The calendar year has ended and people all over the world are ready for a fresh start. All of us in the Northern Hemisphere are now seeing the return of light to our days, which is an ideal time to recommit ourselves to awakening the inner spiritual Light. In addition, the COVID vaccine offers us hope that we may once again be able to be together with friends and family in 2021. This worldwide pandemic and other events this year have been teaching us many lessons. We have seen how we struggle without some of the comforts we relied on as sources of happiness. We are still seeing how taking risks to pursue life as it was can easily spread the virus and endanger lives. Our eyes have also been opened to the tremendous harm caused by systemic racism. As literally millions all over the world are suffering from racism and the spread of the virus, it has become clearer than ever that we are all interconnected and that only by working together can we protect each other and our communities.

Some of us have been learning to be alone. All of us, if we are sincerely interested in spiritual growth, have had a tremendous opportunity to self-reflect—to see in ourselves the thinking and behavior that creates suffering, and the need for spiritual practices that can free us from the prison of selfishness. If we are willing to embrace those lessons and put them into action, we have a tremendous opportunity to co-create a better world.

Many sources of wisdom have asserted that changing the world begins with changing ourselves, and the new year is a traditional time to rethink how we want to live. But far too often, a New Year’s resolution made in a moment of inspiration falls away in a relatively short time as our intentions are swept away by the stresses of daily life.

Along with creating intentions, real change happens through a realistic assessment of the obstacles we face, the will power we have—which tends to fluctuate—and the support system we can count on to provide continual encouragement. Only by carefully creating very doable and measurable goals can we expect to make the sustained commitment to some new routine or practice that is necessary to make it a habit.

Here are some things we can ask ourselves:

o Are there changes I could make to my diet or lifestyle to support the healing and vitality of the body-mind? It can be much easier to give up some unhealthy habit by substituting something healthier that can fulfill the same need.

o Is there some Yoga practice or teaching I can begin or increase to support my well-being and spiritual growth? Starting small but practicing daily builds a habit and the benefits we experience provide additional inspiration.

o Am I taking care of my emotional needs for connection and support? We have a tendency to override or escape uncomfortable feelings which often lead to compulsive behavior. A practice partner or someone to talk to can make a big difference.

o Have I educated myself sufficiently about how systemic racism is embedded in our culture, and how I may unconsciously be contributing to it? Simply avoiding that topic altogether because it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient sustains this insidious crisis.

o Is there some habitual way of thinking that I find myself stuck in, such as self-judgment or judging others? Do I need guidance to deepen awareness of how and why that happens and to choose more positive ways of thinking?

o Am I using my time and energy in harmony with my values? We can waste a lot of time with social media and we can do tremendous good by focusing our energies on some form of service—few things are as fulfilling as opening our hearts this way.

If we sincerely reflect on questions like these, we can create a slow but steady process of personal transformation that will inevitably spill into our lives in many other ways. Don’t think for even one second that we cannot hope to make a difference in the numerous and complex problems in our world. Healing our own hearts and minds enables us to feel the natural connection we have with all of life. Making a commitment to embody spiritual values brings them more fully into the world.

Everyday choices, as well as our long term goals, take on new relevance when we realize that each action and every focused thought is a tangible contribution to the collective consciousness of our planet. We each have the opportunity to co-create a new wave of change in 2021, manifesting more fully than ever the Light in ourselves and our world.

About the Author:

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.