As always, I am excited about the New Year. There is the promise of something fresh, with new potential to emerge. It is like moving into a new house. However, when we move we bring a lot of old boxes from the old house with us. And we also know that the new house is fraught with challenges as well, some being personal, societal or environmental. What attitude can we bring to this new endeavor, so we can take the opportunity for a new beginning?
A few days ago, I was meditating in my special spot up in the backyard under the fig tree. Several difficult things had happened lately, one after the other. The last straw being my wallet with everything in it pickpocketed. Besides my own personal distress, I was also aware of the suffering and poverty that makes people take from others, on the background of the polarization and discord in our world. I thought that a deep, long meditation practice would clear my head and heart. It was the 24th of December and I wanted to be present for my adult kids, who were visiting from far away.
Following the instructions of my teacher Dan Brown, I was trying to hold a glimpse of the freedom that comes with resting in awareness, while at the same time trying to stay with the felt sense of what is difficult for me in this world. Unexpectedly, an image of Jesus rushed in. I was surprised as I don’t feel particularly close to the Christian religion. Then, I had this sudden insight that Jesus had struggled with a similar predicament, yet much more intensely. While being treated extremely badly, abused, betrayed and finally killed, he had tried embodying an awareness of the sacred, the divine, or of ultimate reality. I realized how he must have struggled to not lose his love, get discouraged or lose his openheartedness for others.
Just after the meditation my beloved mentor, the Buddhist scholar and social activist Joanna Macy called to wish me a Merry Christmas. I told her about my experience, and she told me how often she feels angry and judgmental at people who do not care for our world and all our wellbeing. I told her that I was experiencing a similar dilemma. How can we be engaged and loving, while tolerant and non-judgmental at the same time? It is so hard not to get caught in this righteous seeming anger.
HH the Dalai Lama was asked once, “What keeps you from getting overwhelmed when you see what is happening in Tibet and to your fellow countrymen?” He replied: “I trust in the sincerity of my heart’s intentions”. And when asked, “During the course of your life, what has been your greatest lesson?” He answered, “Mostly Bodhicitta. Altruism. It has helped a lot…It gives you inner strength, courage, and it is easier to accept situations.”
This is what I want to carry forward into the New Year: to live my engagement without anger and judgment, but with an open heart, trusting in my heart’s intentions.
Have a Happy New Year,
Please Note: On January the 8th at 7 pm we will have our next Solidarity and Compassion event at 7 pm at the Unitarian Society on Santa Barbara St. Our theme will be: “Grieving into New Life.” Remembering the Montecito Debris Flow tragedy, we will come together to respect our grief and find ways to go forward into a meaningful future. Alexis Slutzky, Michael Kearney and I will host this evening with meditation, music, and processing together.
On Saturday, January 25th from 3-5 pm, we will have an event at the Sacred Space in Summerland. Your participation in this event will support Mindful Heart Programs, a nonprofit that sustains and creates programs, such as Kind Mind SB, teaching mindfulness and compassion practices in schools. We particularly hope to raise funds for Singing Bowls and other instruments kids love when learning mindfulness. The event will include meditation, talks introducing our programs, Children’s testimonies, self-compassion practices as well as Anahita’s beautiful harp music and cookies.