Happy New Year, Everyone! I love this time of year. Optimism is in the air! There is a shedding of the past, inner reflection about what we want for our lives, and an openness to the unknown of the future.
If we want to live our lives in alignment with what is true and real, this is a cusp point, an auspicious time that invites us to let go of the old and welcome in the new.
Welcoming the New
How to welcome in the new? By being open to this present moment – to living in the here and now. Not as a concept, but as our actual reality. The dictionary defines new as “appearing for the first time.” The essential gift of this time of the New Year is that it reminds us of the actual reality of our existence: everything is always appearing for the first time, every moment is always fresh and new, brimming with possibility. What an insight!
Think about it – is it possible for a moment to be repeated? Certainly, things are familiar in our lives. When we wake up in the morning, the bedroom looks just as it did before we fell asleep the night before. But our experience in the moment is completely unique. This moment has never occurred before and will never occur again. In truth, we are always welcoming in the new.
So why do things seem familiar, even humdrum and stale? Sometimes we long for something new to happen. How can that be if every moment is new – if the fresh experience of reality is right here, closer than the breath?
No Mind = Fresh, New, Alive
Familiarity is all in our minds, which are very adept at remembering our experiences. When we see something that seems familiar, we are viewing it through the lens of a memory. We are not experiencing it directly.
Take a look at a common object that you can see right now, say a table. How do you know a table is a table? Your mind has learned that tables have certain characteristics that match the object you are now perceiving. What if you could forget the word table and all the table memories you have. Now take a look at the object and see it directly as it is.
You will probably notice a completely different experience. It is alive to you!
Now imagine you could forget all the memories of fears, emotional wounds, and traumatic experiences. How would the world look to you then? Imagine living in the possibility of not carrying the past into the present.
Zen Buddhists speak of “beginner’s mind.” When we stop seeing our experiences through memory, we are beginners, babes in the woods, innocent, open. We have an almost visceral experience of everything that is palpable and undeniably real. We are infinitely curious.
Problems and stresses melt away – they cannot exist without memory.
Experience This Moment Directly
Reality is alive, here, always available to be experienced as it is. Certainly, being familiar with things helps us to function in the world. We benefit from remembering how to drive or brush our teeth. These memories are effortless – they come when we need them.
But most memories distract us from seeing what is actually true. We live through the veil of a smudged window rather than seeing things with crystal clarity. When we directly experience what appears, we feel it, sense it, we come to know its aliveness.
At this time of the New Year, I invite you to deeply explore this present moment.
- Eat a raisin. Place a raisin in your palm, and turn your attention away from your thoughts. Experience the raisin through your senses – see it, touch it, smell it, then place it in your mouth and bite down.
- Close your eyes. Go into a familiar room and close your eyes. Move around the room experiencing the objects through touch. Let go of the mind activity, and experience things directly. Be curious about what things are actually like: shape, density, texture.
- Meet people. Encounter familiar people in your life as if for the first time. Study their faces, look into their eyes. Clear your mind of the past, and just for a moment, meet them directly as they are.
Often, experiencing reality directly brings a sense of deep appreciation. We are sensitive to nuance and detail, we stop doing and receive things as they are.
When we let go of the old, we can truly welcome in the new – in every moment.