Towards positive change

By Dr. Ganesh Mohan

What does it take to change ourselves? Shifting our patterns takes some effort and meets some resistance.

There is always some discomfort as we move outside of our existing zone of ease. For example, it is a challenge to transition from a sedentary lifestyle to regular exercise, or from restlessness to regular pranayama and meditation.

To progress toward positive changes, we have to tolerate the discomforts we meet in that process, accept some short-term discomfort for long-term gain. That essential practice of meeting and overcoming resistance has a specific name in the Yoga Sutra: tapas.

However, we do not want to create discomfort needlessly! We want to make change as easy as possible. Hence the ancient yoga commentaries caution us to practice tapas without upsetting the balance of mind, and by extension, the health of the body. Extremes are rarely sustainable.

The effort of doing something, or not doing something else, is not just mental; it also comes from your body and senses. Change is not just about “willpower” or force. The best path to sustainable positive change lies in identifying the supports that help us and intelligently managing the effort we need. The best approach is always holistic.

Here is a simple reflection: “Can I pick one change for better wellbeing and make my tapas easy? Can I decrease the resistance or discomfort required for that change?”

Maybe that means accepting a smaller change. Or selecting a change different to what we are focusing on now—taking steps toward better nutrition or relationships instead of more exercise for instance. Or we could pick up somewhere we left off last year; maybe we are more ready for that change now.

When we make our tapas—meeting the resistance to change—easier through reflection and skillful choices, we move faster toward wellbeing and peace.