It’s that time of year again when we vow to lose weight, make rigid resolutions, plan to go to the gym more—and not just for a juice or a protein shake—and generally hope to turn our lives around. Of course, we all know those gym memberships go unused from February onwards; diets don’t work and resolutions are made to be broken, so instead, I like to think about intentions at the beginning of each year.
I know that 2016 was a terrible year for many people, punctuated by the all-too-frequent deaths of childhood heroes and heroines right up to the finish line; and some pretty challenging voting results on both sides of the pond.
While, yes, these affected me too, the biggest event in my world was coming face-to-face with my mortality and being unable to deny that this life is short and needs to be as sweet as possible. A funny thing happens in that moment. If you pay attention, you know exactly what matters. Of course, the problem is, that when life starts back up it can be hard to keep your eye on the prize.
And that’s where intentions can help.
It was my dear yoga teacher, Stephanie Snyder, (who incidentally is about to open her very own studio in San Francisco: Love Story Yoga – go check it out), who first introduced me to the idea of setting an intention. She invites us to do so at the start of every yoga practice. The thing about an intention is that it isn’t so inflexible as a resolution—which to me implies a lot of efforting and sheer will to make the darn thing come about. No wonder they rarely stick.
The other thing I find helpful is writing down my intentions. Not only does this help me articulate my thoughts, but apparently the very process of writing them down (or visualizing them) engages other parts of the brain and acts like a dress rehearsal. It makes it much more likely that your intention is going to happen. So if you’re not typically a writer, get out your phone, a pen, your laptop, and start jotting your thoughts down.
Here are a few intentions I have this year. I’m sharing them in the hope that doing so will add another layer of accountability and increase the likelihood of me taking action.
1. Avoid Suffering
I recently followed a YogaGlo practice of Steph’s, entitled “Future Suffering is Avoidable” in which she talks about four principles from the sutra: heyam dukham anagatam, that can help us live a more yogic life. These are: honesty, compassion, “I have all I need” and restraint. She encouraged us to pick one, and try to live a whole day following it closely. I intend to do this soon.
There is no question that being in the service of others brings happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment much closer within reach. When we take the focus off ourselves, it is amazing which doors open. I am setting an intention to do some service work with one of our Labs at a local homeless shelter. Her sweet nature could surely bring a ray of sunshine to anyone.
I’ve been advised not to say that I “must” or “should” meditate, but that I choose to. So I am setting an intention around choosing to meditate on regular basis and deepen my practice. I took a short ‘how-to’ class with Light Watkins at a MindbodyGreen event last year, and it was incredibly helpful.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… writing is a fundamental part of self-care for me and yet it so easily falls to the wayside when life gets busy. For instance, today is the first time I’ve written a post since the end of November! In fact, I’ve written two. (That’s what an 11-hour flight is good for.) In 2017 I intend to write at least once a week.
Over the last few weeks I have been exchanging a daily gratitude list with someone I trust and while it only takes a couple of minutes, it’s amazing how it opens up the brain to focus on the positive things. I intend to continue this practice.
6. Loving kindness…
This is the the Buddhist principle that if we can act with kindness and compassion toward others, and especially toward our self, life gets lighter and better. Pema Chodron has written extensively about this, so I plan to re-read her book, which is on my nightstand, throughout the year, and not use it solely as a coaster.
I’ve saved the biggest for last, and perhaps it sounds silly, but I intend to be open to love – from any quarter. Whether it’s from a friend, my son, or romantic love. Life is better when you live in love. Don’t you agree?
I wish you a phenomenal 2017 – may your intentions stay with you and your heart’s desire find you.