A Year-End Assessment as Beautiful as the Flowers

flowers

A YEAR-END ASSESSMENT AS BEAUTIFUL AS THE FLOWERS

Dear Friends, Yogis, and Travelers on Many Paths,

Happy New Year! Here’s a big thank you for being part of our Evolutionary Yoga Flow community in 2018. I’ve been enjoying my vacation, spending more time with loved ones, finishing up projects, and doing a year-end review and charting out new goals for 2019.

2018 was in some ways a hard, heart-breaking year, and yet it was also triumphant; the light inside us is rising up more than ever to dispel the darkness!

Better yet, 2019 is sure to be filled with new discoveries.

But who can keep up? We move so fast that we rarely digest how much we are actually feeling, doing, and changing. How far have we come? What are the movements and milestones that marked this last year as unique?

At first, as I brought these questions to mind, I felt that I didn’t accomplish anything last year! A book I’d planned to finish is at the last chapter, but still incomplete. Relationships that soared, later stalled. Art and dance and song that wanted to be made, remains undone (but I’m still working on them!)

So, I sat down, as I often do when I’m confused or conflicted, and I started writing, which is one of the ways I meditate. I brought my sketch books and calendar from 2018 and listed milestones and achievements during the last year, as I invite you to do. I also asked some important questions about what I learned from my mistakes and the blind alleys that opened up into new trails with even deeper and more abundant light, future dreams.

Here are the results. They include four questions that helped me – and I hope can help you – to make 2018’s year-end review precise, powerful, and supportive of success in the coming year.

Question #1: What did I do this year that I’m really excited about?

Can we acknowledge that we did things that have value? Can we even remember? I invite you to go through your schedule book, phone, computer calendar, and journals to see what you’ve accomplished. There’s a lot more there than you might at first see.

I found that when I laid out five areas of life that matter to me and placed the year’s events in the context of what I value, I had much greater perspective on my triumphs, near-misses, and outright wild, happy, dancing turmoil.

The five areas are: Livelihood and Lifestyle, Body and Wellness, Creativity and Learning, Relationships and Society, and Essence and Spirituality.

In Livelihood and Lifestyle, I was happy to see that with the help of wise mentors and visionaries, I was able to create a new 16-week course at Hawai’i Community College on Yoga and Polynesian wisdom. This work, developed over more than 30 years of Yoga practice, study, teaching, and devotion, and more than a decade of exploring Hawaiian traditions, hula, and spirituality, is dear to my heart.

By bringing together two vast systems of knowledge for living in balance, I felt we could soothe some of the unnecessary conflicts people create because of their culture, religion, language, gender, belief, or skin color.

I also created a new 7-week course on the Chakras, Kundalini Yoga, and Subtle Body Medicine called Illuminating Joy. The students involved in these endeavors are the real heroes, for they are willing to reach and rise, recognizing that the art and science of Yoga invites us to be Creators as well as Practitioners of the ancient methods, and so it’s a good thing we’re becoming more flexible, patient, and imaginative, even while we are finding new stability.

I also continued to make and teach the Art of Silk Painting at SKEA, in June offering a week-long creative adventure at the annual Summer Camp for Keiki, A Touch of Aloha and another weekend painting workshop for adults in November. The quality of artmaking I see in students is so humbling and restorative. It has been an inspiration to see the dedication to creativity in all its forms.

In the Body and Wellness area, my love of Yoga has become both magical and mystical, with a daily practice of Asana, Meditation, Dancing, Chanting, & Dream Yoga bringing more fitness in body and mind than I ever imagined possible.

My study of herbal medicines, which began in Colorado with Brigitte Mars, continued in May here in the islands with Hui Mālama Ola Nā ʻŌiwi in a series of workshops on Hawaiian la’au lapa’au, the practice of herbal plant treatments to solve the problems of body, mind and spirit. In Hawaiian Healing, as it is in Yoga, the mental is not separate from the spiritual and physical. La’au lapa’au Kahuna rely on plants endemic to the islands to sustain and bring low-cost, practical healing to our communities.

Early in the year, a problem with my hands becoming numb, especially at night, kept me from writing, sewing, and painting, all of which I love. Through yin yoga, rest, ice, a great chiropractor, a wonderful osteopath, yogassage, energy medicine, and insightful physical therapy, things got better. But I saw how years of writing longhand, computer mousing, squeezing paint tubes and gutta, and one two many handstands had caught up with me. I re-learned to use my hands and fingers through mudra, micromovement and somatic experiencing. Sounding, essential oils and arnica cream were among the gifts which have helped my hands be happy again!

In the arena of Creativity and Learning, I took an oil and acrylic painting workshop at SKEA with one of my favorite artists, Rod Cameron, and created a new work, Eternal Light. Shortly afterward, I attended the 2018 Hawai ‘i Student Success Institute (HSSI) Conference at the Hawai’i Convention Center on O`ahu and the Post-Institute at Honolulu Community College. Building new relationships, learning about the awesome educational experiences being designed and delivered in our small state, and seeing how progressive our teachers are in encouraging and supporting high-quality learning — it reminded me how fun it is to be a student and stirred me to want to be a better teacher.

In the area of Relationships and Society, we finished 12 curtains of 6 – 24 ft. silk prayer flags to grace both the Kona Community College Graduation ceremony in May, and the World Kitchen in Puna in July. World Kitchen came to the rescue, serving thousands of meals to hundreds of our east side neighbors displaced by the eruption of Kilauea volcano which began in May and lasted for most of the summer. I volunteered for several days in the clothing exchange and hung prayer flags. Everyone was helping everyone, which must be the point of disasters. To remind us what we’re here for.

Contributing prayer flags to uplift centers for social and educational change is helping to make our world a more beautiful place. It also fulfilled another goal that I share with you who support ArtWavEs Nourish the Children, the non-profit organization founded by local artists and teachers, which is the goal of nurturing the bodies and feeding the souls of Hawaii Island keiki. Together with entrepreneurial mentors, we created a new business plan for ArtWavEs; the timing and trajectory of that project will continue to flow in the coming year. Stay tuned!

In the same area of relationships, I celebrated a milestone in achieving my twelfth year as an international blogger! My newsletter, Brave New Views, now reaching more than 5000 readers through subscriptions and internet placements, has fostered and deepened friendships around the world that have moved me personally as well as professionally.

I celebrate the growth of our reader and fan base because I want our mindfulness and art ideas founded on the values of honesty, kindness, and non-violence, to spread and flourish. I want to save lives. I want to assist more people to live happily because it’s the right thing to do, and also, so that unskillful souls don’t try to make the rest of us – and our planet – miserable because they are ill and miserable themselves! By embodying the ethics and etiquette of happiness, we can relieve much of the suffering.

Presenting talks at the New Thought Center of Hawaii for the 10th year in a row is a kind of milestone too, for they inspire all of us to remember how things change, and also how things stay the same!

At last, in the area of Essence and Spirituality, everything already acknowledged has contributed to the renewal of my essence and spirit, and yet there are two events that stand out. In January 2018, I participated for the second year in Common Ground’s Women’s March Global (WMG) — the international arm of the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) – at a distance. I had the flu, and while I couldn’t wave signs and parade with prayer flags, I was able to appreciate the extraordinary power of women and men who stand up to preserve justice, peace, and stewardship of the environment. Participation around the world was huge. I’m grateful that the values we share are more powerful than anything which divides us.

More than six hundred national and international sister and brother marches joined forces for the second annual Women’s March in nearly 60 countries across six continents. Women, men, and children celebrated a worldwide vision and values that promote health, economic security, equal representation, and safety for all children, women, and men. Truly, billions are rising.

The other event came in March when I was invited to volunteer to help clear ancient trails above the Palamanui campus north of Kailua. With devoted caretakers, Kumu, and Kahunas guiding us, we helped to restore and preserve the environment and cultural practices. Besides bruised feet from walking on a’a rocks (chipped lava) and sore muscles from carrying heavy stones and pulling weeds, I also received inspiration to write the Great Spirit of the Goat Decree, a prayer to protect Lama trees near the campus. In all my years, I never imagined I would write a Great Spirit of the Goal Decree. Who knows what will come next?

So that’s the answer to Question #1 – not bad for someone who at first glance thought I didn’t do much of anything last year!

Question #2: What mistakes did I make that taught me something?

What can I draw from my errors? How can I leverage the near-misses into full-on accomplishment in the coming year? It’s important because at the end of a year, in December or on January 1st, we have a greater view of the entire 12 months and can see what went wrong.

When we make a mistake, it may be hard to extract the lessons without beating ourselves up. In retrospect, we can spot the lesson and growth opportunities without letting the false ego get in the way. Look over the year and ask, what are the things that just didn’t go so well? What mistakes did I make? How can I do better next time to grow into a better and wiser person?

For me, the three pressing concerns – completing and publishing book projects, improving my relationships with friends, and handling money better – seem at odds with each other. Writing is something we usually do alone, and it doesn’t lend itself to social activity until the books are done and we’re out in the world, asking for feedback, listening, and talking about the work.

The mistake is in believing that we have to be social to be happy. Our society really pushes that, and science does support it. I love being social, but I’ve also met the sweet solitude of the writer, which, while painful in earlier years, suits me and so brings me joy I never imagined before. I am so grateful for my friends who understand it and don’t take it personally when I choose to work rather than go out to parties or events. They love that I’m fulfilling my dreams. And that I keep writing.

Even more, perhaps, I am thankful to the family and friends who sense when I’m in a writing trance and haven’t slept in a week. They can call and say, “I’m outside your house with a picnic basket right now. We’re going to the beach.” They know that going into the zone can be dangerous, isolating, and when I spend so much time working at my computer that I forget to smell the flowers, they have a sixth sense for knowing I need to taste the sea salt air and feel the wind on my face and laugh with a good friend.

“We’re going to play now!” That’s the kind of error-corrective I can respond to!

I can be better in the coming year by balancing work and play, and understanding that is a precursor to setting priorities for the new year.

Question #3: What am I willing to let go of?

This is the life-changing magic: letting go. Is it time to let go of detritus that doesn’t serve us anymore? You can think of this as a de-cluttering journey through the house of our lives. Where have we made commitments we don’t really want to do anymore? One friend calls this a “commitment colonic.”
If we’re no longer joyous in contemplating the goal, maybe we’ve outgrown it.

Why not drop it? Get rid of any project or goal that’s no longer aligned with who you are now or who you want to be in the next year.

For most of us, there’s almost always some resentment, hurt, guilt, shame, or embarrassment that we’re holding on to. Let it go. Do an emotional cleansing. What do you no longer want to weigh you down?
Ask what stories you are you telling yourself that no longer serves you. Maybe you think you’re too old, too young, bad for not sending Christmas cards, or not successful enough. Who would you be if you let go of disempowering stories?

Rumi said it beautifully: “Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”

It’s not till you let go of what you don’t need that you see how it’s holding you back. Releasing the unskillful thinking will set you up for a powerful year.

Write it down on slips of paper and then burn it in a Fire Ceremony of your making. Because most of us are extremely critical of ourselves, worrying we didn’t produce enough fast enough well enough, we wind up heading into the new year fatigued and defeated.

We can change that, and it’s not so difficult to do!

Question #4: “Do the people you care about love you back?”

For many of us, the new year is a time for reflecting on the past as well as looking toward the future. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has created a tradition of taking stock of his life and work in what he calls an “end-of-year assessment.”

Gates’ tradition dates back to his childhood. As a kid, his parents would send out Christmas cards with a rundown on what his family was up to. One card, for example, had updates such as, “Dad’s law firm is growing, Mom’s volunteer work is going strong, the girls are doing well in school, Bill is a handful,” recalls Gates.

Checking in with ourselves and sharing what we’re optimistic about is actually quite enriching. Science supports performing check-ins with yourself, with one study showing that people who make time for self-reflection are happier, more productive and less burned out than people who don’t. Psychologists also highlight how self-reflection can help push you toward a purposeful change, help you reach your goals and trigger self-awareness.

What’s heart-warming is how the young Bill Gates assessments had more to do with building Microsoft and his business, but today’s evaluations have more to do with his personal life. He asks himself, “Did I devote enough time to my family?” “Did I learn enough new things?” and “Did I develop new friendships and deepen old ones?” he writes.

“These would have been laughable to me when I was 25, but as I get older, they are much more meaningful,” says Gates.

So, the fourth question focuses on the quality of our relationships, on whether the love we’re giving is reaching its mark by inspiring intimacy and closeness with the people we are closest to as well as those we want to be closer to.

In my own life, I’m reaching out to you at the beginning of this new year, one in which I think we’ll be making the turnaround needed to bring more health to our planet and children. I’m reaching out because love is really what it’s about — the love we give and the love we receive.

Life is about sharing and making the effort to bridge the gaps in our awareness and the gaps between people, to make in our lives the families, communities, and beautiful ceremonies that can nurture a society as beautiful as the flowers.

And so it is! May you enjoy your self-reflection and a prosperous new year in 2019!

With deep and abiding love, light, and laughter,
Marya

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