If you’re anything like me, you may view New Year’s Resolutions as just another chance to set yourself up for failure. After all, how likely is it that you’ll really only eat whole, unprocessed foods or exercise daily for the next 365 days? Last year, I resolved to meditate 10 minutes daily with a caveat that I wouldn’t beat myself up for missing a day now and then. Even that moderate resolution fell to pieces by about March.
Lately, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of integrating the Resolution with the Intention. Before many yoga classes, you’re invited to set an intention for practice, a way of drawing the mind inward, away from the world and toward your goal or intention of choice. Again, if you share my monkey-brained tendencies, you may find this invitation frustrating rather than, well, inviting. When the monkey mind is asked to focus, it often does anything but. Perhaps this is laziness on my part, but what if you could set a New Year’s Resolution that could then ALSO be your weekly (or occasional) yoga intention? What if you could integrate the best of the intention with the best of the resolution?
Look first at the two words: resolve, intend. Resolve, as a verb, makes me want to clench my teeth and push through the pain. There’s a steeliness about the idea of resolve, a gritty set of the jaw. Intend, on the other hand, strikes me as a little more compassionate. If you intend to do something, there’s a built-in release valve, a way to graciously let yourself off the hook. Choosing intend over resolve for just that reason can get dicey, though: “Gee, I’m sorry. I intended to be nicer to you this year, but golly if the year didn’t just get away from me!” But remember, we’re not choosing between resolve and intend, we’re examining them for their best qualities – resolve: discipline; intent: compassion – and combining those ideas.
Part of my problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they happen only once a year. Inevitably, I need reminders about these big changes more frequently than annually. Setting an intention occurs with greater frequency, whenever you attend a yoga class. In rolling the New Year’s Resolution into the setting of an intention, you’re building reminders into your goal setting. It’s a lot like setting yourself up to succeed (or to become a nag, depending on your perspective). It’s not taking the easy way out, it’s integrating the best of both ideas – a big, bold, brassy resolution with the gentler reminders of intention – again a set-up for success.
For 2012, I’ve chosen satya, or truthfulness, as my reso-tention/inten-lution. Does that meant that come midnight 12/31/12 I expect to have accomplished truthfulness? Crossed it off my task list? Of course not. I have purposefully chosen a resolution much bigger than my to-do list with the expectation that, as I gently set my intention each week in yoga practice, I will strengthen my resolve to be more truthful in other areas of my life as well. As I practice truthfulness in class – am I being honest about pain versus intensity? am I stopping to ask questions when I don’t understand? – I expect I’ll begin to see other opportunities for honesty off the mat, as well.