After a very strange, difficult and unusual year, it’s finally 2021! Even if we rarely make serious New Year’s resolves, I do think we all have intentions, goals and dreams that we are more likely to be focussed on earlier on in the year. It seems like a fresh start. Most of us have had a break from our usual routine, it’s the end of something and we are often keen to think about new beginnings.
Professional or fitness goals are one thing though; working on ourselves is another entirely. Understanding who we are and our typical behavioural patterns – indeed “owning them!” – requires time out for reflection. Like all our other goals and dreams, this becomes challenging once we get caught up with work and maybe kids’ routines again even though it’s an imperative aspect of looking after our mental health. It’s much better if we can commit to including a regular and wholesome Yoga practise in our life.
This is “our” time
I’m not just talking about a quick stretch in front of YouTube or a workout in a hot room! Nope, I’m talking about “Yoga”. The whole bit. Taking time to consciously inquire and consider our entire being. The way we move, the way we interpret information, the way we make constant little judgements about everything (including others, ourselves, our likes and dislikes) and our ingrained belief systems. Observing rather than buying into the ego and all that “citta vrtti” (mind chatter). In a nutshell, those deeply embedded “Ways of Being” (Samskara) that aren’t necessarily a part of our true nature.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those certain behavioural things that some people in our lives might do unconsciously that tend to frustrate us. We all have different triggers in this regard, and this is something we could also work on “digging out”. I have friends for example who find some personality traits really difficult to tolerate in some people, but yet those things in that particular person don’t bother me at all.
From a personal perspective, I tend to cool a friendship if a person is constantly unreliable. For me, making an effort to organise something and then having a person continually not show up, not bother to contact you or always making excuses as to why they can’t make it (again) leaves me feeling somewhat irrelevant.
Years ago during my year of teacher training at Nature Care College in Sydney, we had a lovely fellow student who was always late. Not only was she always late, but she would continually ask her husband to pick her up early, before class finished.
K always wore an array of bracelets on both arms and this how I remember every scene: A jingle jangle of jewellery as she swept into the room or tried to creep out of it, attempting to be quiet, while whispering “Sorry, sorry everyone” (again and again and again). She had no qualms about stepping over people in the middle of a meditation or walking in half an hour late, no matter what we happened to be doing.
One day, one of Australia’s most senior and respected teachers, Eve Grsybowski was taking a Yoga philosophy class when, as per usual, K waltzed in apologising and jingle-jangling long after we had started. Eve stopped speaking and quietly allowed her to take her seat. She then went over to the white board and wrote in very large letters:
Punctuality = Respect
“Ohhhhhhhh” K responded, looking shocked and again apologising profusely as she glanced around the room. “I just never thought about it like that. Thank you Eve. Thank you. I am so sorry. I am so sorry everyone. There was a brief conversation as Eve explained it all to her and K resolved never to be late again.
In all honesty, I don’t remember what happened after that. Whether K did continue to be late now and then, or whether it was what she needed – a mentor or a kind person to tell her gently but firmly that actually, it is not Ok. When lateness becomes a habit, it is quite disrespectful; to your teacher, to those in the room, to your colleagues and to your friends. To all of those who have made an effort to be on time.
But enough about what upsets us, what might we do that’s annoying and frustrating to others?
The thing is, we all have some of these unconscious behavioural habits. We may even like some of them because they form part of our “identity”. For example, when we shrug and say (or hear someone else say), “It’s just the way I am!” (in other words, “I don’t want to look at that. It’s your problem not mine!”)
As we get older, we might become wiser and more aware, or we might just get even more stuck in our unconscious ways!
The point of this piece is not about trying to be perfect, it’s more about understanding ourselves from a deeper perspective. Knowing what and why it is that we do what we tend to do. Perfection is totally unattainable and no matter what flaws we all have, I would imagine that anyone reading these musings on a Yoga page has no intention to hurt anyone or do them harm. With the odd, rare exception, I believe most of us aspire to do our best and are always aiming towards being better people.
So what do we do? What’s our Way of Being? Our samskara? Our largely unconscious, go-to annoying behavioural pattern? The embedded belief system that we may have been brought up on, but have never really questioned and are a little bit stuck in? And if we are triggered by some things more than others, should we perhaps unpack that one a bit more too?
Along with all of those seemingly more tangible goals and dreams that we constantly think about, what could we working towards in terms of our personal development in 2021? Could a commitment towards a proper and complete Yoga practise help us with this?