I’m teaching a yoga class later today and have been inspired to share a theme.
What can you do this time – in this pose – that’s even a little bit different?
One popular theory is that a habit is made or broken in 21 days. While that seems like a great start and a solid number to get the ball rolling, my guess is that everyone is different and there’s no cookie-cutter formula. You’ve got to figure out how you tick and work with that whether your time frame is 5 days, 21 days, 164 days, or 401 days.
But the mere idea of change can make some people feel like tiny bugs are crawling under their skin. Or maybe your palms sweat, your breath tightens, and your eyes dart around for exits. Or you might become as immovable and frozen as Mount Everest, impervious to all suggestions, prayers, or pleas of shifting.
Relax! Things are already changing all around you. You simply get to decide if you’re going to be an active participant or a passive observer. Either of those choices may prove best in different situations – the trick is figuring out the timing that leads to balance.
Change doesn’t have to be sweeping and grand and final. Change can be small, slow, and gradual and still be highly effective, like water dripping on stone over time.
So on the mat, maybe start pressing your palms together overhead in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) and feel your shoulders strengthen as you continue to pull them down and back; take both hands back around your lifted ankle or foot in Natarajasana (Dancer) and feel your heart open all the way across your chest; or close your eyes in Vriksasana (Tree pose) and feel the shift of balance from the seen to the unseen.
Off the mat, try putting your pants on with the other leg in first; brush your teeth with your less dominant hand; get in or out of bed on the opposite side; or take a different route while commuting to work or running errands.
Slow down, notice a habit, change a pattern.
Think of your life like the art of pointillism: all of the tiny, individual parts combine to produce something more. Change the dots, change the overall picture.
Why? Because it’s the little things that matter over time, and it’s those small, repetitive behaviors that – at best – guide us through a beautiful life and – at worst – lull us into complacency, a false sense of security, stagnation, and despair. But it’s not the habits themselves really, it’s the attachments we form to our habits that unconsciously, silently, slowly mislead us into believing any change is something to fear because it would be unfamiliar.
Own your right to the unfamiliar. Desensitize yourself to resisting change. Look at the bigger picture, too.
There’s a lot to be said for tradition, but without openness to change, you may be missing the very opportunities that would lead you to discovering more fulfilling traditions and bonding moments.
When you change the little things you have to be more present and in the moment to do so, and it’s then that you can better see the depths of what you’ve been mentally skimming. Anything you’re electively doing over and over, day after day, is a habit. Attention to your own habits brings you increased awareness right here, right now.
Chances are good there’s someone in your life you love about whom you’ll notice something new. Knowledge is power, so use that discovery to show them kindness, compassion, and even more love in the way they need it and in the way you can give it.
The habits in your life – the drips and drops – are changing the rock on which you stand. It’s up to you if that change is an erosion of self or, rather, the slow and careful formation of a path to something freer – the opening of a passageway through which your river can flow.
“Be bold, and mighty forces will come.” ~Rev. Marvin Cain
And for further reading if you want it:
One wonderful side effect about seeing the bigger picture is that you have a harder time worrying about the perfection of every detail. You may choose to walk your pooch down a different street to shake things up and end up face to face with a pack of wild, ravenous coyotes. You never know. The point is, you tried. You reached outside of the box in which you’ve put yourself. You made the effort.
Things don’t always work out in a way you’ll see as “good”, and that’s ok. But imagine how present and aware of the moment you’d feel facing down the local wildlife with their snack – I mean Fluffy – in hand. See, silver lining!