Every moment is a new beginning. If we inhabit it fully with compassionate awareness, each moment is inherently a pivotal point of power. We make wise choices, live from an inner wellspring of infinite lovingkindness and compassion, and dance with our veils of thoughts and actions with balance and grace in the community of all beings.
But even though we always have access to that pivotal power, there’s something about the New Year that more easily reveals the possibilities inherent in our being. Although Jan 1st is a mental construct with no root in nature, it’s ingrained in our psyches as a fresh beginning, a turning over a new leaf, a wiping clean of a slate of things we’d rather forget, and a fresh opportunity to reset our intentions. So let’s use it! Get something to write with and enjoy this New Year’s exercise that you can do any time.
This exploration is accessing your own inner wisdom, a quiet timeless voice that has answers, but only if you seek them out. This wisdom is calm and undemanding. It never uses words like ‘should’. It is easeful and loving. It rests underneath the clamor of strident externally-stimulated thoughts. It lives beyond time, so there’s no urgency, no pressure, and no deadlines. (All this to explain why so few of us have ever heard it!) To access that inner wisdom, please meditate before doing this exercise or take at least a few minutes to quiet down, center yourself, relax and release tension, resting your attention in the breath or other physical sensations to whatever degree you are able.
As you begin the exercise, first notice what attitude you are bringing to this opportunity. Are you gritting your teeth, bound and determined to this year live up to your resolutions? With that tightness and tension, personal power is depleted in the hunger to please some external judge.
Letting go is the first invitation to engaging. How can we open our arms to embrace a new experience if our arms are full and holding on tight to our thoughts, fears, and grudges? So before setting forth anew, pause to reflect on any heaviness of heart you bring to this moment. Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding with someone that you might make right. If it weighs on your heart to be out of touch or your last words were unskillful, what would be the most skillful way to soften the tension there, to lighten the burden? A note? A call? A text? Or at least a moment of wholehearted silent well-wishing for yourself and the other person. Pause to do that now: May I be well. May you be well. May all beings be well.
Perhaps the person you have been unkind to is you. See if you recognize the inner critic that doubts your worth or your ability to envision and follow through on that vision. Recognize the fear but don’t make an enemy of it. Instead, hold it with lovingkindness. Befriend it but don’t buy into its story. You might think of the inner critic as a dragon at the gate of enlightenment that needs to be befriended before proceeding. It’s a surprise to discover that we can reach out to pet the dragon, that’s it’s not as big as we thought, its scales not so sharp, and it’s not breathing fire! Instead, we sense it’s quivering with fear, and find that being held and comforted is all it ever wanted. Whatever shape your inner critic takes, understand that it thinks it’s protecting you. Your assurances and kindness will soften its harsh words and let you proceed.)
Once you’ve had a good cuddle with your inner dragon and have let go of the busy mind full of no can do’s, answer the following questions:
- “What in my life or my dreams quickens my mind and heart?”
Take all the time you need to creatively imagine some project, activity, or direction for your life. Not ‘long-term goals’ or ‘career planning’, not what some authority figure or society itself advises, but just what excites you to do with your time that is life-affirming and beneficial, making the best use of your unique interests and skills.
- If something came up for you, ask yourself, “What is the first step I could take to bring that idea to life?”
- If it is something you are already doing, then ask, “What, if anything, can I do to nurture it?” Reconnect with your initial intention and excitement that may have gotten drowned in the daily details and interactions.
- If it’s something you haven’t done, ask “What do I need to know?” and make note of the questions you have that you can research.
- If it requires something beyond your abilities or ones you are willing to learn, ask “Who might I collaborate with to make this a reality?” Relax and allow your inner wisdom to remind you of who you know who has those skills and perhaps a shared interest. If what you are imagining inspires you, perhaps it will inspire others to work with you.
- If this line of inquiry brings only exhaustion, hold yourself in an open and loving embrace and rest. Every field goes fallow at times, but don’t assume this is a permanent state. Stay present and notice signs of new shoots sprouting forth within you. Gently nurture them and allow them to grow. Then revisit this exercise.
Every moment is a personal point of power and an invitation to engage more fully in the dance of life. Deepen your meditative practice and your inner exploration to bring your unique way of being in the world to light.