We all want to start the New Year on a positive note. But the stakes are too high, and soon the resolutions become wishful thinking. We are up for an auspicious start – ready to follow any tips out there just get the flow going. We write down affirmations, practice rituals, pledge to start a daily Yoga practice, wear Feng Shui pendants and good luck amulets… ready to try what not…
The question remains: If we fall prey to all these promising tips, aren’t we sabotaging our own intuition and going against the tide? Starting a new cycle is exciting and full of expectations. But in order to get on track and set the wheel in motion, the first thing we need to do is actually to release the expectations – focusing solely on the work that needs to be done. To determine our priorities and the effort involved, requires an honest assessment of the situation, and whether we need to change something in the course of action and the way we do things, or we need stay the course and continue the work that is still in progress. Either way this “check-in” will give us the clarity where to go and what to do.
When I think of simple steps to follow for a great start of the New Year, I always refer to Zen wisdom. The paradoxical philosophy of the “absence of presence” reminds us that life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. If we try to resist them– that only creates sorrow. But if we accept things as they come and go, we can let things flow in whatever way they like. Going with the flow, is like rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.
When we realize that we can’t control everything, things start to come our way. Naturally, we can influence things and impact people, but we cannot fix the tide of events in our favor. Learning to navigate through stormy and calm waters, reminds us, that we can control our routine, the things that we practice every day, yet stay on our toes – always flexible to break our routine in order to adapt to sudden changes.
And to gain that flexibility in attitude and response to life, the Zen masters ask us to practice mindfulness. We can’t change things in our head, if we don’t become an observer, an inner witness aware of the natural unfolding of any situation. Becoming aware of our emotions, whether anger or frustration, disappointment or sadness is paramount to staying unperturbed by stormy weather.
And the best way to start this impartial dialogue with yourself is to focus on the pattern of your breath, which in turn reveals the pattern of your mind, and the way you react or respond to unexpected change. When you are in the midst of making an important decision, you don’t need to decide – all you need to do is to breathe, and relax. Once the breath extends, the mind’s capacity to shift perceptive opens and the answer that you have been looking for, simply finds you.
When things get shaky and out of control, all you need to do is take a step back and get perspective. Zoom away until you detach yourself from the problems and refrain from the impulsiveness to react emotionally. Knowing that the situation won’t matter a single whit a year from now, you realize that there is no real reason to get upset over things that didn’t work the way they were supposed to. Perhaps they will work better than expected and put you in a place of multiple options. Consider that miraculous outcome of events, too.
When I want to stay in the flow the thing that keeps me up and running is my practice. Skills come with practice. So when we first learn to go with the flow, we will mess up. We will stumble and fall. It’s actually fun and part of the learning curve. Just keep on practicing and you’ll get the hang of it.
And don’t forget to take it step by step, as it comes. It won’t come overnight, so just focus on the essentials and release the superfluous stuff. Then, work on the things that come easy, and as you inch along, manage the bigger challenges that you are now ready to tackle from an angle of equanimity and curiosity, rather than frustration and fear.
And get a good laugh. Find humor and irony in every situation – it always happens for a greater reason, and approaching it seriously blocks the flow. Laugh at the absurdity of the situation, detach from the drama, and bring in the unattached observer.
If you like to keep a journal, once a day try to recall what your tally marks were for the day, and then assess those situations verbally. If it didn’t work, see what you can improve the next time. This recollection after the fact helps you learn from the process.
And if daily meditation is not your thing, stay present with all that the day brings. Commit to a “daily digest” in your head, while sipping tea, enjoying a meal, walking through the park, or heading to your destination. As you realize that you can’t control others, you will see yourself less frustrated by people’s behavior and misconduct. Just honor them, realizing that they are acting from a place of truth, according to what they feel is right, and they won’t be pleasing you all the time. It’s really liberating when we accept and love people for what they are, and what they were made for. Everyone has a very special purpose that maintains the balance of our ecosystem.
As we accept others, we learn to accept change and imperfection. We cannot keep things the way we want them to – they will change. It’s how the wheel of life turns.
Accepting that the world is constantly changing, and we are a part of that change is so liberating. It allows us to enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty. Chaos is a shaman that is an excellent tracker and guide. She will lead you safely through your darkest terrain. She will teach you to navigate by feel. She will lead your to face your demons and let go of everything you identity with until all your masks fall away and burn, and all that remains is your breath flowing like a river. Are you ready to go with the flow? Happy New Year! Happy ride!
New Year’s Flow Meditation: Happy Ride
This New Year’s meditation incorporates mudra and conscious breathing to restore the flow in your life, and taps the wisdom of Zen to set you up for an auspicious start. Cultivating mindfulness and radical acceptance will help you shape-shift with the current, and ride with the natural flow.