Intention Setting for The New Year; Exploring the Niyamas of Purity and Contentment

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

            As we approach a new year, we often partake in setting some sort of resolution – a decision to make a change for the better.  However, resolutions can be limiting, or could indirectly tend to the feeding of self-loathing.  With resolutions, we may get into labeling ourselves with negative self-images such as “unhealthy”, rather than setting an intention to identify the things in our life that don’t serve us.  Thus, instead of setting a New Year’s Resolution, we should focus to setting a New Year’s Intention. 

            As resolutions are limited to focusing on the goal of what we want to change, setting an intention offers more, in that you shift your focus to the present moment, rather than your future goal.  For example, if your resolution is around being more healthy, you may find yourself creating a new routine, and hope that your will power is strong enough to commit to it.  However, by approaching this as setting an intention to being healthier, you may reflect on making more righteous decisions to living a life that feels healthy. Your focus shifts to making your intention a form of self-love, while a resolution just focuses on the goal in mind.

Saucha: Purity

            Saucha is one of the Niyamas which translates to purity, and invites us to purify our bodies, our attitudes, and our actions, becoming less weighed down in our thoughts, and given clarity to every situation.  Fitting for intention setting, purity can be a cleansing process that is both physical and mental, as we enter into a new year.  As we can set an intention to identify and cut back on unhealthy habits that do not serve us, or change a behavior that no longer serves us, whatever we think will bring us into a better year for ourselves, we must focus on the process of what actions we must take that will lighten the loads we carry that prevent our goals from being achieved.  These unnecessary loads we carry could be feelings of discouragement, by labeling ourselves as things such as “unhealthy”. As resolutions focus on the “what”, the purity of intention focuses on the “why”.  This could mean choosing a healthier lifestyle because it makes us feel good about ourselves.

Unlike a resolution, we must not be so hard on ourselves for whatever condition we are in at the moment.  We must cleanse our body and our mind, by working toward having a healthier self both internally and externally, while also knowing what drives us to make unhealthy habits and behaviors. To do this, we must forgive ourselves for feeling the way we do about our past experiences in order to move forward with intention.  As we strive to be clean, we scrub and polish our outer self, but to purify, we must also cleanse our internal self.  This includes us continuing to live mindfully and with purpose when we make daily choices, otherwise, we slip back into our same old habits as before, losing sight of our intention. As long as we continue to live present in the moment each day and remember our intentions, the resolution becomes clearer.

Santosha: Contentment

            A second of the Niyamas is Santosha, which translates to contentment.  Santosha invites us into contentment by take refuge in a calm center, opening our hearts in gratitude for what we do have.  As we enter a new year, we must acknowledge that though we don’t always have to be happy with our circumstances, we can chose to accept them and make an effort to find the positive in every situation. Resolutions can be problematic if we don’t take the time to recognize what we do have.  Otherwise, even if we do fulfil our resolution, there can be something else in its place which makes us discontent with ourselves.

            We must express gratitude when entering another year, and not have an expectation that only happiness and success will happen.  Instead, we should approach it as being happy with ourselves and becoming open to whatever life brings in the New Year. As Swami Rama said, “Contentment is falling in love with your life”.  So whatever intention we do set for the New Year, we must also find contentment in the process.