The new solar year is a time for new beginnings: the dreaming of dreams and the planting of seeds. It is the opportunity for a fresh start. We look back where we have been. We think about the momentum that we are establishing and the direction we are headed, and often we will resolve to make changes that we feel will be of benefit. In this way, it is a time for a clean and fresh start. We think about what to accept in our lives and what to reject.
I have been asked to speak about how to let go, how to forgive, how to work with guilt or aggression.
For now, as a next step, let us explore the possibility that - at its most basic level - we resolve, we decide, what to accept and what to reject. We open in order to let go, and in so doing we receive a fresh start.
It is a pleasure for me that we have a gap between the beginning of the new solar year - associated in many people's experience with the changing of the calendar year on January 1st - and the beginning of the new lunar year which some people call Chinese New Year. It is known in Tibetan tradition as Losar. We get to have a fresh start twice and to use that space in-between to do us some good.
The new solar year we begin formally at the time of the winter solstice, associated with the calendar change of January 1st. It is followed some weeks later by the new lunar year. This year Losar will be celebrated February 5th.
It is a time to reflect and begin to dream what it is we wish to let go, and what it is we wish to take with us.
In some traditional cultures, the beginning of the year is symbolically marked by the fresh start that comes from a good cleaning of our outside personal space: home, office, car. We let go of the dirt. We enjoy the fresh start. In the same way, it is a time to clean the inside world: a letting go of the dirt and receiving a fresh start.
It can feel big, and hard ,and complicated. There are things that can stick to us deeply and edges that cut at us, and yet - at its most simple - weeding is the way to get weeding done.
The expression was a used in a conversation I had this past summer with the monk who is the gardener at the Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton where I am considered family. I had gotten behind in the weeding in my own garden. I was bemoaning the weeds especially that were growing in the gravel driveway, and I was reflecting on how to get rid of these weeds, the ones in the gravel driveway, but there were also many other weeds to choose from. I take care of rather large gardens. There can be any number of weeds.
So I was wondering about this tool or that tool, trying to visualize how best to accomplish this seemingly enormous task, worrying and feeling bad because it was not done yet, and the monk who is the abbey gardener looked at me with some pondering and say: weeding is the way to get weeding done.
Jogging is the way to get jogging done. Preparing healthy food and bringing it for lunch is the way to eat more healthy food. Putting greens in a smoothie, or a salad bowl – a stir fry or some soup - is the way to eat more greens. Going to the gym is the way to get to the gym. Calling the girl is the way to call the girl. Having the difficult conversation is the way to have the difficult conversation.
In the wishing and the wanting of things to be different, in the dreaming of dreams, and in the struggle as we stir our inner muck, it is possible for the roots of our weeds to get a bit stuck. It is possible to be caught up in the wishing, or planning, or worrying, or regretting. The thinking that surrounds it can be quite complex. Often, the doing is very simple.
Doing it is the way to get it done.
It can feel so heavy to carry around the weight of the thinking about the wish, the regret, the guilt, the worry. Many things can take much more time and energy to think about than they actually take to accomplish. The list of undone things, the conversations we wish we had but have not yet, the conversations we have had that went badly: so much happens in the mind that can take so much room in our lives.
Making it right is the way to make it right again. Doing it is the way to get it done. Starting it is the way to get started.
We pull one weed at a time.
In Tibetan monastic tradition, there is a practice of how to receive a fresh start which dates back to the lifetime of the Buddha himself in 500 B.C. It is called Sojong. It is a ceremony that takes place at the full and new moon, which is to say two times every month. It is a ceremonial fresh start.
Is there some kind of ceremony that you would like to do for yourself to mark your new beginning? To mark your letting go? Will you write the list of things you wish to let go and offer it somehow? Maybe you will throw one stone in the river for each of the things you wish to let go? Will you grow bulbs in a container indoors as a planting of what you wish to plant in your life?
The Buddhist ceremony called Sojong is the time twice a month to reflect on how we have connected to our inside world and how we have connected to our outside world. What is it that we regret? What is it that we need to set right?
Then, we set things right. The day before the Sojong ceremony is the time to have the difficult conversations, to accomplish undone things that are weighing us down and would prevent us from being able to move forward. It is a ritual time to let go of what is holding us back and create the space for a fresh start.
A nun or monk will show up at the Sojong ceremony with a freshly shaved head, a clean set of robes, and a freshly cleaned room. Then, there is a ceremony of accepting the fresh start and renewing the intention of the direction that we are setting as we move forward in our lives.
We let go of what needs to be let go in order to receive the space that permits the fresh start.
In this traditional Tibetan context, it happens in relation to the renewal of moon cycles, twice a month, but the beginning of a new solar year, and the beginning of the new lunar year in early February - and that glorious space in-between - is another time like that. We pause to reflect: what we need to do let go? What undone thing must be released or accomplished? What do we need to set right? What are the hard conversations we need to have? Then we do them in order to create the space for new things to arise in the new time to come.
At its most basic, weeding is the way to get weeding done. Letting go is the way to let go.
I can offer that, if there are things that I need to let go, sometimes, it is not so much that I let go but that I cannot hang on any more.
Other times, it is that I want to let go, but that I am somehow so much attached to it that it is like the weed in the gravel driveway. I can pull at the top, but I will not succeed in pulling out the root.
When this happens, sometimes it's useful for me to think not that I am letting go, which can be quite “me” focused. Sometimes it is helpful to think rather that that which I am releasing, I offer. This pain, this frustration, this difficult experience, this heaviness that is somehow holding me back, I offer it. If there is any good that would come from this experience, may that be for the benefit of all beings. It has a quality of offering this experience of life to life itself. In this way, if the gesture becomes one of connecting to a greater experience of the essence of life itself, it becomes about the connection. The connection helps to release what cuts us off or holds us back.
Yet, often, it begins with a decision. We can struggle, and waffle, and wish, or feel the weight of the guilt, the frustration, the betrayal. Sometimes things run their own course in a way that is a very organic, and they cannot be made to go faster even if we may wish it to be so, but other times, though, the wallowing – the thinking - can itself become a kind of trap, and the gateway out of that trap is the decision, the resolve.
I can visualize weeding. I can look for better tools. I can wish there was this or that different. I can feel pain, and annoyance, at the weeds that are growing in the driveway and on the land. Think about it and struggle with it as long as I may wish, in the end: weeding is the way to get weeding done.
We decide, to some degree, what to accept and what to reject in our lives.
Often such decisions happen at the coming of a new year. The changing of the calendar gives us all a fresh start.
What will we let go in order to create room for something new to arise in this time of new beginning?
The way to let to go is to let go.
The way to plant seeds is to plant seeds.
The way to get it done is to do it.
May the journey in this new year bring you joy.
Copyright © 2019, Adela Sandness