New Year's Evolution
The ancient part of it, the limbic system, reacts to threat instinctively with self-righteousness, attack, anger and withdrawal from connection with the (real or perceived) source of threat.
We all know we have this capacity within us: responding to a threat (to our way of life, our dignity, safety, sense of self), with a desire to hit out, to withdraw from connection with the source of the threat, or to draw the battlelines between us and them.
But know also that there was a later evolution of the human brain (the neocortex), which enables us to manage our self-protective reactions. This is the part of us which seeks to reach out to other people in the face of threat; it is the part of us that knows that together we are better; and which gives us the courage and confidence to remain open-hearted in the face of vulnerability.
As you step out into the new year, please remember that the ability for humans to connect and help each other, to offer each other respect and love, is as much of a human instinct as that which tells us to become defensive or aggressive; remember that your capacity to reach out to others in times of uncertainty is the higher function of your brain.
It might take practice - the functions of the limbic system have dominated human development for many generations - but your yoga practice will give you the time and space to engage with this practice; times of peace, times of prayer can be guided towards seeking and finding this higher place in yourself, the place which seeks to understand and care for others.
It all starts with you.
When the world feels full of fear; when it feels as though the voices of aggression get the most airtime and shout the loudest; you can walk through your life with peace and generosity, you can remain dedicated to the practice of compassion and to the development of your own empathy; you can be the one that takes the time to encourage, care for and nurture other human beings, be they strangers, friends or family.
This is the best new year's resolution that I can imagine: to turn always towards empathy and compassion and to reach towards that part of our brain which knows that we are nothing without connection and understanding.
People just like you are doing this everywhere, every day.
We make a difference.
Start where you are and you have no idea how far the positive ripples of your actions will travel.
"Don't miss an opportunity to exert the power you have to remind others of who they are: invaluable priceless and irreplaceable. Remind yourself too."
Dr Donna Hicks