This is the time of the year for "grand proclamations" of change.
The reality, however, is that there is no need to wait until the New Year. While is does provide a somewhat ceremonious starting point, we can make a change in every moment, every second of our lives. The opportunity to change the way we think, speak and act lies in our ability to be the "witness", the "observer". The "witness" is the part of us that "knows we know". It is awareness and our best teacher. It is the ability to "watch" our actions, reactions and personality manifest in relation to the world around us.
Examples of opportunities to develop the "witness":
- When saying "I told you so" to a loved one or friend when they didn't follow our advice, is replaced by either a heart felt condolence or by saying nothing at all.
- Noticing the space between hearing the voice inside remind us that we do not "need" that 3rd piece of pizza, no matter how tasty, and NOT taking that third piece.
- It is the ability to let go of a repetitive, unserving thought that causes depression or anxiety, and choosing to replace it with one that is neutral or maybe even joyful.
- Being "cut off" by a car on a highway and instead of condemning the driver, bless them and wish for their safe arrival wherever they may be going.
Changing patterns of thoughts and behavior through developing the ability to witness takes vigilance and continual practice. According to the teachings of Swami Satyananda in the Bihar School of Yoga, it is believed that one of the best ways to develop the ability to "witness" is through Karma Yoga. In "Yoga Vision" on the Bihar School of Yoga website
, Karma Yoga is referred to as "a system which develops immunity to the reactive and negative components of an action. "Swami Niranjanananda has said
that "Through karma yoga we are able to understand our own life, improve the quality of life and transcend life."
Karma Yoga is the yoga of action and is often referred to as "selfless service." While all work we do, and actions that we perform, can potentially be labeled as Karma Yoga, it is easiest to begin with duties in which we literally and figuratively have little or no attachment. Karma Yoga is then working without worrying about the "fruits of the labor" or even completing the task. In Karma Yoga it is actually okay "not" to finish what you are working and to allow your effort and whatever outcome or consequences to be "good enough." The idea is to notice the thoughts, etc. that arise before, during or after the experience.
Karma Yoga provides a wonderful platform to change hard-wired patterns of thoughts and behaviors, positively altering our personality, relationships and lives over a period of time. So if you have made your grand proclamation for change in 2017 don't forget to leave space for the "witness". In the words of Michael Jackson:
"If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change"
~Man in the Mirror