Well, the world didn’t end (again) and once again we find ourselves another year older.  What have we accomplished so far?   What do we intend to accomplish this year?  How do intend to FEEL about what we’ve accomplished and hope to accomplish?

We can remain mired in feelings of self-doubt, so easy to do during this period of rapid change. We can choose to feel insulted by imagined slights, so easy when we project our feelings and emotions onto others.  We can demonize those who are different from us, who have differing opinions from ours,  We can even run away from our feelings by avoiding anyone or anything that challenges our worldview, our carefully constructed vision of how the world should be.

Even in a simple yoga class we can run away from understanding ourselves.  The teacher might urge us to strive a little harder, stretch a little deeper, let go a little bit more than we are ready for.  Instead of reflexively thinking or saying “I can’t do that because….” why not, starting this New Year, put a little SOUL into our practice?

Stay with those difficult sensations and face the obstacles before you.  Every time we run away from difficulty we weaken ourselves;  when true adversity faces us, will we have the strength to stand up to it?

Observe what arises in the mind;  what feelings are there?  Have we felt that way before?  What happened then?  Try not doing anything right away – simply watch your mind, notice if there is something deeper, below the surface.  Who is the Watcher, watching the mind race?

Understand over time how this process of observation can help lead us to freedom from the tyranny of our unwanted thoughts.  This won’t happen overnight, the deepest transformations happen slowly and imperceptibly.  We don’t need to direct this process.  Every time we step onto our yoga mat our physical practice, yoked to our breath, will take care of that.  The postures themselves unlock stored tensions, blocked sensations, hidden experiences and emotions and transform them without our conscious awareness.

Let go of your judgement, your expectations!  Life is full of ups and downs;  we can do everything right and still things go south, we can do everything wrong and have things turn our alright.  If we set our expectations too high we are bound to be disappointed.  Set them too low and perhaps we cheat ourselves of the joy of working towards something truly rewarding despite the struggle!

The SOUL of yoga is not in the asana, not in the “perfection” of the poses, not even in the process of daily practice.  The next time you take a class or begin your personal practice, or even when you aren’t even “doing yoga” take a metaphorical step back.  Find the SOUL in whatever you are doing.