I used to joke that if the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, the beginning of January (namely that first Monday back to work) is the most depressing. All of the warm fuzzy delights of December—twinkling lights, the sweet taste of homemade everything, leisurely family time, and the goodhearted giving have come to a conclusion. Suddenly things appear bleak and cold, with little to look forward to until spring rolls around. As a kid it was always rough to back to school, and now as a dance teacher (still a kid at heart), January is a time to buckle down, crank out choreography, and attempt to be more organized, more patient, more prepared for class, etc. And then there are the resolutions that often involve putting an end to the Christmas cookie free-for-all, spending more time doing crunches and less money on credit cards, and of course paying off the bills that result from being such a generous gift giver. Sad times? Quite possibly. But like the clean white snow that often covers the ground this time of year, the New Year also offers a clean slate, a fresh start, and an exciting excuse to put all our good intentions to work.
In yoga, we often begin the practice by setting an intention, or Sankalpa, which literally means “heart’s desire”. We then use this concept or idea guide us and help ourselves stay mentally focused. This idea of setting an intention is something that we can also use to steer our lives in the direction we want them to go. I’m not really sure why it took me over 30 years to figure this out, but now that I have, I’m pretty pumped about it. Around this time last year, instead of making the typical resolutions, I journaled about my intentions for 2015. Reflecting back on those few pages in my little red notebook, I have to say that 2015 has been a great year for me. I may not have completely kicked my sugar addiction, but I did learn and evolve my ideas about health and wellness by reading a handful of good books and listening to hours of podcasts. I still waste way more time than I should on Facebook and Instagram, but I also finally created this website and blog. I became certified as a personal trainer through NASM, attended a bunch of great yoga workshops, went to more dance classes than I can count (mostly tap!), and took my first trip to Europe with my husband. I even streamlined my yoga schedule to teach more of my favorite styles of yoga, including a weekly yoga class for dancers! Overall, I’d call 2015 a “win”. 🙂
I’m not trying to brag. In fact, I spent way more time this year than I’d like to admit either freaking out or stressing out unnecessarily. But with my intention as my compass, I took things one day at a time and did the best that I could to take small steps forward each day. Each month I made a list of small things that I wanted to accomplish that would somehow push me closer to my intention. Things like taking a specific number of dance or yoga classes, calling inquire about personal trainer certification options, making plans with friends a certain number of times, or in the case of this particular moment, making sure that I make one blog post before the end December. 😉 My intention for 2015? To spend more time doing the things that I love and doing them better. To do that meant saying “no” to a lot of things that I was only kind of interested in, and even things that I sort of liked. Like most other people I know, I find it really easy to get “crazy busy” doing things that I don’t even care about—to the point that it’s hard to find time for the people and things that I love the most. Setting an intention is a great way to prevent getting sidetracked and to keep things moving forward.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up someplace else.” True story. Quoted my many, but I heard it from one of my dance teachers back in the day, and it rings true now more than ever. I’ve even used this idea to help shape the culture among the students in the dance companies I direct, by having them write their own mission statements–AKA a highly businesslike form of an intention. Resolutions, on the other hand, are often overly ambitious, and usually pretty vague. Setting an intention provides us with a general direction in which we can move at our own pace. It allows for some wandering and some wiggle room within any given focus. You don’t need a specific date or time or excuse to set an intention and start living it. Even so, now, just a few hours away from 2016, seems like just as good a time as ever. I am feeling really reflective about the New Year. But I’m NOT making resolutions. I’m setting an INTENTION. There are lots of specific things that I hope to do and be this year, but the all encompassing theme of my heart’s many desires is simply to be a force for good. What about you? Where do YOU intend to go in your life this year? Happy New Year friends!!