
I see and honor the love, the light, the beauty, the depth, the fullness, the bounty and the fire of creation that is within you because it is also in me.
My soul recognizes your soul.
Each of us is an extension of the Divine Source. This common daily practice that can seem trivial, even rote, recognizes that each of us is part of God; that we ourselves are part of the Divine.
This is a truly profound act.
I see, acknowledge, and bow to the Divine, which makes Its home in your heart and in mine.
I bow to you as the Divine.
Karla Helbert, LPC