Monday, January 3, 2011

Change, Courage and Making it Happen

Many of us are on a mission to re-vamp our lives for the up-coming year. But most people who create lengthy lists of resolutions will sadly fail at making their visions reality. Why? I believe we are over-come with collective motivation. All at once, the masses decide to over-haul their lives and do almost everything differently! Lose weight, save money, make more money, get healthy, learn to surf, run a marathon. We want so badly to do all of these things in quest for the ultimate achievement: happiness. We embark on what feels to be an exciting journey with expectation and curiosity. For about a week after New Year's day, we collectively throw ourselves into life changing patterns of behavior and then...

And then life continues as usual. The world around us behaves exactly as it always did and the way we behaved in the past is the most comfortable means of continuing interaction with everyone in our lives. Part of the fear of change is knowing our desire to change may elicit negativity in others, most especially family and friends even when we want something good for ourselves. When we change on a deeper level there is a noticeable shift in how we live and those people lose a certain part of connectivity with us, and we lose it with them too. For instance, we may lose an eating or gossiping buddy. That fear can feel crippling and the people in our lives feel inadvertently betrayed. So instead of being supportive, they may actually make sub-conscious attempts to sabotage your efforts. And in your fear of losing someone, you may do the sabotage all by your self.

I like many, used to fall victim to the 100-goal resolution list every year. And every year, no more than a week would go by when I'd buckle and every habit that provided my creature with the comfort of familiarity would return. Every year disappointment showed up at my door like a pathetic moocher needing a couch to crash on. And every year I'd sigh and say to disappointment, "Come on in, let's have a stiff drink while we lick our wounds". Phew, that sounded super pathetic. But it's true. I could not for the life of me create the change I wanted. So I stopped making resolutions. And having had a ten year or so break, I'm back. But the way I resolve to change itself, has changed.

See, through my studies and practice of yoga I started to realize that no problem is EVER what it appears to be on the surface. EVER. And so to think that simply motivating to create change by changing the surface appearance of problems won't work either. The more we attempt these changes without actually exploring what seed the problem has rooted from, the more discouraged we become. It's like noticing a weed in the garden and saying"Oh, look at that weed. I hate it. It's ruining my garden. I am going to chop it off." As we all know, the appearance of the weed bothers us, but it is the roots of the weed that cause the real damage. We feel like failures. We feel incapable and inferior, when that is not at all true. It's just that looking at the problems that cause the problems seems daunting and, well, scary. For instance, as someone who has lost weight (and now keep it off) it took realizing that I was padding myself with fat to protect me from experiencing physically intimate relationships. I was afraid of my own sexuality. I also ate to distract myself from a deeply unhappy adolescence. The same can be said for my former smoking and drinking habits. Once I realized that I was hiding myself in fat and slowly killing myself in order to avoid certain aspects of life, I also realized that I needed courage to embark on real romantic relationships and distance myself from the home I grew up in.

To take it a step further, I had to understand what exactly courage is. Courage is not fearlessness. It is not bravery. Courage is way beyond all of that. Courage requires faith. Faith in whatever happens because what you are doing is frightening and you will feel scared and want to quit. Courage is not something you do...rather it is that special energy that gets you through the scariness. It reminds us that "this to, shall pass"' whatever it is. Courage invites us to experience fear and pain and explore their meaning. Courage does not look ahead or behind, it can only exist in the present. Courage walks with you in steps that are as tiny as you need them to be, but it also tells you when you can go bigger. If your goal looks like a big pool of frightening possibilities, then courage is the stroke you use to swim across. Courage is what we instill every step of the way with. It is a whispering voice that says "Yes" to you over and over again. The job of courage is simply to en-courage.

Courage continues, year by year to be a constant in my life. I find that sometimes I need more, and sometimes less. But it is an unfaltering friend and ally.

So as 2011 approached I asked myself where I find fault in my life. The answers were easy to come by, because I used courage to examine myself with a gentle yet discriminating heart. I found that I often leave things half finished, leaving loose ends at work and home. I fiddle around on with social networking and web-surf longer than I should. I often manage my time unwisely. I procrastinate on important things because I often fear the outcome of the choices I may make, as though any outcome could be "wrong". Yoga has taught me that there can be no wrong outcome. I get to choose my reaction to the outcome. So the surface appearance of my resolution is fast decision making and action...knowing full-well I will make mistakes. But the deeper resolution is actually learning to surrender to every situation and every moment without anxiety.

Now that I have learned a more sophisticated approach to change, I was able create guidelines for myself that will help me along the way. For instance, I put myself on a strict "computer time limit diet". This means 20 minutes for social networking and several other reasonable limits I set for myself. Two days in so far and I am so glad to not be staring at facebook for 1 hour straight...or more. And the best thing is that I now really understand what it means to resolve to do something. Resolve itself requires courage, and a "no looking back" attitude. It requires me to experience the inevitable, but temporary discomforts of change. And all of this means what we are all egtting after: happiness, contentedness, a sense of accomplishment.

Change Always starts with a little (or a LOT of) courage. I'd love to hear how courage has effected your life. When do you most need courage? What are your goals for 2011 and how will you achieve them? What other elements will be involved getting the results you seek? And most importantly, what now, in your life is so good that you feel compelled to change? What are some effective ways you have created lasting change in your life? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

May you have a most blessed, prosperous and peaceful year,

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