|This is the season of new beginnings, of making resolutions and sorting out how to keep them. My yoga teacher has a favorite story about a king that wanted his monkey to learn how to talk, and I think of it often especially this time of year.There once was an elderly king who had a pet monkey. The monkey was a fool. Even so, the king loved the creature and treated it royally. Early one morning the king called his minister and said: “Oh minister, I would like to be able to consult with my monkey. Go out and find me someone that can teach my monkey to talk. If you can’t do it, your head will be cut off.”So the minister traveled far and wide throughout the kingdom searching for someone to teach the king’s monkey to talk. He sought out animal trainers and scholars and consulted with linguists and lawyers. Each expert said that it is quite impossible to teach a monkey to speak. Finally he came upon the forest hut of a yogi who was sitting and chanting blissfully under a tree.
“The king will never chop off the head of this saint,” the minister thought. “I will take this yogi to the king and tell him that he can teach the monkey to talk. My head is certainly off the chopping block.”
The next day the minister presented the yogi to the king. “So, you will teach my monkey to talk,” the king said to the yogi. “You have until the end of the month.” The yogi examined the monkey carefully. Stroking his long beard he said: “I’ll need at least a year.”
“Wonderful”, said the king. “At the end of one year, if the monkey does not speak, I’ll chop off your head and the head of the minister as well.”
As they left the maharaja’s palace the yogi turned to the minister and said: “Why are you so morose?”
“What’s the use?” replied the minister. “We’re finished. It is impossible to teach a monkey to speak. The king might as well chop of our heads right now.”
“Don’t worry now, my son,” replied the yogi. “In one year’s time the king may die, the monkey may die or the monkey may speak.”
In making resolutions I like to reflect upon the story of the king and his monkey and the premise of fresh starts. The new year can feel like a new beginning, a turning point that can bring with it the hope of a “new you.” Fresh starts can push us to change our behavior. They are a promising time to set resolutions. Sometimes, however, we can set the bar too high and our resolutions seem only to proffer false hope.
In fact, the whole process of goal setting is remarkably similar to the yoga journey. Know the destination you hope for, but be open to all the possibilities that the journey affords you. In life and in our yoga practice it is impossible to predict the future with certainty. The unexpected can always happen and it is better to stay in the present.
There are times that we encounter adversity in our yoga practice, our interest may wane, a posture we once could do easily becomes difficult, or some resolution falls by the wayside. In these times it is important to remember why we are trying to consistently do yoga. Start anew by making a list for yourself of the benefits that you feel you receive from your dedication to it. If you find yourself in a rut and your interest is waning, try to bring a fresh outlook to it. Change the times that you practice. Try a new sequence. Add something new, a new movement or posture. Read a new book on spiritual practice.
When you do new things in your outer life, however small, they help us see ourselves in a new way. It is good to try to integrate the new into all aspects of our lives.
In moments of relapse, it is important to remember the moral of our story and the premise of fresh starts. Each day brings with it many opportunities to put our imperfections aside, embrace what is creative within us, and start again with hope and confidence.
Quote of the Month
“In the beginning you have to make room for yoga in your daily life, and give it the place that it deserves. But after some time, yoga itself will pull you up by the hair and make you do it. ”
January 13, 2014