A YOGI CHA BLOG
New year’s resolutions : a different perspective
Here is my wish for you : instead of looking where you need to improve yourself, ask yourself what is trying to get my attention.
The difference between the two perspectives is that one is just trying to push through a wall that you’ve been trying to push through already but that isn’t moving. So you are not changing anything really in how you understand it or how you approach it. You are blindly just hoping that by doing the same thing as you have always done but just with more willpower, you will manage to break the wall.
The other perspective is less of a black or white one. It is one of investigation, one of curiosity.
Let me take a very (to me at least) clear example that is close to home for me. Insomnia.
Perspective 1 will try all the methods there are to manage to sleep which ultimately leads down the ally of sleeping pills.
Perspective 2 says, hang on WHY am I not sleeping? My mind is too busy. If my mind is too busy, maybe I need to focus on why it is so busy since clearly it’s screaming and shouting at me for my attention.
I’ve had this a lot with my students in the yoga teacher training and I remember this from my own as well. Constipation.
The digestive system is off and they try everything in the book but nothing seems to work. And of course, if you look at the circumstances it’s not so strange. Usually they have travelled far, they are in a place that is not their natural environment, the climate is completely different. They are usually quite jetlagged as well, for easily one or two weeks (people don’t realise just how bad jet lag is for the organism). They are not home basically. So naturally the habitual routines are out of whack.
But more than that, there is so much new information, there are so many new things that they are doing to themselves and there is this whole fear around letting go of past perspectives in order to allow the new ones to be accepted.
And that is a question of acceptance, of letting go and also of surrendering. So the constipation is just the body’s way of asking for their attention. It is telling them that there is something that needs to be accepted in order for the organism to function properly again. We are creatures of habit and we are more than anything creatures of a sense of self.
It’s not easy to let go of things and just adapt to new ones. If we could, we would do like the duck and just shake it off.
I see this also in the therapy room. The longing for a proof that the patient is progressing.
So they ask me for validation.
Why am I like this?
What do I need to do in order to change that?
How do you perceive me?
Perfectly understandable questions that pop up. But they are all focused on the goal. Keep your eyes on the ball. What it does to us is what our friends in Hollywood would call “cut to the chase”.
Or as the neuropsychiatrist would word it “remember what it did to you and forget about the details”.
Actually, it’s a habit loop we are caught in that is so well ingrained that we cannot imagine any other way.
It is how we become efficient. We look at a situation and we say “what needs to be done in order to achieve what we want?” Then we focus on changing what isn’t working.
But that is a rational approach to an irrational positioning. It’s telling a 5 year old crying child why there is no reason to cry. It will indeed be true but it will not actually make the child feel much better. Because the crying is coming from a need to be soothed, comforted. So if we instead tend to that, soothing the crying child we could potentially talk more rationally about the situation after.
Because what we are doing when we keep doing the same thing that might not give the result we wish for is that we are using our strategies for survival. There are a lot of those in our habits and usually they are so “us” that we might not detect them with the naked eye. And here is where I want you to become curious. Starting to become really aware of what we do and when we do them. Using the tool of the mind, the narrative as our guide. Why did I do that at that moment? What was the thought that turned my attention towards such and such.
It’s not an easy exercise I’m asking of you, it takes quite some mental gymnastics to get the hang of it. Because it’s asking you to look at yourself differently.
Let me take a situation that many of us can relate to as an example. Our relationship with food.
So let’s say that we would want to make a resolution to lose weight. So we create a plan of action : exercises, healthy food, etc. A common issue is the deprivation of what we would do if there were no restrictions. This is why we can only maintain the plan of action for only so long. It’s not sustainable and we go into the yo-yoing of sticking to it, then letting it go and maybe put on weight again, maybe even more than before. The disappointment then comes back and pushes us to try again. What we did not do, is to figure out why we have more weight than we wish.
Often we are caught in the loop of over exercising and therefore our hunger goes up so that we then eat more than we need. That in itself creates a guilt loop and then we want to compensate for overeating with even more exercise. That does not work, believe me, I have been there.
So instead of making the resolution “this year I will lose weight”, what we would do in this different perspective would be to say “why is my body asking for my attention?”. If I have more weight, I am eating too much of the wrong thing. How come I am doing that?
Here is where we begin to shift our approach. Instead of just blatantly stating that we need to starve ourselves, we become curious as to why we eat too much.
Behind the new year’s resolutions we are used to making there is a belief of scarcity. I am not enough the way I am so I need to make some adjustments in order to fix that. Can you see how that is more a worry about how you are perceived and judged by others than an actual care for your wellbeing?
But a survival strategy we keep doing even if it is not working is nothing more than an addiction. It is the repeated behaviour even though the outcome is no longer the reward we were seeking in the first place. It has an adverse effect. So instead of depriving oneself of food when hungry, the idea would be to ask oneself why one eats more than one needs.
Imagine that we could take this thought and look at anything in our lives. All of a sudden we become aware of the fact that our whole life is a reflection of what we are giving attention to and what we are neglecting.
And the things we are neglecting are not weaknesses anymore, they are messages to us that we need to turn our attention towards them.
Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞
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