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I’m as guilty as the rest of us. Every new year I start with ambitions for a new life, writing long lists of what to cease and how this year will be the year I become a different person. I’m not the only one trying to change. We resolve to change our drinking or eating habits, to change the way we approach health and exercise, to change how we spend our time, or to change our relationships. And so it is that we make goals to cease something - stop drinking, stop smoking, stop eating chocolate, stop arguing with family. Embedded within these resolutions and the language used to phrase them is the implicit assumption that as we are we are not good enough, but by making a resolution we will alter who we are as people, becoming better than we are now.
The trouble is that many people do not feel these resolutions. They set goals based upon an abstract notion of what they think that life should be like, and when they are subsequently unable to follow through their intentions, become embroiled in a process of self-flagellation.
Sarah Scharf’s New Year’s Day workshop at The Life Centre came from an angle of compassion and acceptance. Rather than sweeping aside who we are to make room for a new, cleaner living person, the aim of the workshop was to encourage the tools for seeing who we are and accepting this.
So I, along with the other fifty attendees in the Islington room, accepted it all. The hangovers we arrived with. The bodies tight from a less regular routine over the festive period. Our anxieties about the year ahead. Through three hours of gentle vinyasa and meditation, Sarah encouraged the fifty attendees to feel what worked for our own practice, allowing for the space in which to really explore and understand the feelings, thoughts and sensations which were passing through our minds and bodies on this first day of the new year.
Many of the habits that we aim to stop are manifestations of an internal response and emotion. Understanding that there is a space between the stimulus and our default response to soothe or stifle the uncomfortable feelings that it surfaces is the first step to long lasting change, as it is in that space in which we discover why we exhibit certain behaviours.
This was not a workshop about boosting fitness or toning the body for any kind of external show. The yoga industry is guilty of jumping on the new year hype wagon of creating a physically more attractive version of yourself – but that’s not what will really lead to happiness.
Starting and ending with a san culpa, intention, that was both personal and in the present tense resonated the fact that to make change the desire has to come from a place that is meaningful and natural, and that this change can only happen when energy is directed towards it rather than fighting ourselves and our bodies.
By the end of the workshop I felt that I had space. I might not have learned a new posture, or felt I had changed any habits, but I did feel more at ease, and with a deeper understanding of who I am and what I want from my year. As Sarah says ‘No matter where we want to go we must start exactly where we are. With compassionate clear-seeing we will focus on accepting who we already are and making room for the infinite potential within.’
The next step is utilising that potential positive fashion, to live a compassionate and contented life. Sarah’s relaxing and restorative teaching has left me better equipped to do so.