So you have written down your New Year Resolutions.
Now how do you stay the course over time and make them an integral part of your life?
There is one approach you may not have considered, but which we feel is quite valuable. It’s the sage advice offered by an ancient Vedic chant.
Here it is (transliterated phonetically):
Om saha nau-avatu
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejasvi nau-adheetam-astu maa vidvissaavahai
Om shantih shantih shantih
The first line means, “May we (nau) both (saha) be protected (avatu).”
Who’s to be protected?
In the context of this article, it is our own self and its freshly laid intentions that have to be protected. Why?
This probably won’t come as a surprise, but most New Year’s resolutions, however well-intentioned, very quickly fall flat on their face.
As a 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed, 88% of all New Year’s resolutions fail, despite the fact that slightly more than half of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.
Why do our best laid plans so often go astray?
Traditional yoga points an accusing finger directly at our own subconscious self with its store of self-defeating “energetic imprints” (samskaras) or habitual thought patterns, such as obsessive needs or unreasoning fears, which we’ve been accumulating since day one.
How do we counter the effects of these New Year’s resolutions wrecking samskaras?
Simply by cultivating imprints or samskaras of opposite patterns.
Once we successfully cultivate supporting patterns of energy in the deeper layers of our consciousness, the subconscious self transform to become, as though, our greatest friend who will continuously work for the successful realization of our intentions.
As the Gita explicitly says (chapter 6, verse 6), “the yogi who has won the self (subconscious self) by the self (the conscious self) finds the subconscious self as his/ her best ally.”
In short, we are our greatest danger and we are our greatest protection.
So how can we make friends of our two selves?
If we commit to a daily writing, journaling our daily life experiences in the context of our intentions and resolutions on a continuous basis, as an everyday ritual, then we will find our subconscious self start to participate in the writing. Soon instead of seeing journal writing as a chore, we will enjoy this time with our journal.
It becomes a common ground where both our selves—the conscious and subconscious—can meet and feed off each other, get mutually nourished and inspired.
New inspirations, insights, asana sequences and speech themes will start popping up, and our original intentions themselves start to expand towards a much greater potentiality than we first envisaged.
Toward this end, we have to live this second verse of chant—saha nau bhunaktu (May we both together be nourished and fed) by writing daily.
Amp up energy of both selves through envisioning
The third verse, saha veeryam karavaavahai’ means, may we both perform our actions with great energy. Now, to increase the energy and expand the involvement of both selves, conscious and subconscious, a great technique we might practice is the clear meditative envisioning of our intentions.
The neurology of this action is fascinating.
Researchers have found that the formulation of conscious intentions happens in the frontal lobes of our brain, and from there it’s relayed to the thalamus, and then to various other parts, including the occipital lobes.
This is where the brain creates images of information.
If we can consciously step in here, and help in creating a beautiful vision of our intention, then neural networks in the parietal lobes, the parts which assign a self to us, starts to assign a sense of self to this great vision which embodies our intentions.
This brings our intention, attention and self into a beautiful alignment; which in turn powerfully stimulates the brain and all its capacities all along the spectrum of consciousness to function skilfully towards the optimization of our intention.
Breaking it all down:
• Daily morning, look out through the window and into the sky. Something about the sky stimulates that infinite expansive possibility within us.
Now with the eyes closed, on the space of your consciousness, mentally write out the core value you wish to live out from today. It can be compassion, goodwill, equanimity, courage, truthfulness, abundance or any of the many values yoga invites us towards. Internally gaze at this for a few moments.
This gets the frontal lobes (the figuring out part of the brain) to figure out how you can live this very wholesome intention, rather than trying to solve the past, or what others might be talking about you.
• To activate the occipital lobes, clearly remember those occasions when you did act out of these values. Visualize yourself as in that moment vividly, and remember the goodness you felt. This will activate the dopamine releasing centers of your brain, and you will feel a surge of happiness flooding your being.
• Stay for a few minutes in this state and let the mechanism of the brain assign a “self” to this triadic intention, attention and vision. Feel a sense of silent power and confidence coming over you, as neural networks take form to support your intention.
• Now you are truly becoming an embodiment of your wholesome intention, which will not only flower into greater empowerment but also inspire others towards their wholesomeness.
What about the remaining lines of our opening chant?
Well, that is for another issue. Till then, don’t rest.
Write and meditate on your intentions daily! Then, ala the Vedic yogis of lore, ecstatically sing—te mayi sandhu, te mayi sandhu! (May all this happen in me, May all this happen in me!).
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo Credit: Markus Gann/Pixoto