Now is the time of resolutions, a time for making promises that are notoriously broken within weeks. Here in Portland, we’ve had an epic ice storm to contend with as we try to maintain ours! New Year’s resolutions are not simply a social construct. In fact, they are a natural expression of what is happening for us on an energetic level.
January 5th is the celebration of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday, a time for renewed inner commitment and fresh starts for many of us. January 14th the sun moves into the sign of Capricorn, which signifies the start to the astrological new year, according to the Vedic tradition. Capricorn starts the new year off with her commitment to hard work and her innate loyalty and ambition. As you can see, it’s a pretty good time to set new resolutions to achieve goals.
Paramhansa Yogananda in his chapter in Autobiography of a Yogi called “Outwitting the Stars” talks with his guru Sri Yukteswar about how a great master is so attuned to the energies of both themself and the universe around them that they know how to flow with the celestial influences, rather than against them.
So, how do we harness the time of Capricorn to actually succeed at these new year’s resolutions, rather than give them up before we’ve entered the sign of Aquarius on February 14th? For this answer, let’s consider both our personal experiences and the wisdom of the ages.
On a personal level, new year’s resolutions are hit or miss for most of us. I remember the year I decided to quit smoking cigarettes (2000). I woke one day in January and decided that they tasted bad and that I wasn’t a smoker. I quit that day. From there, I had to disassociate every activity that I previously associated with smoking – walking, drinking coffee, driving, socializing. It was primarily an exercise of re-visioning my life now as a nonsmoker. Once I had a clear vision of my new self, the habit slowly lost its power.
The teachings of yoga offer many valuable tools on the road to building new habits. Swami Kriyananda taught us that to make meditation a daily habit there are important things we can do such as creating an uplifting space for meditation, committing to certain times of day for our practices, finding others to meditate with, studying the lives of saints and masters, and most of all, cultivating the heart’s devotion to the Divine.
What all of these guidelines suggest is that to succeed at building new habits, it takes more than habit tracker apps. We must cultivate commitment on four levels:
- The physical: what structure do we have in place to support the achievement of our new goal?
- The mental: what ideas and attitudes are we cultivating to support the achievement of our goal?
- The emotional: is our heart in it? Can we light the fire of our desire towards whatever we set out to achieve and then maintain that fire ever-burning?
- The spiritual: how is this goal in alignment with our highest Self? What is the driving energy behind it? How is this helping in our soul’s evolution?
In the popular book Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, James Clear has a number of excellent suggestions about how to make new habits stick. At the heart of his thesis is this universal truth: who you believe yourself to be drives the daily actions that accumulate as habits to create your life.
So, if your resolution is about deepening your spiritual life, it is wise to consider what you believe about yourself as a spiritual being and what you think one ought to look like. One common pitfall on the path to creating habits of spiritual practice is the belief that to be successful, one must look a certain way, act a certain way, and feel only certain feelings.
The great saints are excellent teachers on this subject for they come in every imaginable shape and size and personality. As we study their lives and our own, we come to see the Divine dancing through a myriad of forms. Behind each one, we recognize the consciousness that animates the dancer. And thus we begin to redefine what it means to be spiritual and set ourselves up for truly successful resolutions