“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis
Nothing propels me more than setting a goal and seeing it through. For good or bad if I scan over the entirety of my time on this earth, even as a small child, I have always been this way. This tendency to set a goal and focus in on it with extreme tunnel vision has (at times) served me very well. The downside of being so goal oriented however, whether this has ever been conscious or not, is that it often feels as though full, sustainable happiness is always just on the far side of my next goal.
This fall I set and completed a new goal. I committed to 40 days of consistent yoga practice. This sadhana was being offered at the studio I work at and the timing of it felt serendipitous. Feeling stuck in the midst of a bumpy section of my path and in my life I needed something to focus on. As I approached the first day of the yoga intensive I considered quite seriously what intention I wanted to set for myself and this time (a common element to asana practice). I decided that what I wanted to focus on for my intensive, and for my life in that moment, was moderation and more specificly the fourth ethical discipline of yoga, Brahmacharya.
Historically to practice the discipline of Brahmacharya one was compelled to live a life of celibacy through self restraint and the retention of semen and life force. There is something to be said for this level of devotion and unwavering self control. However, what I was interested in were the other areas of life that one could purely and thoughtfully apply moderation.
Patanjali, the great sage and yoga philosopher, stressed emphatically the importance of continence of body, of speech and of mind. As yogis we must work to be mindful and aware of all that is put into the body, all that leaves us through the power of our speech and all that we allow to busy the spaces of the mind. It was in these areas I wanted to really give some careful and focused attention to my life.
For the first few days as I sat down on my mat at 7am and drew myself into a space of quiet awareness of my body and my breath I tried to harness a moment of acknowledgement for my practice and for my intention of Brahmacharya, but something very strange began to happen. Even from the very first class of the session as I arrived on the mat there was a different word and idea that began to race to the forefront of my mind. This new intention became even more powerful to me than my initial calling to moderation… I began to focus simply on dedication.
As the days and the weeks of the intensive went on I realized that my intention of dedication carried with it both a force and a freedom. For the first time in a very long while I was giving myself the opportunity to commit to something without needing to feel heavily weighed down by the outcomes. The goal therefore became simple, show up and do something I love for 40 days and while doing so make a conscious commitment to simply honour myself. By dedicating myself to my practice, to my growth and to my heart I automatically gave myself room to practice moderation without feeling like there were conditions to my success. Instead I was giving space for something wonderful to happen and moderation in all forms developed naturally through the simple action of this dedication. In seeing this clearly there was no way to be defeated by my goal and also no expectation of the benefits I would reap upon completion of the goal either. The benefits instead simply became the clarity and ease I could create for myself through practice. All I had to do was show up.
In truth, I will probably battle with the discipline of moderation for many years to come, perhaps for all my years. It’s an interesting balancing act walking through this life and learning what works for the body and the mind. Perhaps I will always struggle with a love for salty food, struggle with my ability to express myself clearly and with love and struggle to keep my zillions of worries from taking over the fullness of my mind… But perhaps by just remaining dedicated to myself and to this practice in time these things too will find there own perfect balance in moderation.
Dedication… Thank you for being there for me when I needed you most.