Don’t you love the first day of a month! There it sits, in your computer dashboard, number 1, the start of a journey, an opporutnity to tap into it’s freshness and start over, pull as much sparkling newness from that number 1 and believe with every ounce that whatever promises you cheated on last month, here is a number that can cheerlead you to begin again.

I’m milking the 1st of Feb for all it has to offer this year, and one of those offerings is from the organisation Febfast – Pause for a Cause. Originally Febfast was focused on giving up alcohol for the whole of February, but as not everyone drinks, it is now about giving up something, anything, that acts as your crutch. The crutch you lean on when the going gets tough. It’s time to take that illusion away, and learn to walk and stand on your own two feet without it.

My crutch isn’t so much alcohol, but I definitely find it challenging to be social without having a drink, and the occasional glass or two after a perceived hard day. I don’t think there is anything WRONG with this, and I definitely don’t think I am in a place where I need to call the AA hotline, yet, when I wake up from this innocent indulgent in a glass or two, my body has a different story to tell. My moodiness increases, my ability to concentrate the following day decreases. My need for pick me ups
(sugar) iregularly. We move closer toncreases, and I am likely to eat foods that don’t fit into the word ‘fresh’. So all up, although there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks, I sense that my liver has a completely different view on this.

So, here I am, with a membership to Febfast and 28 looonnngggg days ahead of me where I am not drinking. And with Day 1 not even down and dusted, this abstinence got me thinking. About desire, about the pull towards something that, even though it doesn’t offer any ongoing benefits, it does instead offer the experience of immediate gratification. This pull of desire is know in yoga as RAGA.

Raga is the attachment to something outside of ourselves that we believe will bring us pleasure, relief, happiness and satisfaction. The perusal of anything that we have associated as pleasurable in the past, will be a go to when Raga hits. It’s opposition is Dvesha or aversion, and this seems to be the cycle we go through  things that we think will fill our desires and make us happy, and we move away from experiences that we think are painful and will create discomfort. This seems reasonable enough, until we realise that this push and pull is coming from the stories we made up about past experiences, wired those suckers into our nervous system, then somehow seem to respond to present situations from our perception of past situations. We are kind of crazy

The desire itself, when it comes upon us is neutral. Having a desire for more energy doesn’t necessarily mean we have to indulge in a chocolate binge. Feeling overwhelmed with work or family doesn’t mean we need to finish of a bottle of Pinot Gris (although, it seems to be a great option at the time). The desire itself carries the energy that can surge us forward into new territory within ourselves, or deepen the grooves of samskara that are already  deeply intrenched within us. Also, when we look at desire, the energy of desire rises initially from the 2nd Chakra, Svadhisthana, which translates to dwelling in the place of self. It is here that our creativity resides, alongside our sexual energy and general likes and dislikes. When this creative energy is utilised for desires that offer instant gratification, like the glass of wine or the block of chocolate, then the energy expended on that expression, is now not available for creative juices like a yoga practice, journaling, making your own sugar free chocolate, exercising, etc. This energy is powerful, and when it is utilised on experiences that evaporate once they are indulged in, we then have to almost wait until the urge strikes again.

So why would I choose to express a desire in an unhealthy way rather than a productive and creative one? In our state of Avidya – ignorance or non seeing – we seem to mistake pain for pleasure and impermanence for permanence. We basically have it backward. And in seeing everything backwards, we usually pass up on situations that could of granted us the peace and insight that the desire itself was initially seeking.

So what is the way out of this vicious cycle? Firstly, it is where yoga becomes more then a physical practice. We allow the sweetness of self inquiry – Svadhyaya – to reveal our desires and aversions on the mat. How we grasp certain practices yet disengage in others. In meditation the ability to sit with ourselves for an agreed amou
nt of time, even 5mins, rather then finding an excuse to finish the meditation early. Svadhyaya begins to bring some spaciousness between what is being perceived and how we feel about this perception. This space is where the magic happens. It is where the next time a desire pulls at us strongly, we have just a microsecond more to make a decision as to how to respond. As the responses change, so does our perception of our desires and our ability to harness our creative energies and steer them in directions that bring us more satisfaction than any glass of wine ever could.

So the 1st of February is a good place to start with the dilution of Raga – desire. Baby steps, constant ones, permission to fall – into that bottle of win – now and again. But by your side is the sweetness of Svadhyaya, this self awareness, giving us more and more space to seperate the pain from the pleasure, the impermanence from the permanent, the courage and desire to continue to grow into a better version of ourself than we were yesterday.

To enroll in Febfast visit

To delve deeper into Svadhaya – self inquiry – join me on 2017 first MINI YOGA RETREAT – March 19th from 10am to 4pm. Full details click here.

Contact Michelle for next upcoming retreat (day, weekend, overseas)

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