On New Year’s Day, I hiked through a redwood forest along rain-gorged Lagunitas Creek, hoping to spot Coho salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The migrating salmon have been abundant here in northern California this year, as winter storms have filled drought-depleted rivers. I didn’t sight any that afternoon, perhaps because they were hiding from the (also abundant) holiday hikers. But I knew they were swimming nearby in the shadowy currents, making their pilgrimage back to the nest sites where they were hatched.
Each January, I try to distill my intentions for the coming year into a single word I can use to guide me, the way salmon use the earth’s magnetic field to find their way home. This year, my word is “align.”
In yoga practice, alignment is not about cramming your body into a pre-determined shape. It’s about attuning from the inside out to the ever-changing arrangements of flesh and bones—within the quirky limits of your unique incarnation—that best facilitate the flow of aliveness and somatic intelligence.
In a similar way, I want to align the flesh and bones of my daily life—the practical details of how I spend my hours—so I can be an imperfect but willing conduit for some larger creativity and wisdom.
This involves tending to the gaps between my aspirations and my actions. For example: I aspire to maintaining mindfulness through my daily activities, as if flowing through a yoga vinyasa composed of errands and emails. But the back seat of my car is strewn with items I’ve tossed there and forgotten: sweatshirts, receipts, snack wrappers, pens, a beach umbrella, a single muddy sock. Alert: alignment opportunity!
And so that my quest for greater alignment doesn’t lead to discouragement or grandiosity, I reflect on the time someone asked the poet William Stafford—who made it a practice to write a poem every day—how he stuck with it on the days he didn’t feel inspired. He responded, “I lower my standards.”
What’s your word for 2022? Feel free to write me and let me know.
In the meantime, this weekend I’m heading back to the creek to seek those elusive salmon. And if they don’t show up, I’ll enjoy squelching through the puddles, smelling the damp earth, and appreciating whatever the current brings me.