Each New Year, each new cycle we mark, can be a turning point. Something inside of us recognizes that we have to settle our accounts, balance our inner as well as outer books, take stock of where we have come from, and prepare to move on.
And yet, with all the talk of “moving on,” few people ever do. Instead, we repeat where we have come from, recreate the old scenarios, perhaps with new faces, and wonder why things do not work out; why we make our New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions and yet wind up sifting through the familiar wreckage a year later. What is it that keeps us running around the years like a dog tethered to a pole? Why do we announce great breakthroughs and new beginnings only to fall back into the same hole we started from? Sure, we tell ourselves stories, like “I’m improving,” “I’m evolving,” but they have a hollow ring to them, we kid ourselves into believing them so we can keep going.
In many of the world’s spiritual traditions, this sort of thing is recognized as sa?s?ra, the non-mindful repetition of the same sensations, perceptions, ideas, and narratives ad infinitum. Is there really a way through this, or is “liberation” something reserved for the most gifted and graced minority?
To debate, speculate, and even argue about what may be there if and when we break on through to the other side is just another way to keep going around the pole. Likewise with “resolutions,” step by step programs, and the rest: it is not that we are disingenuous, it is that we are caught in ever looking backward and forward, in reactions upon reactions, histories upon histories.
The sacred teachings are not new. They have always been here, but they are revolutionary, and they challenge us to be true. May we be willing this year to move into the great gift of the life we have been given and to live it so fully, that that there is no ongoing residue to have to continuously come back to.
Here is a New Year’s offering: three guideposts, signs, reflections for a New Year.
Presence: Everything begins here; with the willingness to embrace the present…the gift of being now. Buddha, Christ, and Krishna are now. Anyone you follow who lived long ago is now. Do we dare step away from the “safety” of yesterday and live out our own unique experiment and dialogue with life? Do we dare release comparing ourselves to anything or anyone and be just what we are in this moment?
Peace: Such a simple and overused word, but who has it? Who is truly free from anxious machination? The word “shanti,” usually translated as “peace,” has as its root meaning “to extinguish,” to release the grasping for tomorrow, to be so deeply alive here and now that you can face anything with your fullness. Peace is a prerequisite, the open door to “being with” instead of “looking at.” Peace cannot be “attained,” but it can be dropped into, accepted, realized by being oneself.
Prema: a Sanskrit word, but unfortunately there is no correlative in English. Perhaps “unconditional love,” but that does not necessarily indicate the flow of bliss when one is at peace and in presence with everything and everyone, the constant current of divine aliveness, and the play of divine moods (rasa) and situations (lila) in every moment of ongoing now!
Now, these are all ideals, not so easy to live, what to speak of “love.” But I ask, “Is there really any choice, and is it really that difficult, that heroic?” No, providing you are willing to live your life, not someone else’s, to accept the gift of your life this New Year. This is not some fatalistic resignation to the way things are, for when you accept your life, you are charged with making it all it can be, with giving, sharing, holding, and daring to be yourself in a world that has almost forgotten the reality of Grace, the shining redemptive radiance of awakening.
May It Be So For All Of Us This year!
Peace, Presence, Prema,