It is that time of year again where tradition dictates that you make a New Year’s resolution or two, you know, all those things that you want to give up and change about yourself so that you can start afresh and tap into the whole “wipe the slate clean and begin again” attitude that prevails on a New Year.
And just as well right. Because many of us have just spent the last month overindulging and while that’s all good fun and all, well it just can’t go on like that forever can it, because heck there are only so many chocolates you can eat and parties you can enjoy without you starting to feel a little blah on the inside!
But it is a funny thing isn’t it. Because it is all so easy to make these resolutions when you are in the thick of it, high on the sugar and the Christmas and New Year festivities, but then 1st January arrives and it all becomes a bit of a cold turkey experience and you find that you have set yourself up for a big failure instead.
You see you had all these great images in your head of how it might be, how happy and healthy and great you will feel when you go on that big old diet and lose that perceived excess weight, or give up smoking or alcohol, or save a bit of money or be nicer to your family, or whatever it may be - heck you might even like to get fitter and regularly attend yoga again – but the process is a little more tricky that that.
And if truth be told New Year’s Day arrives and you feel a little bit on edge because not only are you shattered from staying up so late to see in the New Year but you have told yourself that you will make all these changes, and yet you quickly discover that this is not quite as easy as you had imagined.
So now you feel even worse about yourself than you did previously, because you are struggling to make the changes that you thought would make you happier and healthier, so here you are, feeling a failure instead and wondering where you went wrong and when things will ever change; when you’ll finally be able to stick to a diet, or resist buying that new item of clothing or whatever it may be!
And sadly this is the reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail because they are –essentially - established from the misguided ego and inherent conditionings that are based on this ridiculous assumption that you are not good enough already, so that you feel you have to “give things up”, or “be more of this or that”, when actually you are more than okay just as you are, if only you could recognise this and cease with the disempowerment tactics.
Furthermore New Year’s resolutions simply reinforce the illusion that your happiness depends on acquiring what you don’t have, be that a slimmer body, more money in your bank account or a whole heap of facebook friends. That somehow, if you were to make these changes, be different somehow, then you’d feel brilliant, your life would be a breeze, everything would finally make sense, a “yey, a result, I’ve made it to the other side” kind of thing.
But life isn’t like this. Our negative behaviour patterns and tendencies are often so deeply ingrained that it takes more than a will-powered approach to make the necessary changes, or to experience everlasting transformation. And often there is a deeper, more complex reason for the pattern or tendency that has established itself so that you may need to plant more seeds and change the perspective, rather than stay rooted in what already exists and try to push it away or give it up, without really appreciating what is underlying it.
I lost count of the number of New Year’s I tried to give up smoking. It was what you did back in the day, chain smoke during the festive period with the idea in mind that it was ok because you’d be giving up in the New Year. And then the New Year would arrive and there you were hungover and tired and all you wanted was a cigarette but you had told everyone that you were giving it up so you felt terribly miserable all day.
And then inevitably, the mind being the mind, by the evening you had managed to convince yourself that it would be too much of a shock to the system to just stop smoking just like that and actually you needed to cut down first and there you go, as soon as that thought has crossed your mind, you have taken yourself outside, lit the cigarette and inhaled those noxious fumes into your lungs again. Of course any temporary relief you experienced from that first cigarette was quickly replaced with a deep feeling of disempowerment, guilt and shame instead.
It wasn’t until I changed my mind set, my perspective then, and started working with “intention” (and a lot of yoga and breathing exercises certainly supported the process, I admit that) that I finally managed to let go (see, there was nothing to give up, only a lot to gain) of my addiction to nicotine and with that a huge weight off my shoulders and many happy New Year’s to come without the “giving up smoking” pressure.
It was a huge lesson for me and I continue to work with intentions to this day. You see a New Year’s resolution is all about setting quantitative goals, whereas an intention is an ongoing effort, so that it is flexible and adaptable and doesn’t judge you if you stumble and fall. It requires only of you that you feel whatever it is that you would like to shift, so, for example, you feel deep within you an urge to stop smoking, rather than it simply being in your head.
Admittedly the word “intention” may be one of those vague and convoluted terms that are thrown around quite a bit these days but with good reason for there is much power in intention. In its simple form your intentions are your thoughts directed towards a desired outcome – it is said that this is the starting point of every dream; everything that happens in the Universe begins with intention.
Thousands of years ago the Indian Sages observed that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The Upanishads (the classic Vedic text) declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As you desire so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny”.
So you see unlike setting a will-power based New Year’s resolution, an intention asks you to dig a little deeper and feel within, feel that desire to make a change. Furthermore an intention asks that you let it go – as Deepak Chopra says, it “is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Like real seeds, intentions cannot grow if you hold on them. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish”.
So how do you work with intentions?
Well first of course you need to decide on your intentions, what are your heart felt desires, your dreams, the things you would like to bring into your life or let out of your life, your inner callings? How would you like your world to look, what are your passions, what makes you tick, how do you enjoy spending your time?
Remember that the Universe is abundant and that you ARE worthy of receiving all that you desire. This is often a stumbling block for many; sometimes we feel so disempowered and we are so hard on ourselves, so used to punishing ourselves then and so lacking in our perspective that we don’t feel we deserve for it to be any other way. I am biased I know but yoga and Reiki certainly help one to come to terms with this and gain a more positive perspective about the self and one’s potential in this world.
Intentions should be positive, clear and felt. They have to resonate with you deep inside. You have to feel that “yes, this is a possibility in my life” – a crazy possibility perhaps, but a possibility nonetheless. Let go of fear and negativity, know that you deserve the very best in life.
So once you have established what your intentions are, then you need to plant them, which is a little bit like sowing seeds.
There are a number of ways you can do this and these are my two favourite ones that I work with frequently:
Sankalpa in Yoga Nidra
You can listen to a Yoga Nidra (guided meditation) and establish your intention in the form of a Sankalpa. Essentially a Sankalpa is a short, positive statement said in the present tense, as if it had already happened. You will be asked to repeat your Sankalpa three times at the beginning and end of the guided practice to imbed it within your subconscious mind so that it transforms the world you live in. The mind is incredibly powerful in creating your reality and a Sankalpa is a powerful way of planting a seed deep within.
Your Sankalpa could be to recognise what you already are so that it becomes more obvious to you, such as “I am happy, healthy and pure light”, or “I am whole and healed”, or it could be to encourage you to let go of something in your life like smoking or overeating but try and focus on the underlying feeling that leads you to smoke or to overeat so you could say “I love and care for myself and my body”, “I choose to eat foods that support my health and wellbeing” or “ I am relaxed and contented and smoke-free”.
I have worked a lot with Sankalpa’s over time and have found this to be a marvellous way of initiating everlasting change. In fact it was by working with this form of intention that I managed to let go of smoking all those years ago. This is the reason I ended up recording a Yoga Nidra so that others could have the opportunity to listen to it at home and effect positive change in their lives if they chose. It really is a gift.
Write them down
Another way to work with intentions is to write them down. You take a piece of paper and write your name at the top of it and then you simply write down all your intentions, again in the present tense as if they had already happened and again positive, clear and felt deep within. Then you fold up your paper, seal it in an envelope and if you are Reiki attuned then you can channel some Reiki on to it, before releasing the intentions out to the Universe. You put the envelope away in a drawer, or you burn it, but either way you must forget about it.
Well when you have done your Yoga Nidra or written out your intentions then let them go. Stay positive about them - they are much more powerful if they come from a place of contentment rather than from a place of lack or need – so don’t be influenced by other people’s doubt or criticisms. Try not to think about them and definitely do not try to control the outcome.
This is often the biggest lesson – detaching oneself from the need to control the outcome. The ego will often want to feel that it is in control so it will try and force things to happen but I can assure you (from experience!) that this will not only exhaust you but you may find that the outcome is not as good for you as the one that comes naturally, there will certainly be some challenges and complications to it!
Instead have faith and patience and trust in yourself and the organising power of the Universe in motion so that you acknowledge that everything happens in its own timing (not your timing). Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow the opportunities and openings to come your way naturally.
And finally, be kind to yourself. Acknowledge all the positive things that already exist in your life; be gracious for all that you have rather than focusing on all that you don’t have, and enjoy the opportunities and changes that will arise as a result of your shift towards a more positive and heart felt way of being.
You will be amazed how transformative the power of intention really is and I encourage everyone to give it a go to focus awareness into the New Year. You’ve nothing to lose right, and who knows where you may be as 2016 draws to a close...hopefully empowered and living more your dream.