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Planning New Year Resolutions

As we come to the end of a year and look forward to the next, we resolve ourselves to promises of changes within us coupled with an underlying hope for things to be different – for things to be better in our life. The Yoga Sutras classifies two main components that we all should apply on our endeavour towards ‘evolution’. It describes the need for ‘Abhyasa’ and ‘Vairagya’ which can be roughly translated as practice and detachment.

Lets take the first one, abhyasa or practice. The Sutras note the need for one’s practice to be sustained for a long time, with no interruption and performed with faith and discipline. How many of us give up on our new year resolutions or objectives as soon as we hit the first obstacle? To achieve complete faith and discipline on something, one should always accompany the practice with some time for reflection. Are our resolutions and dreams valid? Will they bring increased happiness and peace, for ourselves and others? This reflection or meditation on abhyasa gives us a path to verify the truths of our hopes and dreams, to select and keep track of progress without allowing the mind to lose clarity in fears and challenges.

Yoga Sutras defined the need for applied effort (practice) to be accompanied with vairagya or detachment. Detachment holds the mind from becoming narrow and obsessive. It also helps to deal with error and failure. The arrow of detachment is not aimed at actions, but at the fruit of actions. We often get too attached to the outcome of our practices. Detachment for it can help us act without anxiety or fear towards the future and its outcome, by keeping the focus on each step and by understanding that most of life is actually not in our control.

These two ideas together form one of the definitions of Yoga: quality in action. When the mind is aware of the objectives of an action, reflect on its importance and benefit to oneself and others, and practice the path without fear or anxiety, accepting any fruit that the practice might deliver.

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