Another Groundhog Day

In North America they celebrate Groundhog Day on 2 February when the groundhog comes out of hibernation. It is said that if it is sunny and the animal sees its shadow then it goes back into its den and this warns of another six weeks of wintry weather.

The term ‘groundhog day’ has been included in the dictionary as “a situation where a serious of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way”. With lockdown restrictions you might be feeling that every day is the same as the last. Have you used the time to make any changes?

Some of you might remember a film that was released in 1993 called Groundhog Day. The movie revolves around a weatherman, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray), who is on an assignment covering Groundhog Day in a small town in the USA. Phil is a very arrogant, cynical and a generally unpleasant person. He gets stuck in the town during the unexpected snow blizzard and trapped in a time warp. He wakes up over and over again to the exact same day each morning and has to relive it, without anyone else realising they are in a time loop. Each day he has to deal with the harsh winter and environment, the people in the town and especially himself. Being stuck in this town forever is his nightmare so he becomes confused and eventually suicidal but not before realising that his behaviours have no consequences and making risky decisions such as binge drinking, one-night stands and reckless driving.

After some time, he confides in his co-worker and love interest, Rita (played by Andie MacDowell) and tries to improve himself, at first to only impress her. Eventually, he starts to use his knowledge of the day’s events to try to better himself and the lives of the town’s people, for example, preventing a homeless man’s death or catching a teenager when he falls from a tree.

It’s only when his actions become selfless that his cynicism and ego disappear he finally stops reliving the same day and, of course, wins Rita’s admiration.

This film teaches a lot of yoga related lessons: letting go of the ego, being selfless and seeing happiness in everything.

Ego is defined as a person’s sense of self-esteem, self-importance and self-worth. As you can tell, there is a lot of “I” involved with this. Letting go of the ego is probably the hardest thing an individual can do and it takes discipline, commitment, sacrifice and some type of enlightenment. The ego is an essential and necessary aspect of human development but it is also a way by which we distort reality. When you let go of the ego, you become entirely selfless and want to serve all living things.

Being selfless means doing the right thing and accepting that the universe is guiding you on your true path. I won’t go into too much detail here but in yogic teachings we have ethical codes of conduct called Yamas of non-violence, truthfulness, refraining from stealing, sexual restraint and non-covetousness. These link your internal environment of body, mind and spirit through Niyamas of purification, contentment, asceticism, self-study and devotion.

In the Groundhog Day film, Phil Connors starts to practice non-violence when he saves the homeless man from dying and catches the teenager while he is falling from a tree. He realises that all life is important and valuable (versus when, in the beginning of the film, he did not care about the homeless man or the teenager).

Phil also practices truthfulness when he explains to Rita what is happening to him. Of course, Phil does not get there right away and tries to lie his way into Rita’s bed first, but he learns his lessons in the end and by practising selflessness and truthfulness, he enriches the lives of those around him and becomes a better person.

Phil has to take a long, hard look at himself and decide what type of person he wants to be and how he wants to live each day, even if it is the same day over and over again. He eventually decides that he wants to better himself and help those around him. He learns how to play the piano, make ice sculptures and speak French while he is stuck in the time loop. Towards the end of the film, he becomes content with his life. He has a really good day in the town, being generous and helpful and at the end of the day he tells Rita no matter what happens and even if he has to relive the same day again and again and wake up each morning alone forever, he is finally happy. It is the next day he find himself waking up next to Rita and the time loop is finally broken.

Groundhog day has earned praise and popularity over the years and is still a relevant film in the modern day despite it being produced in 1993. Does the film’s message of placing the needs of others above your own desires resonate with you? What has your own Groundhog Day taught you? Have a think about how you can let go of your ego, be selfless and see happiness in everything.