Happy New Year! I hope that you had a restful and peaceful holiday. I know many of us are excited to let 2020 be over and gone but whether we like it or not, it has shaped and changed us in some way. It is alive in us whether we are actively slamming the door on it or intentionally taking what we’ve learned forward with us.
The month of December was quiet for me. Projects I thought I’d work on for the New Year remain unstarted. It wasn’t as though nothing was happening, I was seeing clients and teaching a few classes but the extra, creative work I had been imagining did not hold my attention, at least not as much as binge watching “His Dark Materials”. Every now and then a familiar inner voice would wonder why I wasn’t doing more, why was I so unmotivated? This old tape and story around not doing enough is as I mentioned, super familiar, but I realize this morning that I’ve been doing exactly what I needed to do. Turning inwards, being with family, moving my body, and resting. With that realization my body relaxed, I noticed I felt calm and clear. I also noted that I felt energized and ready to create! The story around not doing enough felt different, my body contracted, my stomach clenched, my shoulders were tight, and I felt stuck, frozen, unable to move forward.
There is an invitation with a new year to begin again. Unfortunately, we usually take that to mean push harder, effort more, using all the same old messaging from our internal judge that we always have, so of course nothing really changes. As Einstein is attributed with saying, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." We continue to circle around the same old thought patterns we’ve always had and remain stuck and tired. We use our critic in an effort to motivate ourselves but it just ends us making us feel worse.
In Zen Buddhism the word “Shoshin” refers to having a beginners mind, having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, no matter what level of study you are at, beginner or advanced.
In Sanskrit the word Ahimsa means “non-harming”
To begin again is to combine these two concepts and to become present over and over again. Take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, feel the ground underneath you and kindly notice. When you get swept up in worry begin again; notice, breathe, feel your feet, and with kind awareness, notice the worry. Noticing that the worry is there may still be uncomfortable but becoming present gives us more space to be with it. From presence we notice the worry, but we aren’t swept into the future or the past.
If you’ve procrastinated and haven’t fulfilled your obligations to someone, begin again. Notice that you’ve been procrastinating, breathe, feel the ground, kindly notice. It is completely unhelpful to yourself and others to beat yourself up. Take responsibility, do what you can to make amends, and then let it go. You’re only human after all, we all procrastinate, we all worry, we all make mistakes. Thinking that you are the worst person ever and that you are the only person who ever screws up this badly is not kind, nor is it accurate. Begin again.
When you are meditating or practicing yoga and you find yourself thinking about your to do list, or the thing your friend said, or how uncomfortable you are, begin again.
Beginning again does not mean that we are not taking responsibly for our actions but that we are taking responsibility in a kind way, in a way that practices ahimsa and doesn’t create more harm to ourselves or others. And then let it go. Catch yourself (begin again) if you find yourself ruminating on what you should have done or calling yourself names. Letting it go is just a whimsical way of saying begin again. Letting it go doesn't necessarily mean that the thought completely leaves your mind.
To begin again means not repeating the same past conditioning with the misplaced notion that this time it will achieve a different result. To begin again means being present and spacious where we can respond to the present moment with loving awareness and because we are present we aren’t repeating to the same old program.
Being able to begin again is an essential skill to stepping off the wheel of thought that keeps us stuck in painful past conditioning. Beginning again allows us fresh space to take in a complete picture with kindness. It allows us to let go of regret and self criticism. It allows us to approach with compassion and respect. We know we are truly beginning again if we are present, calm, and taking care of ourselves and each other.