I had what may have seemed like a fairly “ordinary” conversation with a couple of yogis after class last week about whether to eat a “proper” dinner or not when I got home from teaching at 9:45pm that evening! I explained that making the decision to eat or not at this time of night is somewhat of a conundrum, because I do not like the feeling of going to bed too full, or too hungry – (I know, this is compelling stuff! Please do keep reading though, I am going somewhere with this, I promise!)
One of them then suggested that maybe I set the intention this week to practice Yoga for when you are confused! This actually planted a little seed in my mind about how making decisions in life can cause us confusion – even if the decision is as small as choosing to eat a late dinner or not! Then a couple of days later, coincidentally, the other yogi involved in the conversation posted a quote on Instagram that read, “You’re always one decision away from a totally different life. Let that sink in”.
These little inspirations (thank you Mark and Ange!), along with the hint of Spring in the air again, corroborated this week’s intention – Yoga for making decisions.
It is estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. This may seem a little far-fetched, but we cannot deny being faced with a never-ending stream of decisions from the moment we crawl out of bed in the morning, to the moment we eventually enter a blissfully choice-free sleep (full bellied or not!). The choices we make throughout our day will shape how our day pans out, and will also affect other’s daily experiences too. Each decision, of course, carries certain consequences with it that are both good and bad.
I would say I am a very indecisive person. I do not like making choices, even when it comes to the “small stuff”. It can make me feel anxious, and I get pretty overwhelmed when there appear to be too many options to choose from. This is fairly normal for most of us though, because obviously we really do not want to make the wrong decision , resulting in an undesired outcome! We also all know that small choices can have big consequences, and we must not underestimate the butterfly effect (the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere).
(Side note: My boyfriend almost - jokingly, I think! -broke up with me once because I wouldn’t make a decision as to which ice-cream flavour I wanted. If I remember correctly, I ended up not having one! He was thrilled with this outcome as you can imagine!)
Sometimes however, we face those big, life-changing decisions, and it can be totally daunting choosing what to do when we do not know what the consequences of our choice will be.
But what our yoga can teach us is how to be more intuitive and mindful about our decisions so that we may choose better, resulting in better outcomes. An increased awareness and mindfulness of the vast quantity of choices that present themselves to us each day can help us navigate our daily maze of decisions and support our concentration.
It may feel like sometimes we do not have a choice, and yes, we are of course limited by our options. We cannot choose vegan salted caramel ice-cream, if the shop is not selling it! However, our yoga practice can cultivate a sense of embodiment so that we can make decisions that come from our inner wisdom, and have more faith and trust in ourselves to realise that we, alone, are the master of our own destiny.
Another great article on DoYouYoga outlines some tips when it comes to facing a big decision. I have listed them here, adding some of my own thoughts and ideas:
1) "Create space".
Spring is filled with a sense of renewal. Our new year’s resolutions may now seem like a distant memory, but spring being the season of new beginnings, is an opportunity to start again. Cluttered rooms can make for a cluttered head and heart, so having a good spring clean of the space you inhabit to clear out what is not serving you in your life anymore and make room for what will, can really help when it comes to making clearer decisions.
It is also just as important to make space in our internal environment as it is our external. When you are faced with making a big decision, take some time out for you – meditate, breathe, relax. The answer will flow through you more naturally this way, rather than being forced out.
2) "Clean diet and clean body means a clean mind and heart".
Along with de-cluttering and spring cleaning our inhabited space, we also need to spring-clean our bodies if we are going to make a decision with a clear head. This does not mean we need to be restrictive or unkind to ourselves – we all choose to eat/drink things that are not very good for us sometimes. But if we can start to cut down on anything that directly alters our state of mind - loads of sugar, coffee, alcohol, and any other brain rocking substances – then we can create a sphere of self-care in which the answers can blossom.
3) "Feel it, don’t think it."
When we are confronted with making a decision we can experience an exhausting thought-barrage that can get in the way of our intuition. As I mentioned above, our yoga and meditation practice can help to put us back in touch with ourselves, cultivating our intuition and enabling us to be guided more by our inner wisdom. Remember that Patenjali says that Yoga is the dialling down on the volume of the fluctuations of your mind to get into a more connected, intuitive space.
4) "Screw the advice."
I cannot say I whole-heartedly agree with this one. When I do not know what to do, I phone my Mum! She always helps me to see things from a different perspective, and figure things out.
But as we know, yoga is about uncovering those answers from within, and the above steps will help to strengthen that trust in ourselves and that deep understanding that we are totally capable of steering our own ship.
Quite often, deep down, I already know what it is I am going to decide – I just needed Mum to validate it for me!
5) "Make it and move on."
Once the decision is made, once you have felt it, then do not turn back. If you have already done the work to get you to that clear point where the decision has crystallised, there is no reason to go back over it. If your mind starts to wander over the terrain again, to rehash and worry, you will need to try and rein it in again.
Of course it is scary making big decisions, but we cannot let fear get the better of us. Yoga helps us to soften through the fear. By practicing the above, we can begin to let go of the worry and be guided by our inner voice that knows just what the right answer is (even if it is not easy or pretty).
None of us want to suffer or be unhappy with the choices that we make in this life, but sometimes we do make decisions where the outcome is not what we wanted, and then we just have to live with it. This is where last week’s intention of practicing “contentment” fits in.
When we are more able to make a choice about something that has come from a place of intuition, we need to trust that whatever the outcome, it will all be OK in the end anyway.