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Preparing for a New Year

As the end of the year approaches, we reach the familiar moment for all of us to reflect back on what was and what was not done, and to settle our wishes, vows or hopes for the coming year. Certainly we have all been in the position of promising something at this time and not being able to fulfil. The reasons are many. In some Vedic philosophies it is stated that failure in our endeavours is due to three causes: mistakes done by ourselves, obstacles imposed by other living beings (humans, animals, plants, viruses and bacterias), and those imposed by nature (climate, natural disasters). 

In modern societies, one particular aspect that is becoming prevalent is lack of faith. Without faith we might become less stable, less patient, less resilient and overwhelmed by the amount of things in this life that we cannot understand. Unfortunately, faith is almost automatically correlated to religion, but we can broaden its scope to anything that provides us energy to move, especially when we are unsure. How many times we felt ‘frozen’ by doubt or fear?

A common word for faith in Sanskrit is Shraddhā, derived from the root hrd, which means ‘heart’. Faith is something that arises in the heart, the locus of our sensation of self. When you feel sad where is the emotion? When you feel joy? Butterflies in the stomach? Or that cold internal rush of fear? All these sensations happens around the heart area. The thoughts to explain the sensation come later, then we tend to point to our head. But the direct experience of reality is in the heart. When we have faith in something, we are putting our heart in it. We are absorbing ourself into something else.

When guests come to us with more severe health issues, we normally tell them to leave the problem for us. Now it will be our fight, not yours anymore. This is an act of faith. Anyone that has been in therapeutic settings knows the importance of trust. When we trust the medicine, when we trust the doctors, when we trust our bodies have the innate intelligence to heal… the road is much easier. Those that are religious can also place their hearts in God, in the Supreme Consciousness, or in a good spiritual teacher. 

But for our heart to be able to take this step, this “leap of faith”, it has to be nourished. The Sanskrit word for this nourishment is prāna. It is the vital force, what makes us move, think, feel and change. From the moment we wake until we sleep, our attention is moving to different directions. We have desires, aversions, fears. This vital force, circulating with our blood, is being constantly used to feed them. If we want our heart to grow stronger, some of this energy has to be redirect. 

In the Yoga Sutras, we learn that our life and practice has to be moulded around 6 spheres: relationships, lifestyle, body, breath, senses and mind (YS 2.29). If we are willing to make any valid promise for next year, it might be worth taking some time to reflect and contemplate on these aspects. How well is the energy circulating from our heart to the heart of others? Is our lifestyle ensuring our prāna, our attention, to be nourished or to be scattered all around? What about our food choices? Is my breath something that I can easily relate to or is just taken for granted? Are my senses calm, able to see and experience life in a peaceful way, or is my mind saturated with memories, imagination and agitation? 

When we know what to do, a sense of calmness arise in the heart. When the path to this truth is followed, a sense of fulfilment arises. To be able to take each step, faith is required, putting each of our hearts in the proper direction. May you be able to get the proper directions to establish a sincere, respectful and healthy relationship with nature, that which is the source of your heart, breath, and mind. May you be able to have wisdom to know the boundaries that this ‘mother’ gave to us. May you be able to recover health if those boundaries were crossed, due to habits of mind or body. Nature takes and nature gives; may you be able to have faith in the nourishing reality.

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