Have you entered the new year in the same way?
This past November, I spent a weekend at one of our two local Buddhist retreat centers that call nearby Barnet, Vermont home. The workshop topic, “Transformative Dialogue,” intrigued me.
The workshop turned out to be geared less toward those difficult conversations I’ve been interested in these past two years and more toward how to facilitate community groups that are struggling over some divisive issue. (For more on those “difficult conversations, see my Civil Discourse in the New Age series, soon to be updated and released as an eBook.)
Still, I was glad to be there and came away with a few new ideas to try in my own life and in my work with clients.
I also came away with a new appreciation for how the folks at Karmë Chöling enter a room.
I’m not a practicing Buddhist. Nor do I aspire to be. Writer Dinty Moore in The Accidental Buddhist (subtitled Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still) offers the best description of where I find myself on that subject. I recommend the read if you’re looking for a good memoir. He’s funny too.
Still, I’ve been drawn to Buddhist teachings for many years. The following quote appears in my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.
In the end only three things matter: how much you loved,
how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of
things not meant for you. — Buddha
I’m letting what I learned that weekend about entering a room guide me as I enter this new year.
Curious? I hope so.
In the Buddhist tradition, one enters the sacred space of the meditation room by pausing in the doorway, placing one’s hands on the thighs and bowing the head slightly. One might also place the hands in prayer position though this is not mandatory.
Pausing, that is first. And as I enter this new year, I have paused. I’ve spent the past two days reflecting on what the past year has brought and envisioning what the new one might offer, opportunities to start over, to try again, to experiment, loom.
Some call these New Year’s Resolutions and I’ve written them up annually for the past twenty-six years, though I don’t always call them Resolutions. “Intentions” appeal.
To help me articulate this
simile metaphor idea a bit better, I wrote my friend Ella (whom you might remember from her guest post here in June 2017, Seeing Ourselves Through Others’ Eyes: Ella Reznikova), who was also at the weekend with me.
“As we enter the room,” says Ella, “it is about respect to our own deep wisdom that is sometimes hidden behind everyday busyness and anxiety.”
I love this reminder of the idea that deep down we all know what we need. And, if we go deep enough, we know that we know. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to go deep and that intuitive knowledge gets drowned out by the busyness and the chatter that too often fills our lives.
Ella continues her explanation. “So, we enter slowly, being mindful of our body, speech and mind and we might just stop for a while to be present and remember.”
And so, I shall enter this new year slowly, mindfully, and quietly,
And guess what I discovered? This year I’d like to reconnect with my sense of awe. I also plan to get off sugar, but that’s not nearly as appealing to write about. Let’s get back to awe.
Moving to Vermont in the summer of 2007, the majestic mountain vistas unfettered by commercial billboards took my breath away. Each errand we ran during those first few years included an acknowledgment of how lucky we were that we’d stumbled upon a life here.
As the years went on, I got used to the summertime greens, the full range of spring and autumn colors, and the wintertime snowcapped White Mountains off in the distance slowly blended in with the rest of the horizon as I hurried on my way to wherever.
In writing this post, I realize it’s been too long since I acknowledged a sense of awe in my life. And so I enter 2019 acknowledging that awe need not depend on majestic mountain vistas, spectacular river runs, or the gentle fall of snowflakes against a full-mooned sky. Opportunities for awe are all around me, just as are opportunities for gratitude. And I enter this year more mindful — as I would enter any sacred space.
How about you? How are you entering this new year?
NEXT WEEK: Let’s revisit this “get off sugar” idea.