Love is the answer! How often do we hear that? How many times, in how many songs, in how many blog posts and facebook shares have your heard this same old story. And now that its time for New Year’s resolutions, for dropping that weight you either have already put on, or will put on ‘for the holidays’, I want to make sure we give this cliched wisdom its due.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years digging into this question, exploring it personally, inquiring about it with hundreds of students, looking at the academic literature and asking spiritual masters and western healthcare practitioners this question…What makes people finally change?
Most people answer fear at first. Yes, fear can certainly motivate, since it is so hardwired into our physiology. Those ancestors of ours who heard the lion coming, got the most scared and ran the fastest did survive, and we have inherited those traits, the importance of feeling fear quickly, and fleeing. This translates today into getting scared when your doc says ‘lose weight’, but as we know from our own experience, it doesn’t last. That motivation goes away as the adrenaline fades, and the new diet goes away after a few days or weeks. No staying power. Short term changes. Not really any growth.
Now, when love is the motivator this is different. I’ve spoken to many, many folks who have experienced significant growth and change. Many of them yoga students and practitioners, but not all. Most of them don’t even realize it, but when you dig in a bit, they discover that yes, the moment that prompted them to change, to start moving down a positive path, they were finding themselves loving someone, their wife, their child, their parent…and they realized how important their health was to that relationship, how in many ways their ability to experience that love, to be present for that person is a function of their health which is really a function of their day to day choices. And these are a function of awareness (but that’s for another day.)
Beyond loving another, we come to the question of self love. One of those new age-y, self help books topics that we often dismiss. How many times have we (I?) ignored the suggestion to ‘love ourselves’, to ‘take care of our inner child’? Certainly by now, being a full fledged adult sized and aged person, that kind of love can’t be what is holding me back from the ongoing daily practice of love, loving myself, caring deeply enough about my health that I make daily, sustainable choices that are in both my near term and long term best interests?
I have come to the conclusion (and my research backs this up) that in the end, love is the answer. Love ourselves. Love others. Express that love through acts of service and kindness. This seems to be the key to genuinely sustainable heatlh, to a new years resolution that lasts past the first week in January. Love is the answer!
Wishing you all a loving and nurturing End of 2016