That quote came from a commencement speech given last spring at the University of Pennsylvania by Nipun Mehta. I don’t remember where I first heard the interview with him, but I am an avid walker and I was drawn into the conversation. I later found his complete speech transcript online (thank you Google) and I find myself thinking of it regularly.
And now in this time of New Year’s resolutions, I turned again to the wisdom in his story of pilgrimage through India. He and his wife began walking across India with the simple goal to be in a space larger than their ego.
I have been in the fitness industry long enough to be wary of resolutions. Each year the fresh faces greet me with expectations to help them be thinner, healthier, happier. Some succeed, but most do not. It is my deepest desire not to become jaded by life, so I have tried to help as much as possible and keep an optimistic attitude.
Last January my partner, Anne, who is a Naturopathic Therapist, and I started a new series called Path to Transformation. It was an eight week program that assigned meditation, journaling, reading, yoga, massage, and food tracking. The beginning of the program emphasizes the difference between goals and outcomes.
This is an important distinction, and the reason while so many resolutions fail. A common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, an outcome resulting from a myriad of changes. Each change is a goal in itself. Each goal has wide ranging effects physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Physically, an imbalance in calorie intake and expenditure may have a desired outcome of seeing lower numbers on the scale, but energy loss most likely will also occur, eventually resulting in weight gain. It is a fact that metabolism is set by several factors; a major one is caloric intake. Still the ego says, “I can do this,” and the mind usurps the body’s instinctual wisdom. Imbalance between body and mind results and emotional frustration, rather than weight loss, is the outcome. Furthermore, in my experience, rather than quieting the ego and honoring the needs of the body, human tendency moves toward firing up that ego even more.
If I were to use one word for my goal in life and in teaching, it would be alignment. My yoga classes are about physical alignment within the body, but also alignment of body, mind, and spirit. I talk a lot about creating space. Creating space allows for finding alignment. Once alignment is achieved, balance is innate. I have no idea what the outcomes will be, but I believe that alignment is essential. In myself and in others, I witness being aligned, being balanced, and being amazed.
So this year, rethink resolutions. They may have already given up, succumbed to temptations or habit. Or maybe you are toughing it out. Take time out now and step back. Sit down. Breathe. Feel the exhale and with it, let go of expectations. Understand that you were never in control of outcomes. As your mind quiets, maybe allow one thought to emerge: something that you can control and do upon standing. One thing. Make that your goal. Before you move, prepare for that goal. What would it take physically? Mentally? Spiritually? Is it something you can align yourself with completely, no matter what the outcome? Notice how you move from outcomes to goals and how simple the goal becomes. One small step, but in time, one large transformational process of becoming fully integrated, aligned, and balanced.