How Do You Enter A Room?

Have you entered the new year in the same way?

 

Someone entering the room and lifting Dona Rodriguez’s dress starts hitting her with a slipper, engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) from Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Volume II, edition of 1880 -1881. Via Getty Images.

 

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.

 

Thanks to BrainPages.org for the image.

 

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.

 

34 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    Thank you for a wonderful start to the New Year. We all need a sense of awe in our lives and I too wish to enter the new year slowly, mindfully and quietly. After spending 17 days with my 90-year-old mother, I feel a different appreciation for my life, for what has been and what is to come. Happy New Year!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Darlene, and Happy New Year to you as well. And to your mom. Here’s to awe and the opportunities to feel it in 2019. Thanks for starting us off.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  2. Clive Pilcher
    | Reply

    This is a lovely post, Janet, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the year develops for you. Bringing back the awe into your life will be wonderful, and I hope you can do it without being reminded of that horrible word ‘awesome,’ which has been over-used to the point of trivialisation. I wish you well on your journey.
    Clive Pilcher recently posted…A #NewYearSongOfTheDayMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you so much, Clive. Interesting you mention “awesome.” I’ve had a similar tango over the word “wonderful.” It’s overuse has diluted that wonderful word, wonder. (uh oh).
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Great topic and so appropriate for the new year!

    Plaudits for getting off sugar in 2019. You may have withdrawal symptoms, like exiting a room after being noticed.

    I commend you for aspiring to cultivate a sense of awe in your life. I would guess it’s akin to the sense of wonder, natural to a child. Awesome!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Matryoshka Dolls and Your Great-GrandmotherMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. I love your analogy to exiting a room. Today has been hard, but lots of good notes for next week’s blog. Our bodies have much to teach us, would be only listen. I look forward to your return to blogging.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  4. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet. I liked this: “And so, I shall enter this new year slowly, mindfully, and quietly. ” Sensing and acknowledging awe or wonder in your life sounds like a great idea. I think pausing and reflecting upon things in general is, too.
    I have no plans to give up sugar, but I wish you well. And I guess I’ll read all about what that entails next week. 🙂
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…Two Stories in Twist in Time MagazineMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Merril, and thank you. I can’t say yet what I’ll be writing. I’m still living it at the moment. I’d heard the first two weeks were the hardest, now I hear the first three days are the hardest. Good information. I’ve never drunk so much tea in one day! Dare I say it’s been awe inspiring?
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  5. Rich Burke
    | Reply

    This post gives us plenty to think about, starting with the ways in which we approach and begin a new year. But it also makes me think about the way in which I invariably enter my classrooms: I stride in without a pause and without the reflection that a pause would allow for. Even though I’ve got just three semesters to go before I retire, I think I’ll try entering my classes in a new way now.

    The post also reminds me of the Russian tradition of having everyone sit down briefly before someone goes off on a trip. There are various benefits to this pause, and I assume that in some cases at least, people are thinking about their ties to the others in the room and what they’ve just been enjoying with those others and what the next days will bring.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’ve gotten me thinking anew here, Richard. And I thank you. I hadn’t known the Russian tradition of sitting before someone travels. But it reminded me of the Kazakh tradition to not talk across a doorway. That, to me, has implied the importance of taking the conversation more seriously, giving it the time it deserves. Time. Now there’s a topic worthy of some time. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. How someone enters a room teaches us much about that person. Not everything, but much (IMHO). Your students are fortunate that they have you. Tell them I said so. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  6. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Happy New Year, Janet. Awe can be an everyday event if we open our eyes and hearts to what is happening around us.

    Good luck with the sugar. I’m a sugar addict and I have been trying to quit for a long time. The holidays are especially hard and I’m very happy that those fabulous must-have treats will be gone now until next December. But of course there are other things to take their place.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. Yes, I use the word addict in my relationship to sugar as well. I’m finding that, like many things in my life, if I focus on what I’m giving up, losing, I get crazy (and craving). But if I can focus on what I’m gaining (or going to gain) and have enough good stuff to eat (this afternoon, Woody and I had a snack of smoked lox with a garlic pesto spread) I can take this a day at a time. We can all do most anything nasty for ONE DAY. Be good to yourself. And Happy New Year to you and Bill.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  7. Tracy Rittmueller
    | Reply

    Thank you for these thoughtful reflections, Janet. How am I entering 2019? In labor (birthing a book) and in suspension (waiting to see how the future unfolds), with the knowledge that in all areas of my life I’m occupying liminal (threshold) spaces — the “in between.” Hoping to grow more healthy. I think “awe” and gratitude have a lot to do with health.

    Please let me know when your ebook on civil discourse is available. I’m very interested in reading…

    Happy New Year!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      The birth of a new book, Tracy, that is exciting time. And sitting in that “in between” is, in my experience not for the feint of heart. I wish you all the awe and gratitude you need. In abundance.

      Thank you too for your interest in my Civil Discourse eBook. It pulls from my LEAP FROG series, but with bit of needed editing. There’s a long way to go.

      Thank you for leaving your voice here. I appreciate it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  8. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I love that you are entering the new year “slowly, mindfully, and quietly.” I just added “The Accidental Buddhist” to my March reading list (January and February are already full).

    Today (Jan 2) is day 27 that I’ve been “Crap-Free.” I haven’t had ANY:
    Caffeine
    Refined sugar
    Alcohol
    Processed food (with the exception of pasta noodles)
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Joie de VivreMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I think you’ll enjoy Dinty’s personal exploration of American Buddhism, Laurie. He’s a great writer; teaches at OU in fact. I’ll be eager to hear what you think of it.

      Congrats on your crap-free list. It’s interesting what different folk will have on their “crap” list. I got off caffeine back in 1991 and stayed off until just a few years ago when I had to get off coffee altogether, switched to tea, and read that as we get older, some caffeine serves us well. What I remember most of those 20+ caffeine-free years was the feeling when I awoke that I had NOT just been run over by a truck. I was very sensitive to it then; not so much this time. And the truck hasn’t yet returned. I’m paying attention, though.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  9. Terri Lyon
    | Reply

    Lovely post. I will try to pause and respect my hidden deep wisdom regularly.

  10. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    I’m entering the New Year being mindful of judging less and loving more… A theme I’ll try to put into practice each day. I’ve just written that as a theme in my journal (to hold myself accountable). New Year blessings, Janet!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Good goals for all of us, Bette. Thanks for sharing them. And as I read your post again, it occurs to me that having the two together will help. Harder to “judge less” all by itself, I think. But when love comes in, it gets easier. I’m in awe at the moment of how my readership, my commenters, have grown this past year, in numbers, yes, but also in thoughtfulness and depth. I thank you for being part of that.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  11. Amelia
    | Reply

    I have written out intentions this year also. Items I don’t want to carry into 2020. I love this idea of entering a room. Pausing and centering myself before crossing through the door frame. Making sure I am mindful and clearing my head for whatever is on the other side. Thank you.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And thank you for being here, Brenda. I loved how you wrote “clearing my head for whatever is on the other side” — something that would surely serve us all well in various endeavors.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  12. Kelsey
    | Reply

    “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.”

    It’s like you’re in my mind! As a Mainer (hi, New England neighbor!) I relish in being surrounded by so much nature that continues to inspire and energize me. So much so, that I’ve really put my love for the outdoors on a pedestal higher than the 8-5, responsibility-laden part of my life. I’ve finally decided that hey, there’s enough room for both on that pedestal. Cheers to being more active, intentional, and in awe in 2019.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello back. Nature is certainly my go-to place for awe. But today I’ve discovered poetry can give me a sense of that too. Here’s to you finding some between 8 and 5. Happy New Year. Be sure to check off the Comment-Luv box next time you visit — so we can link to your very good blog.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  13. Susie Lindau
    | Reply

    Determining what’s not meant for us is the hardest part!
    Happy New Year, Janet!

  14. Rachael Stray
    | Reply

    I think we could all benefit by being more mindful definitely.

  15. Ellen Hawley
    | Reply

    It’s an interesting question, how we enter a room. I tend to enter like a wild boar. My partner’s got macular degeneration and was advised by a blind friend that she needs to learn to enter a room like a blind person. It’s good advice but it’s been hard to put into practice. She’s even more of a wild boar than I am.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Ellen. So nice to see you here. Welcome.

      The wild boar image conjures up visions of that character from Don Quixote that I used above. And reminds me of the T-shirt I gave my mother one year for some gift giving occasion: “Come On Inner Peace; I haven’t got all day.”

      “Enter a room like a blind person” — I’m having trouble picturing this. I once had a blind cat as a pet. She never went outside, but did quite well in the house UNLESS we had the ironing board up, then she’d invariably bump into it. But I don’t recall her ever entering a room differently than our other, sighted, cat. I’m not surprised your partner is having trouble putting this advice into practice. How does a blind person enter a room? Slowly?
      Janet Givens recently posted…How Do You Enter A Room?My Profile

  16. Deanna
    | Reply

    Beautiful article with an intriguing premise! I will be giving this idea much thought in the next few days. Thank you!
    Deanna recently posted…11 Best hydrating natural foundations for dry skinMy Profile

  17. Josy A
    | Reply

    That really is a good way to start the year. Mindful and purposeful.

    I hope your 2019 is filled with happiness and awe. <3

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Josy. You’ve captured the essence of my post. And welcome to And So It Goes, my personal exploration of life’s mysteries, foibles and fun alike. I use CommentLuv here, so the next time you visit be sure to click on it so we can get the link to your blog. You have beautiful photos and travel tips for those in the Vancouver area. What a beautiful part of the world.
      Janet Givens recently posted…My 2019 Sugar Resolution — Part IIMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Have a blog you'd like to share? I use CommentLuv Click here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.