Taking your yoga practice off the mat can play an integral role in helping you to make positive changes by helping you to be mindful-thus noticing where, why and when you go off track. Mindfulness helps us to develop patience and perserverance, two crucial qualities for creating new positive habits that replace the old negative ones.
Be dilligent and learn from your mistakes, don't beat yourself up nor be so lax that you keep repeating the same mistakes continuously.
Using mindfulness will help you to find the root of your vice, and as any gardener knows, if you remove the root and all, the weed will not come back. If you just keep pulling the leaves and shoots off at the ground, if you only focus on the symptom, your negative habit, it will continuously arise. If you find and destroy the root, you will succeed in preventing the plant, the negative habit will vanish, because you destroyed the cause.
Remember that in addition to destroying the root of negativity, we need to plant positive seeds to spout in the garden of our mind. Not only will this help us to accomplish our goal faster, but we will benefit others as well, at the very same time.
Using the Four Limitless Thoughts, as they are called in yoga, we can plant seeds of goodness in ourselves and others, speeding our path to lasting inner peace. The limitless thoughts are kindness, compassion, joy and equinimity. Limitless kindness means devoting ourselves to making sure those around us are happy. Limitless compassion means doing everything we can to end suffering and discomfort for all. Limitless joy means taking action to help others find inner peace. Limitless equinimity means applying these feelings and efforts to all, equally- not just our friends and family, but all people, all living beings, everything and everyone.
This is a tall order, but every positive deed done intentionally sows positive seeds within us that make it more and more natural to live with the 4 Limitless Thoughts as our primary motivation.
So we can set our goal on one petty or superficial change for ourselves alone, or we can set a higher goal for the good of all, which includes us as we help others.
I can say from experience that if you set your goal just for yourself, you may or may not succeed, but it won't give you the same quality of inner peace that a selfless goal will. In 6 years of practicing yoga & the 4 Limitless Thoughts, nearly all of the personal goals that I used to struggle and suffer to achieve have been met- naturally, almost without effort relatively speaking. Through doing the very best that I can (which some days doesn't seem very good at all!) to live with the 4 Limitless Thoughts as my primary motivation every day, I have achieved not only lots of little superficial goals, but I have found great deal of inner peace. At the same time, I have helped others to find some peace. There is perhaps no greater joy.
I may have a way to go, but I also have come so far. I have lots of gratitude for the grace, teachers and teachings that have illuminated my way so far.
I am renewing my intention to live the 4 Limitless Thoughts as my thoughts, and to dilligently practice yoga, mindfullness and meditation so that I can bring more happiness into the world for all, freeing all beings from suffering...
I hope that you will join me too.
If you are interested in finding and sharing inner peace this year, I recommend starting by reading these two books- quick and helpful reads:
THE ESSENTIAL YOGA SUTRA by Geshe Michael Roach- the basic text of yoga, this is a phenomenal translation, a book that I personally study and re-read often
THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle- if you agree or disagree with his introduction that is disatisfied with organized religion, the bulk of the book offers poignant and universal teachings to help understand the human mind and habits that create suffering. Quotes by Jesus and Buddha round out his offerings on being present