As we say goodbye to 2015 and usher in the new year, we are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the past and evaluate how we’d like to move forward in the future. While many of us approach the new year with optimism, quite often as the minutia of our day-to-day lives takes over, we lose focus of our resolutions, falling back into old, comfortable patterns.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Book 1, Pada 28), he discusses mantrum, “that which keeps the mind steady and produces the proper effect.” The idea is that constant repetition, or japa, of one specific word/goal/desire/action will create a habit, until eventually we “imbibe the qualities” of the thing we repeat.
Pada 32 reads, Tat Pratisedhartham Eka Tattva Bhyasah, “The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” In his discussion of this Pada, Sri Swami Satchidananda enforces that we must keep digging, or working at our goal, even if we encounter obstacles. Steadying the mind on the single object of our attention allows us to give it our full focus and power. This is not to say obsess, but to stay on one track, so the bigger meaning and ultimate transformation can be revealed.
The idea that concentration is a practice rings very true for me. It requires that we are deliberate in our efforts. To simplify does not necessarily mean or goal is simple, but rather it is pure and undisrupted by distraction, fear and doubt.
He sums it up beautifully saying, “Stick to one thing and forge ahead with that. Why do you want to have this one-pointed concentration? To make the mind clear so you can transcend it. You are not going to cling to the object but just use it as a ladder to climb up. Once you have reached the roof you leave the ladder behind.”
So in thinking of New Years resolutions, perhaps this year we can all choose to focus on one thing that is really tugging at our hearts, and let this year be a practice in concentration on our ability to see it through.