The Yinside of New Year’s Resolutions. ~ Bernie Clark
Not everyone makes a resolution each January, but chances are you have at least once in your life made a New Year’s Resolution.
Think back over past resolutions and shine a light on them. What were they all about?
If you’re like most people, your resolutions were to change something about yoursel—either there was something that you were doing that you wanted to no longer do, or there was something that you were not doing that you vowed to start doing.
“I resolve to give up smoking, eat less, exercise more, spend more time with family, read more, finish that project … (fill in the blank).”
These are “yang” resolution relating to activities: resolving to do something or refraining from doing something, or in other words to change yourself or your life in some way.
These can be wonderful intentions and there are times, not necessarily only on January 1st, when we do need to tap into our yang energies and change the course of our lives, but to be balanced, we also need to look at the yin aspects of such intentions.
When we examine our resolutions we find that they are based on the unspoken assumption that the way we are right now is not good enough. There is a “should” lurking in our self-evaluation: we should be better, or different than we are right now.
Where is that assumption coming from? Why are you not content with the way you are right now, with the way your life is right now? Whose voice is whispering in your ear that you should be different?
Balance requires consciously honoring both the yin and yang energies of life. Yang is about change, movement, passion, climbing great heights and accomplishing great deeds. Yin is about acceptance, allowing, stillness, enjoying the present moment and doing small everyday tasks as if they were great deeds.
We are constantly urged in our society and in our culture to change, to improve, to seek what we don’t have and fix the problems we do have. Step back for a moment and really look at every ad you see, notice the way media portrays the “ideal” life, hear what advice your friends and family offer to you. It’s easy to fall into the belief that however we are right now is inadequate in so many ways. And, since we are so flawed, why not vow to improve? All we need to do is buy certain products, dress in a different ways, change jobs, relationships, locale…
Over the past many years, we may have done all of this and more, and yet, somehow, we still feel inadequate is so many ways.
This yang approach to fixing life is not yielding the promised results. It’s easy to blame ourselves for this failure, and that blame just feeds into the next cycle of change: we need to try harder or do more. It’s not a surprise that so many New Year’s resolutions lie broken in the gutter before the Christmas tree is taken away. We have tried in the past and still our culture deems us not yet good enough.
Let’s look at the yinside of all of this.
What is there about yourself that you can simply accept and not try to change? After all these years of trying to change, select something that you will simply allow to just be.
This is not easy! It’s counter-cultural and counterintuitive. Some examples could be:
“I resolve to accept my body just as it is right now!”
“I resolve to allow my anger/fear/depression to manifest without judgement.”
“I resolve to stay with my current partner/job/apartment/car/cat…”
“I resolve to let … (fill in the blank) … just be.”
Perhaps in years past you resolved to give up something, to lose weight, or stop eating desserts or you gave up chocolate (gasp!). The shadow side of that yang decision may have been losing joy and comfort as you deliberately restricted the amount of pleasure you allowed yourself. As a consequence you were unhappy and this unhappiness spread to the loved ones in your life.
This is not to say that these yang resolutions were unwise, but rather to point out that every decision and action has a consequence to it.
The key question to ask yourself is, “Am I better having made these resolutions in the past?” It’s up to you to define “better”— healthier, happier, more content, more balanced… If you do not believe you’re better off, then it’s time to revisit the intention behind your resolutions.
This year, why not resolve to accept something about yourself that you will no longer try to change or improve? You may even decide that this is the year that you accept something about someone else and vow to no longer try to change him or her! Sure, go ahead and consciously make a yang resolution to do or not do something, but why not add a yin resolution this New Year’s? What are you going to accept, allow and no longer try to change this year?
Let 2013 be your year of yin.
Bernie Clark has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1998. He has a bachelor degree in Science from the University of Waterloo and combines his intense interest in yoga with an understanding of the scientific approach to investigating the nature of things. His ongoing studies have taken him deeply inside mythology, comparative religions and psychology. All of these avenues of exploration have clarified his understanding of the ancient Eastern practices of yoga and meditation. His teaching, workshops and books have helped many students broaden their own understanding of health, life and the source of true joy.
Bernie’s yoga practice encompasses the hard, yang-styles, such as Ashtanga and Power Yoga, and the softer, yin-styles, as exemplified in Yin Yoga. His meditation experience goes back to the early 80s when he first began to explore the practice of Zen meditation. He’s the author of Yinsights and The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, and he manages the Yin Yoga website.
Ed: Lynn H.