Get up. Shower. Eat. Drive to work. Work. Drive Home. Gym. Yoga. Dinner. Play with the kids. Pay the bills. TV. Bed. Get Up. Shower. Eat. Drive to work…
Do you ever get the feeling that you are on a treadmill? That days, weeks, and months pass while the aspirations that are so close to your heart remain unrealized year after year until you begin to wonder, what is the point of it all?
Some people call this the “treadmill of life”, and it was explored in the film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, one of my favorites, where he lived the same day over and over again until he became present-moment-focused and conscious of the play of life. He was trapped in that same “groundhog day” until he began to live life like a celebration. I have recently been listening to a lecture series by Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron and she has reminded me of a technique that I was first introduced to in the Sivananda Yoga tradition. This technique helps to make life more conscious by becoming more aware of yourself, your actions, the fruits of your actions, and your environment. The technique is two parts – first to start every day with intention, aspiration, and meditation on how you would like to create your day; how you would like to approach your actions, your relationships, and your goals. In yoga this is called sankalpa. Making use of the power of meditation and visualization this time spent intending is tremendously potent in focusing the conscious mind, programming the sub-conscious mind, and creating a plan for the day that can support your aspirations. The second step is to finish every day with some time in reflection on how the day did progress, how did you do in your intentions and aspirations in work, diet, relationship, practice, and state of mind?
It’s important to remember that this technique is not just an intellectual exercise, but one that is best used when it is felt as well as thought. Making your morning meditation a time of creativity and inspiration will help you to refrain from setting aims that are too rigid, unrealistic, or unfriendly towards yourself. Morning meditation can be a time where you not only think about the day to come, but also how would you like it to feel? What sensations, textures, feelings and rhythm do you wish to cultivate? And your evening time can also be a time of sensation – how did your day feel? How did your interactions with others feel? How did you feel in your eating, your practice, and your work? This can help you to become more aware of the sweetness in life, as well as places in your life that might need some attention or awareness to learn, grow, and smooth the rough edges.
Swami Sivananda used this technique daily and recommended to all his students to do the same. He began each month with a personal contract – outlining the goals, aims and practices for the month. Then, each day there was the morning time of intention and the evening time of reflection. He recommended journaling your reflections, and then at the end of each month reviewing your reflections and creating a new personal contract for the next month. This might seem like a lot of work – but the time spent in planning, intending, and reflecting is very well spent in making your life more conscious. The personal contract can include areas like practice, meditation, exercise, diet, tv watching, language, and volunteer activities. Creating a personal contract and posting it in a visible place like your place of spiritual study, the bathroom mirror, or even on the fridge can help to focus your morning meditation, and also remind you throughout the day of your aspirations.
The title of this piece is to “make life a ceremony”, so I remind you that this is not a technique to judge, criticize, or over-analyze. It is, rather, a technique to bring awareness, sensation, and celebration to each day, each hour, each moment. Celebrate the wins and also the losses – even those days that, upon reflection, you didn’t meet your aspirations – celebrate the fact that you are conscious enough to notice. This technique will not only help you become more present-moment-focused and give some structure and context to your highest aims and aspirations, but also to tell the story of your life, both the magnificent and the mundane, and help to shine a light on the magic of both.
So, friends, I am going to take this month to return to this practice wholeheartedly and I hope that you will join me in the ceremony and the celebration!
Mind Body Messenger Newsletter 2010