These are the last days of the year.
People are coming into the local coffee shop where warmth is being offered and friendships are being enjoyed. As I hear the chatter about Christmas already passed and the New Year being celebrated, I look intently at my cup of coffee and watching the warmth trailing up into the air.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that life is more than what we see before us.
Like this dark roasted and bitter coffee, we may see something physically but somehow its essence of existence brings a sense of soothing to our inner being. Perception is not just a vision used with our eyes it is a method in knowing how to navigate through this life.
Two years ago, I was about to enter into a local hospital for my last of five surgical procedures that would eventually address the cancer that I had carried within my body. The anxiety was at its highest—yet so was the sense of hope. That may seem to be a strange emotive mixture, I know, but like this cup of coffee it was a moment of fusion. The bitter and the sweet.
I also realize that life is like this vapor that emits from this cup.
We have all heard and have been inundated with messages about setting goals for a New Year. We may have already set some and may have let some fall after only a few days. This an annual ritual, you know, and it has been said that the ancient Babylonians got this started by making a promise to their gods to pay off debts and return borrowed objects. (Obviously, some of my friends are not Babylonians since they have borrowed and kept a number of my DVDs and books.)
Among the Babylonians, there are other accounts that seem to reflect the more spiritual aspects of New Year’s resolutions. But at some point, someone decided that they would make a list of self-improvements that they wanted to accomplish over the next 12 months. While I am sure that their intentions were good, I would like to think that they would have never imagined how that their simple act of intention started a movement of the masses.
At the first of each new year, it seems that everyone wants to intentionally become better. We strive to be more dedicated in our practice of meditation or dieting. We strive to be more intentional in the gift of metta. We desire to be seen as a person that attracts, not detracts, others.
Then we come to a moment that the Buddha calls dukkha. We struggle with a seemingly desirable shift in who we are as a person. When we are no longer able to keep our resolutions, we perceive ourselves as less than we really are at that very moment of time. So, we come back to the concept of “perception.” The Buddha said that struggle is a desire “to be” while facing the reality of “what is.”
So, we begin the newness of a calendar already searching for answers of who are we and what is the reality of the present state of being. We see ourselves clothed in the garments that are soiled by the past instead of seeing the person that is within these remnants. And unfortunately, many will give up before discovering the hidden gift within. We will choose to remain in the first steps of growth by holding on to the dukkha instead acknowledging the source of the struggle with gratitude thereby accepting and offering metta.
As I ponder over this for a moment, I realize that one of the greatest sources for resilience is to accept the present moment. To see this place on my journey as a passage. A passage of time as well as a spiritual passage. Another resource is to see the subtle symbols in everyday objects or events as a reminder of growth. I now see the cancer that I had within as a symbol of attitudes, relationships, and behaviour that needed to be removed.
That removal was a struggle (dukkha) full of pain and fear; however, it was replaced with insight in how to live and what is meaningful.
We are about to launch into a new year expecting differences when all the while we need to realize that the difference begins with our perception of the present. So let’s consider these practices as we begin a new chapter that can be written with the passing of time.
Let us be present with the struggle for growth. As a flower has to fight to go through the mud and dirt before it can blossom, we are not immune from the conflict.
Let us be mindful of the areas that cause the struggle to be present in the first place. For us to be able to understand the elements that restrain us, we must be willing to acknowledge them. We then must be willing to offer ourselves metta in accepting the weakness of our self so that we can become stronger through them. In this act of kindness towards ourselves and others we also acknowledge that this life is a process. A process not in a linear sense but a circular movement of growth.
The shadows of time move oh so slowly but so does our own growth.
May this year be filled with compassion for self and for others.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Randy D. Gallamore
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Wikimedia Commons