- Jan 28, 2010
Today, the day of the first full moon in April (which is tonight), is celebrated as the beginning of the New Year in the Theravada Buddhist tradition - as followed particularly in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Burma.
In all Buddhist traditions, New Year is a time for reflection as well as festivities. It is customary for people to consider their lives, and try to identify and rectify mistakes, and attention is paid to preparing for the year to come.
I came across this that I liked, relating to (any) New Year, an extract from a piece called ‘How to Begin Again: From Wounds to Wisdom’ by Diane Renz, a psychotherapist and writer:
“Beginning again is always an option. It sounds simple, but inquire into your own experience – whether it is with a new exercise routine or diet, a resolve to meditate or have a writing practice or be on time, or a promise of relating in kinder ways with your partner–what happens when you miss a day? Do rigid ideas of how you “should” do something, the black and white thinking and unforgiveness, get in the way of simply beginning again? Like the Nike ad, “just do it” can cut through incessant thinking about failing to do it just right, and we can ‘just do it’ imperfectly.
There is a practice of “Beginning Anew” that I learned while studying with Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh , a peacemaker and human rights advocate nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. It was presented as a way of working with conflict within relationship with another. Step one is to create a mindful atmosphere both externally and internally, Step two is to express thanks to the other for who they are or what they have done (sounds easy, but imagine how angry you are with someone, this is the last thing you want to do), Step three is to express your apology for how you may have caused harm in the relationship (even harder to do, to admit fault when your eyes are peeled on what is the fault of the other), and Step four is to then express the pain you feel when the other does whatever the other does, and what your need is (now you are getting to what you wanted to express to begin with but because you are softened in relationship to yourself and the heart of the other, the communication comes in a non-injurious way).
My suggestion is to use this format of Beginning Anew for ourselves:
1. Create Mindfulness in ourselves (the quality of attention that is open, accepting, curious, non judging—using breath and an embodied practice)
2. Offer appreciation for what we have done
3. Offer our own mourning for how we have not aligned with our intention
4. Express what we long for, rooted in our strength, acknowledge what we might be able to change
When we feel defeated, fail to meet our own expectations, or have been unable to keep to our new resolution for change, it is not the end, but rather, the beginning of creating new perspectives that allow the possibility to open to and approach life as it is, as we are. It is the courageous heart that lives in imperfection, staying open to the vulnerability that brings forth the failings and the successes.
It is the willingness to be exposed to the light and the elements which allows our ripening and integration. Like the tree stripped of its leaves in winter, exposed, waiting, breathing the sunlight from above and the nutrients from below, letting the storms reveal both its vulnerability and its strength to restore with new buds of life.”
Happy New Year! Celebrating new beginnings!