It was a pleasure to wave farewell to 2018 from the beautiful premises of The Sanctuary at Two Rivers, located near Montezuma on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, and to welcome 2019. At the start of each new year I make it a point to make at least one serious resolution for the twelvemonth that follows, at the end of which I have occasion to examine how well or poorly I followed that resolution.
Every resolution is a form of niyama, a self-imposed restriction that is a pledge to oneself and to Providence to restrain oneself in some productive fashion. Niyamas can involve the commitment to either do something that promises positive benefit or to avoid doing something that has negative consequences.
Your New Year’s niyama should be:
Concrete and specific: not just “I am going to exercise more” but instead something like, “I will attend yoga class weekly and will do cardio at least once a week”.
Doable and achievable: if your life schedule is unlikely to actually permit you to make it to yoga class every week, then commit to going once every two weeks or even once a month. Don’t bite off more than you can currently chew. Part of the value of the niyama lies in your ability to feel your achievement and from that achievement to gain momentum for the next achievement, which could then e.g. be committing to a weekly yoga class.
Useful and beneficial: while it is fine to commit to reading more about health in the year to come, it will be more useful and beneficial to you to personally do something about your health than merely to read about it. Completed in not less than one year: you can also have “new month” niyamas, or “limitations for the new week”, but something you commit to for at least the new year (longer is better) should be followed all year long.
Completed to the best of your ability: sometimes events may conspire to prevent you from performing your niyama at the time that you are due to perform it. For the lackluster this offers the perfect excuse to terminate the niyama entirely, and for the enthusiast, an opportunity to re-commence the niyama with greater fervor. Once you have settled on a niyama that you believe to be worthy of performance do not let anything, especially your own reluctance, stand in your way of implementing it. Even if you slip up one hundred times, begin again the one hundred and first; keep moving forward!
Completion of one niyama is a success worthy of brief year’s-end commendation, after which you should have your next niyama cued up and ready to begin on New Year’s Day, inspired by that previous accomplishment. Don’t rest on your laurels (in Spanish the idiom is to “sleep” on them, to become unconscious atop them); self-congratulation often leads to self-satisfaction, which tends to take the edge off the keenness one requires for true self-transformation.
In Sanskrit the two words yoga and kshema are often taken together to form a single word: yogakshema. In this context yoga is defined asaprapanam praptasya, “the obtaining of what you have not yet obtained” and kshema means praptasya rakshanam, “the guarding or protection of what you have obtained.” If your niyamas can build on one another you can make great changes in yourself in but a few years; for this to happen, however, you will have to continue the observances to which you have previously committed (one more reason to avoid overambition in your penances).
As we move into 2019, a year that I pray will be better for everyone than was 2018, may we all successfully perform our New Year’s niyamas for the benefit of ourselves and all sentient beings.
Tathastu! ¡Feliz año nuevo!