So, it’s a new year. Are you excited? Are you ready? Are you full of hope and inspiration? Have you set goals and made resolutions? Are you also, perhaps, a little overrun with the energy of newness and new beginnings? Perhaps, like me, you’re still wrapping up 2018, processing, and preparing for new things to come. January marks the beginning of the Gregorian calendar, which has been around since the late 1500’s. It carries a lot of cultural and historical weight, giving January 1 some real significance, but it’s not aligned with the cycles of nature. In the natural world, the time of new beginnings is the Spring Equinox, falling on March 20 this year. For this reason, January can be a kind of long pause. It can be a time to continue to reflect and essentially “put away” the prior year as we also look ahead for what’s to come. If jumping into all things new doesn’t feel authentic for you, it may be that you’re more aligned with the natural cycles and that come spring you’ll be ready to blossom. Meanwhile, enjoy the space in between and make time for silent reflection. Take long walks in nature, meditate, or curl up in the warmth of home with a good book. Fill your space with candlelight, or bask in the winter sun. One year is behind us, and another is ahead. Give yourself the gift of a mindful transition. May your year be filled with peace and ease.
The Buddhist concept of hopelessness means to look to the present as it is instead of looking to the past or future with fear or hope. It asks us to be with what is, as it is. To do this, we must cultivate feelings of neutrality and equanimity. Being with what is means that:
- We allow our present moment experience without judgement.
- We notice our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as an observer.
- We release attachment to making things different.
- We notice our emotional response with kindness and curiosity.
- We allow ourselves to feel how we feel without self-criticism or attachment.
- We recognize the transient nature of our experience.
One of the benefits of a meditation practice is that you’ll begin to experience an overall increase in feelings of calm and ease. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become indifferent or numb to life, but that you’ll be more skillfully responsive and less momentarily reactive. You’ll notice some space around your thoughts and emotions in which you can pause. You’ll likely turn to the practice in moments of chaos, stress, and emotional upset as a way to move through the difficulty. Instead of getting knocked off center and spinning out into fear, doubt, or worry, you’ll maintain a feeling of being grounded and sure even as you are overcome with difficult emotions. There will be a still point within you that you can return to as often as needed. You can take refuge there to regain your strength, cultivate compassion, or rest your mind. Cultivating this still point is the work of our practice.
Acceptance of what is takes practice. It is a practice, in fact. A practice of mindfulness that takes time and attention. In our fast-paced lives we may expect accepting what is to happen quickly, like flipping a switch. Sometimes it may work this way, but the bigger and harder things in life take time to accept and this is okay. When you’re practicing acceptance, you’re rewiring your brain.
It’s a lot like building muscle mass. If you begin a new exercise program for the purpose of becoming stronger, you don’t expect to end your first workout having achieved the final result of the program, do you? Nope. You know that it will take time. Weeks, months, perhaps even years, depending on where you were at physically when you began and the ultimate goal.
Changing our thinking takes time, too. It begins with small efforts, moments of mindfulness that we build into our days, and it grows from there.
Here’s a great acceptance practice from Rick Hansen: