Letters swallow themselves in seconds. Notes friends tied to the doorknob, transparent scarlet paper sizzle like moth wings, marry the air. So much of any year is flammable, lists of vegetables, partial poems. Orange swirling flame of days, so little is a stone. Where there was something and suddenly isn’t, an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space. I begin again with the smallest numbers. Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves, only the things I didn’t do crackle after the blazing dies.
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye
Many legends and myths tell of a hero’s or heroine’s journey during which someone has to face challenging trials, cross unknown oceans or survive dangerous encounters with the dark forces of the underworld. Usually all ends well, and the hero or heroine returns home with a valuable gift, a magical charm, or divine wisdom. A new year, in truth all 365 days, contains all the necessary ingredients for such a story.
Looking back over another past year, I’m reminded, once again, of the fleeting nature of life. Like leaves on a tree, I already have my ending within me. It’s a sobering thought to actually realize I will never fully comprehend my existence, nor my eventual nothingness. So paying attention, cultivating mindfulness, helps me through the everyday suffering the mind constantly creates— anger, fear, panic, regret, greed, doubt, judgement, hate, and delusion— as well as through the chaos of current world affairs. Yes, the planet is warming, the seas are rising, and we continues to rapaciously destroy everything of value that stands in our path. It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. What matters is what we do about it.
The first step on a genuine hero’s or heroine’s journey is to find the courage to face the truth. Sometimes mindfulness helps us to do this and other times it doesn’t, because it reduces the effort needed to initially understand ourselves. It’s not enough to simply watch one’s thoughts and feelings come and go. We need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for why we think and feel the way we do. To be mindful of our thoughts and feelings we first need to know where they’re coming from. Now is the time to be serious about our intentions and the changes we wish to see both personally and globally by asking what truly and deeply matters to us?
A new year offers a time for soul searching, making sure everything we do moves us forward, not backwards. What needs to end so we can begin again? How can we be more accepting of ourselves and others? Sometimes just cleaning out a closet or taking a walk can help us think more clearly.
When you slow down you never know what awaits you, will inspire you, enlighten or change you. You can connect to what’s beautiful and true and spread it around like soft butter on toast. Every step and mis-step counts in making life meaningful.
All of us have been touched in one way or another by life’s challenges. If nothing else mindfulness, paying attention to how and why we feel and think the way we do, can make you a bit more accepting of yourself so you can be a bit more accepting of others. To be truly happy we think we need to acquire things that only money can buy, but what we really require to be happy is a good night’s sleep, a satisfying meal, a sunny day and the love of others.