By Jennifer Crumpton
As we begin a new year, it is tempting to hope things will change. It's a traditional desire for any new year to want life to only get better, more prosperous, more exciting, more fulfilling. Yet after two years of a pandemic and its myriad consequences - isolation, fear, stress, uncertainty, exhaustion - it feels like just a baseline boring year would suffice. At the same time, it also feels like we deserve so much more.
Second to hoping things will change, we think of all the ways we want to change and improve. Perhaps as we work toward those goals, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, punish ourselves, forget our intentions in our busyness, or give up on making them a reality, causing a cycle of more anxiety and depression.
So when we hold up our dreams and visions against the ambivalence and unpredictability of 2022, we are faced with a unique decision about how we want to show up in a world that keeps shocking, confronting and challenging us. We must consider how we want to wake up and be each day, for ourselves and our loved ones. Maybe this year fitting into your jeans isn't as important as tailoring your courage and strengths to what seems to be a strange future no one could have imagined. Resolutions take on a new meaning.
This year, we can't manage by exerting effort from a solely physical level, as has long been the unspoken idea of making resolutions; trying to push, pull, and wrangle ourselves and our world into some acceptable form. It can't be all "will power" and "precise planning" and "perfect execution" in a universe that has proven itself to be unrestrained by our white-knuckled grips.
Meanwhile, we've forgotten who we are, and the many layers to being human and our journey on this planet. You can only become the new person you annually imagine you can be, if you bring your entire being with you. So, what would happen if we included our whole selves in our visions of change?
In the classic yoga text Taittiriya Upanishad, we learn that we have five bodies or "sheaths" in Sanskrit, called the five Koshas. These five layers surround our soul - our true and eternal selves that are not cut by the sharp edges of life or diminished by adversity - like the layers of an onion.
The Annamaya is the physical, outer layer. It needs healthy food and water, sleep and exercise, and is the layer we pay most attention to, because we can see it. The way we treat it, feel about it, and what we put into it deeply impacts the other four layers.
Pranamaya is our life force energy and the breath that supports it. Cultivating and replenishing our energy with movement, meditation, and intentional breathing connects us to others and moves our stagnancy into vibrancy. The breath can never be in the past or in the future, only the present, and it connects us to the present moment and roots us right in the only space where action can be taken and change can manifest. It moves us forward in our lives, instead of staying stuck in setbacks.
Manomaya is our mind, thoughts and emotions, and helps us sense our internal sensations and feelings, and our reactions to the world around us. This layer forms our perceptions of ourselves and our world, good or bad. It impacts our thought forms and mental patterns that affect our belief in change, our faith in the good, and our ability to change and grow and take risks.
Vijnanamaya is the layer of awareness, intelligence and wisdom. It helps us see reality for what it is, and not judge it, but learn how to accept it and then transform it. Here we develop clarity and power for real, lasting change by letting go of ego and the attachment to the need to be right, or the best, or to win, or prove others wrong. We move into a deeper understanding of life, and don't need to compete, beat, or delete anyone or anything.
Anandamaya is the bliss body, the space of spirit and joy that transcends any circumstances or events. It is a higher consciousness at our core that is always available and waiting for us to discover and tap into. We feel flashes of oneness and unity with all things and see the beauty of opportunities to transmute hatred, fear, cruelty, pain and loss with the sense of unmovable peace, confidence, courage and knowing we hold deep within ourselves.
Now hold up your resolutions for 2022 to all five of these layers of being, and consider how you can approach your goals, dreams and visions by attending to and developing your whole being, and using the energy, creativity, and innovation that each layer offers. I bet it'll make 2022 a whole new experience than anything you could have previously imagined.
We freely and feverishly hoped that 2021 would be very different, and much better, than 2020. Our resulting suspicion about 2022 might provide an opportunity to realize that "better" and "easier" lives don't necessarily lead to the best versions of ourselves. Our ability to endure and improve can be bolstered by honoring, respecting and living from all five layers of who we are. Happy New Year!