It’s late. Way past bedtime and way past the typical time for New Year Resolutions. But it’s finally time to ‘resolve my resolutions’ for 2012. I consider the period between the New Year and the Chinese New Year the time of ‘Resolving the Resolutions’.
I believe 2012 is a significant year that will be pivotal in one way or another.
My resolutions begin with the yamas and niyamas of yoga.
Yama and Niyama
Yama and Niyama are often called “the Ten Commandments of Yoga.” Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating Pillar of Yoga. Yama means self-restraint in the sense of self-mastery, or abstention, and consists of five elements. Niyama means observances, of which there are also five. Here is the complete list of these ten Pillars as given in Yoga Sutras 2:30,32:
1. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
2. Satya: truthfulness, honesty
3. Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
4. Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
6. Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
7. Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
8. Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
9. Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
10. Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
All of these deal with the innate powers of the human being-or rather with the abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to be used toward our spiritual perfection, to our self-realization and liberation.
These ten restraints (yama) and observances (niyama) are not optional for the aspiring yogi-or for the most advanced yogi, either. Shankara states quite forcefully that “following yama and niyama is the basic qualification to practice yoga.” Mere desire and aspiration for the goal of yoga is not enough, so he continues: “The qualification is not simply that one wants to practice yoga, for the sacred text says: ‘But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness, who is not tranquil and subdued, or whose mind is not at rest, he can never obtain the Self by knowledge.’ 4 And in the Atharva text: ‘It is in those who have tapas [strong discipline] and brahmacharya [chastity] that truth is established.’ 5 And in the Gita: ‘Firm in their vow of brahmacharya.’ 6 So yama and niyama are methods of yoga” in themselves and are not mere adjuncts or aids that can be optional.
But at the same time, the practice of yoga helps the aspiring yogi to follow the necessary ways of yama and niyama, so he should not be discouraged from taking up yoga right now, thinking that he should wait till he is “ready” or has “cleaned up his act” to practice yoga. No. He should determinedly embark on yama, niyama, and yoga simultaneously. Success will be his.
The yamas and niyamas are not in themselves commandments or resolutions. They are conditions without which resolutions, especially spiritual resolutions cannot succeed.
Beyond studying and practicing the yamas and niyamas my resolves are:
Premises: Unconditional love for self and others.
Principles: Consciousness, Creativity and Compassion in all that I do.
Policy: The Four Agreements – Be Impeccable With Your Word – Donâ€™t Take Anything Personally – Donâ€™t Make Assumptions – Always Do Your Best.
Programme: To develop my business to the point where I am delivering an effective service and receiving an effective income that I can be satisfied with. To set aside time for new learning, specifically to read and speak French properly and to develop my skills as a web developer. To set aside specific and quality time for family. To set aside time for meditation and physical exercise.
1. Set aside at least one hour each day for meditation and one hour for deliberate physical exercise.
2. Set aside at most one hour each day for entertainment, including games, not inconsistent with the yamas and niyamas and subject to having completed the meditation and physical exercise.
3. Deliberately commune with nature. Get out into a wood or park or do some gardening for at least one hour every week. This will count as physical exercise.
4. Set aside at least an hour a day for learning.
5. Develop a work plan for the year, use monthly, weekly, daily to-do lists and stick to the plan.
6. Friday and Sunday are family days. No Internet, no computer, no work.
7. Tuesday is a day of fasting between dawn and dusk. No food no Internet between those times.
8. Have an adventure once a week.
9. Thursday is ‘mind your business’ day. Focus on finance and filing.
10. Eat moderately no more than twice a day to attain a weight of 10 stone and 2 pounds by 4th May and maintain that weight for the rest of the year. There will be no giving up of cherry pies with custard; these will be consumed in a meditative way.