Thursday, February 2, 2012

Immersion vs. Resolution

February is a time to evaluate New Year's resolutions for a few timely reasons: Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine's Day. You're either throwing back a few brews and eating a ton of dip, wings, and chili or drowning your sorrows (oops, I mean celebrating love?) with wine and chocolate. I focus on these because most resolutions deal with this concept of losing weight, eating better food, etc. What if the resolutions focused more keenly on underlying goals and needs?

Rod Stryker, in the book The Four Desires, shares interesting insight about resolutions: "It's critical, however, to note that research shows that at least 80 percent of us do not achieve our resolutions. A recent study found that 'four out of five people who make New Year's resolutions... will eventually break them. In fact, a third won't even make it to the end of January!' Other studies have shown that the number of people who do achieve their resolutions is even smaller, perhaps as little as 8 percent... What explains this failure of at least 80 percent of us to fulfill our resolutions?... we often focus on fulfilling our desires without giving much thought to how our desires serve the greater meaning and purpose of our lives... [and] there is a science to the process of manifesting our intention" (81-2).

I used to think New Year's resolutions were cliche or for those who lacked motivation and control throughout the regular parts of the year. But then I realized that resolutions are much more than that. They are about setting goals and intentions to improve your life in some fitting way. A close friend has completely given up something new each year (french fries, soda, alcohol, you name it), year after year, just to prove to himself that he has the will power to do it. These are not regular indulgences he seeks anyway, but the resolution provides a special challenge for the times when he could lack will power. A few years ago, I resolved to not get any parking tickets (trust me, the cities of L.A. and Santa Monica were rolling in the dough from me alone) with a deeper goal to shut off my auto-pilot and be more aware of my surroundings. Another reason I got over the resolution reluctance is because who cares if people make them once a year but do not fulfill them? Intention is the first step; action completes the path to success. As Stryker notes though, greater purpose should be the focus. 

My main resolution this year was to explore the more philosophical aspects of yoga. A few reasons behind the resolution include: 1. heritage, 2. stress from last year forced too much emphasis on the physical exercise, 3. plans to incorporate it within my future career. The science of manifesting intention seemed like synchronicity since my local yoga studio organized a "30 Day Yoga Immersion" program. The program is a personal commitment to explore yoga practice by doing one or all of the following: meditation, physical asanas, and spiritual readings. The instructors explicitly said that it is not meant to be a resolution or physical challenge, but an exploration to aid in personal growth. 

Excitement for the program, which started last week with over 50 of us enrolled, has been enhanced by the notion of an "immersion" rather than a resolution. Aside from the funny mental image of submerging myself into some yogic vat and emerging at the end of the month as a shiny and sparkly new yogini, the word immersion is much more powerful than the idea of resolving to do something. Even the etymologies of the words imply the very idea that Stryker has about why most resolutions fail. Resolution is derived from the Latin term "resolvere," which means to loosen or to reveal. Immersion is derived from the Latin term "imergere," meaning to sink into. A resolution reveals what you want; an immersion requires you to dive in, head first, and experience it fully. Perhaps if those 92% who do not achieve their resolutions developed the underlying reason to sink into, we could have greater success with our resolve to improve ourselves.

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