New Year’s Revolution

moonrise

I’m digging the double entendre inherent in the title of this blog. The year, like the planetary movements that ultimately control the way we measure and understand time, revolves from one December 31st to the next. A revolution. Another kind of revolution is contained in our ability to reinvent ourselves on New Year’s Day. We make resolutions that might revolutionize… us.

Living in the northeast allows me to feel with tremendous immediacy the pattern of the revolving year. Slick, grayly invisible ice appearing on driveways and roadways in January is familiar because I’ve seen it again and again, on the roadways of my life.  Furred infant leaves appearing overnight on the branches of early spring put me in mind of past springs, and the feelings that come with all that rebirthing. The purple sunset on a humid summer’s evening fills me to the brim with familiar wonder, and the warm spectrum of an autumn afternoon when sideways sunshine explodes a hillside with color is as part of my internal rhythms as menses, or sleep.

Circles, and spirals for that matter, are nature’s way of returning to the beginning as we continue on the path to the future. These shapes symbolize unity, wholeness, and infinity. Don’t you love that? If something is whole it is complete, but a circle (or spiral) can be complete and yet still go on and on into infinity, in eternal revolution.

I want to think of this new year, 2014, as a revolution.

  • I want to return, as always, to my core self, looking inward to the center of my own personal spiral and stay true to that me.
  • I want to continue rolling forward on the path of change and growth that has accelerated for me over the last decade and really sped the hell up over the last couple of years. (I just this minute realized that the word “revolve” contains the word “evolve.” Wow. That is so perfect.)
  • I want to do some things so differently that they become as new as they are old. Like how to see myself. How to have a fight. How to be and stay attached to a life partner.
  • I want to revolutionize my self-image at this midpoint+ of my life and finally actually realize how beautiful and amazing I am, so that it does not feel stupid and weird to write those words.

I guess I’m a New Year’s Revolutionary.

 

Intention

buddha

I used to teach my 6th graders about the 8-fold path of the Buddha when we were investigating Eastern religions. Together, we practiced meditation, and discussed profound precepts such as Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Intention. I wonder if you would predict how these privileged, well-educated (up till this point) children reacted to such lessons?

Well, not only did they instinctively grasp the concepts, they eagerly embraced the practices, at least to the extent that they gladly meditated before tests, after recess, before performances, and closely monitored themselves and each other in the pursuit of the 8-fold path… as they understood it. Even they grasped what Buddha reassured us of – that no one is perfect and that we can only try our hardest. Being exposed to these ideas, even on a rather rudimentary level, it was as if they suddenly had a new lens with which to view the world of middle school. If a classmate said, “I’m so stupid,” 6 voices would chime in: “RIGHT SPEECH!” Why is that important, I would ask? Someone would explain, “Say what is true. You are not stupid, you are smart.” Or: “Your words have a lot of power, you know.”

What about intentions? How do we know if we are living in positive, healthy intention? What if our “best intentions” come to nothing? Is that possible if we are “doing it right?” I had a student tell me once, “As long as everyone truly intends what is good and what comes out of love, how can they really hurt anyone?” I believe that is true, oh wise 11 year old. If my intention for myself (I can’t actually have an intention for anyone else – and trying to is just about control or manipulation, isn’t it?) aligns with my true values and comes from a place of love (including self-love), I will be in a good place. In the words of Phillip Moffitt, my happiness “will come from the strength of my internal experience of intention.”

A client of mine recently sent me an awesome article by the guy I quoted in the last paragraph — Phillip Moffitt — the founder of the Life Balance Institute. I’d never heard of Phillip Moffitt before, but I’d heard and/or absorbed and/or been exposed to the concepts he explores in his piece – about the difference between intentions and goals. He said what my student said, only not quite as well: “You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.”

So yeah. Whether I’m throwing the Tarot or blowing intentions into sticks to burn in a ritual fire, or simply lying in bed focusing on a way of being in this moment and the next and the next, somewhere along the line I became a person aware, at least on an intellectual level, of the value of setting intentions, and how doing so helps create my desired reality (both inner and outer). Easy? No. A valuable exercise? Yup.

Maybe kids, unadulterated and pure, understand instinctively that living inside intention is a “practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment” and that when you do, “your attention is on the ever-present ‘now’ in the constantly changing flow of life” (Moffitt again). Children are all about the “now” and no one can be in the flow like they can.

I want to live by “right intention” and I want to live with abandon, joy, and love. (I’m not at all ambitious.) So one thing I started trying to do a few years ago is this: I look into the eyes of everyone I meet, even if briefly in a check-out line. As a native New Yorker this is something I had to teach myself, for sure, having been taught that avoiding eye contact preserves a stranger’s privacy. Screw that!  The results of this exercise are inevitably  incredible. People can open like flowers or shut down like vaults when faced with a stranger’s open, seeing eyes. But I do try to see each person as a person. I think about the lives that stretch out behind all these people whose paths cross mine. It is not that hard to love them—on some level—and have compassion for them, their unknown plights, their unrevealed gifts. If I can look at everyone and myself with this kind of intention and love, every day, I will be a little closer to something meaningful.

 

My Body Tells Me So

blue xmas

A few weeks ago my internal soul rhythms, for lack of a better term, grew distinctly unrhythmic. Swallowed unexpectedly by inexplicable sadness at work, or in my car navigating a holiday parking lot, or proofreading a document for the 432nd time. Not inherently sorrowful activities.

I would awaken out of an ordinary moment to the heavy darkness rising inside my chest. That feeling in my throat –tight, achy, and swollen with unuttered sound. Hot tears threatening. What the hell?

On some level, not being a complete moron, I realized it had something to do with the holidays. Holidays I truly love and holidays I am beyond excited about because this year, unlike last, I will (for one thing) have my children with me. And I have (for another thing) a sense of what the future can be, maybe, if I will make it so. That (for another thing) there is a future for me. And so much more than that.

It’s not what is, but what was. It’s not where I am, it’s where I was. The anniversary came upon me unbidden, and caught me by surprise in an unguarded moment. Repeatedly.

Every moment of our lives is an anniversary of something, if you look at it a certain way. I mean, ten years ago this minute I was doing something. If I was driving my kids to get their hair cut, then this is the anniversary of my doing that. If I was chopping carrots, this moment is a carrot anniversary. An absurd notion. An anniversary, by definition, “a date that is observed on an annual basis because it is the same date as an important event in a past year.”

Emotionally, anniversaries of happy events feel good. We honor them, at least take note of them. They involve, at the very least, a smile, a toast, a special piece of pie. At best, maybe a cruise around the Greek islands, if you’re lucky, or a nice dinner out. However, we often forget anniversaries until they are upon us. It’s not that we don’t care about them, but they don’t intrude into our consciousness. They are rarely pushy and demanding. Some people even forget anniversaries altogether. That’s why Hallmark makes so many versions of the “belated” card.

Then why is it that our bodies are capable of such treacherous, overwhelming reactions – entirely outside what is in our consciousness – to the return of seasons that mark traumatic events from the past?  Talk about pushy and demanding. Those nasty anniversaries will have their way.

Such memory lives in the body, not the mind where we think memory hangs out.

Of course I had “thought” about what a different place I’m in this year than last. Last year: the explosion of what I thought my life was, the immolation of the love I thought would comfort me till life’s end, the realization that I had screwed up badly, misjudged horribly, and neglected to take care of myself. The essential realization that I was utterly alone, unfriended, and far from home on Christmas. Total bottoming out. I spent Christmas Day packing boxes. The movers came the next day and by end of week I was flying out of Louisiana and back to the frozen north where I hoped warmth awaited me.

Despite the life-threatening pain I felt, I still could not empathize with my own predicament, choosing instead to rail against myself for getting into this mess in the first place. The one person who deserved my love and support—me – wasn’t getting it. But for right now, that stuff’s not important. The point is, sure, I “thought about it.” As this recent Thanksgiving approached, I did a mental inventory of the last year. As Thanksgiving receded, I was still, in my head, “thinking about it.” Categorized, filed, compartmentalized conveniently somewhere where I could pull it out if I wanted to. But why would I want to? Best to keep it tucked away. At least till the holidays were over.

Yeah, but as I’ve established, that’s not how that kind of memory works. Unprocessed shit, and all the terror and/or sadness it has attached to it, has a way of residing in the lining of the stomach, the muscles of the bowels, the tissue of the solar plexus, the highways and byways of the circulatory system. Since my inner organs don’t have a calendar or a clock, I can only assume that, using the circadian rhythms inherent in all life, my own body said, “Hey, it’s that time again!”

BAM.

My goal is to become whole enough… holistic enough, that different “parts” of me can’t sucker punch other “parts” of me on a whim. Not long after my second or third crying jag, I took out my journal and lifted the sluice gate. The process began to flow, or rather gush. There’s no end in sight at least for now, so it’ll take time, and in case you were worried, I am giving it the time it deserves. I promise. And it’s not like I didn’t do ANY processing during the preceding year. For a long time after fleeing (everything), the process was about emotional and psychic survival, full stop. Gradually it became about so much more. Some rooting out. Some letting in. Some getting help. Some wallowing in aloneness. Etc.

But it ain’t over, is it? My body tells me so.