I’ve heard choosing one word as a personal theme for the New Year can be a useful exercise. I realized several days into 2016 that I hadn’t thought of resolutions (or what I like to call “intentions”). But I could readily think of a one-word theme that I’d like to infuse the next 12 months: “simplify.”
This is not necessarily a new concept for me. It’s something I’ve been noodling with for some time. And though I made some strides – working to unburden myself of “stuff” and even letting go of my office job – 2015 felt busier than ever.
I am someone who not only likes but truly needs a lot of downtime. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, tells me that I am equal parts Pitta (driven, type A, likes to get ‘er done) and Kapha (relishing calm, consistency, quiet and rest). I am often exhausted just observing my friends – particularly those with children – who have endless to do lists and absolutely no “me” time. That kind of a schedule would utterly deplete me. But it’s one that I feel myself increasingly drifting toward though my kapha feet remain cemented at the foot of my couch. The glorification of busy might be beckoning, but it will have to drag me along kicking and screaming.
Our culture seems to encourage the “go go” mentality. If you don’t have a zillion things to do, then you’re not being productive. And if you’re not being productive, well, then, it seems society has no use for you.
I used to be excellent at spending hours sitting on my couch, watching brainless television. I won’t lie – I still watch my fair share of television, much of it brainless. However, now it is accompanied by guilt. I should be doing something more productive; meditating, reading yoga philosophy, doing work, planning my next yoga class.
Guilt is also present for me when I consider how busy I feel even though I have far fewer responsibilities than many people I know. I don’t have children or even a house to manage. But my career, yoga teaching, friends and little condo (not to mention my new dog!) seem more than enough. In fact, at times it seems like far too much.
I used to be someone who always lived up to my commitments. I would get frustrated with people who consistently backed out of plans, often at the last minute. Lately, I’ve turned into one of the biggest flakes I know. I often agree to plans knowing, even at the moment that I am doing so, that I likely won’t follow through. So why do I continue to do this? Because I should want to make plans; I should want to be busy and juggle as many plates in the air as I can. I should be OK with being busy. That’s the ideal, right?
The “slow living” concept really appeals to me. I’ve only read snippets about it, so I am certainly no expert. But from what I understand it centers on removing the extraneous things from our lives and focusing on fewer things that truly matter to us. In essence, it’s about simplifying.
I went to see an astrologer recently who told me that I would be extremely busy in 2016. My kapha side is already pretty stressed out about that. The last thing I want to be is busy. I want to be mellow, calm and chill. And I am going to try to do everything in my power to achieve that state within the storm of impending busy-ness. I am going to simplify where I can.
What will that look like? I’m not entirely sure. I am going to have to take a bit of a wait and see approach. But there are some steps I imagine are no brainers:
- Not making as many plans. Through yoga, I have met so many incredibly people with whom I would love to spend time and get to know even better. But in my eagerness to bond with and learn from these magical beings, I’ve spread myself too thin in recent years. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I need time to replenish my own being by spending copious amounts of time alone. That may seem anti-social, but I know it’s what I need. I used to think I was an extrovert, but now that I know extroverted introverts are a thing, I think that may more accurately describe me. And that’s OK.
- Easing up on the accelerator when it comes to my career. In 2015, I started my own business. There were several reasons for this, but one important objective was to create space and flexibility in my schedule in order to teach more and to continue to pursue my own spiritual path. I am incredibly fortunate that it took off like gang busters; not only do I have a great portfolio of clients, but I get to work on causes in which I really believe. But, based on a lot of fear (“in six months I may be penniless”), I am working harder than before. When I am not sitting at my desk or out networking, I feel like I am being “lazy.” When I go out to teach on a weekday, I feel guilty. When I take the opportunity to meet a friend for lunch or run errands during the day, I feel like I am being naughty. But, in fact, these were all part of the plan. Simply because it’s ingrained in us that we are supposed to be in an office, focused on one job for at least eight (and more like 10 or 12) hours a day, doesn’t mean that that is the only – or even right – way to live. I aspire to work to live, not the other way around.
- Getting clear on who and what is important to me – who and what feeds my soul – and allocate my time accordingly. We can’t be everything to all people. As many amazing people who come into my life, I can’t always spend equal amounts of energy on all of them. In addition, there are so many things in which I am interested, but there is just not enough time in the day (or year) to pursue them all. For example, I would love to teach more, but I’ve learned that two classes a week is probably not a bad number for me right now. It takes a lot out of me to teach – it still doesn’t come easily. So two is about the limit to be able to plan and give everything I’ve got. There are also a zillion continuing education opportunities I would love to take – trauma informed yoga, kids yoga, a 300 hour training. But I can’t do it all. Or at least, I can’t do it all in just 12 months. I need to pace myself.
- Not giving myself so many options. I read a book years ago that really stuck with me. It’s called The Paradox of Choice. The thesis is that the sheer volume of options we have in our society is actually making us miserable. Think about a small child in a toy store – if you tell them to choose anything they want, their little heads explode. If you offer them a choice between only two toys, the world is manageable once again. The same can really be said for adults. Sticking with my already determined, go-to preferences may seem humdrum to some people; for me, it’s comforting.
- Listening for and to my intuition. In recent years, I’ve really tried to get in touch with my gut instinct. I don’t think I stopped to try and hear it in the past, nor did I entirely trust it. But if I listen closely now, I do have a better sense of what it is I really want in any given moment. I can get clarity on what I should do or choices I need to make. I don’t need to overthink, over analyze or take a survey of my friends in order to make a decision. I can simply (there’s that word again) listen in to what my gut is telling me and go from there.
So, this is my intentions for 2016. Simplify in order to stay grounded and content. Now that we’re halfway through January (!), how are you doing with your intentions?