The new year is upon us. As much as I like to consider the idea that years and days and hours are just human constructs, we do still have to live inside of those constructs to some degree. As a tumultuous (for many) 2016 flips itself to 2017, I wonder if we can't unravel some ways to transition a little more softly.
For the past couple of years, I have wanted to spend New Year's Eve quietly. Last year in particular, I was unable to attend a planned-on meditation retreat, so opted to create my own at home. I decided on a schedule of meditation (both seated and walking), of study, and of service (which amounted to me doing needed housework). I limited my time on screens, silenced the phone, and tried to spend the year's transitions in a quiet, open space. It was actually quite lovely. I missed seeing friends on NYE, but emerged the next day for a few hours to attend an annual friend-family brunch before going back into silence at home.
Having this little at-home "retreat" helped me to start 2016 feeling a bit more centered, a little more stable. It was a relief from that self-imposed pressure to do something on New Year's. I did "nothing" and that was fine. Perhaps you can't or don't want to do a full day of retreat, but maybe a little time in the next few days can assist in the year's transition.
While greeting the new year with silence might not be your thing, perhaps you might benefit from finding a quiet moment in the bustle of New Year's to remember that the next day will be that: another day. We often put great pressure on ourselves once the calendar turns to make resolutions and we go full force and we tire out quickly, feeling worse about things when we do not succeed. There is nothing inherently wrong with a resolution for the new year and they certainly don't always flop. I've had a successful few myself, but I think some of us may be better off with the reminder that we can resolve to do new things any time. In the middle of March, you can decide to train for that marathon or stop eating sugar or whathaveyou. You can resolve to do things every day. You actually do that regularly, in fact. So if the pressure of the new year and a "new you" feels like something more suffocating than invigorating: just remember that you can opt out of that business.
As we look upon this new year and inevitably take stock of the last, I know that I often think I should be here or there instead of wherever the end of the year finds me. I could have done this or I could have done that. Because I attached some sort of expectation to the year or to myself, I might feel disappointed instead of just in awe of how life continues to move. In looking at time as finite and the years as solid constructions, we can end up in that place of melancholy at not being where we thought we would be "by now" or at "this time." I am reminded of something Alan Watts has said: "you've got all the time in the world because you've got all the time there is, which is now. And you are this universe..." There are still an infinite number of possibilities, regardless of what the calendar or clock say. Every moment, regardless of when, is now and you have infinite options for what now looks like.
However you decide to spend the last few hours of 2016 and first few of 2017, I hope that it is lovely. I hope that if you are with people, they are ones you love dearly. I hope that if you resolve for new things in the new year, that they are of great benefit to you. I hope that you embrace the times as they are and with openness. Be safe and be well.
A small reminder: January 2nd is the beginning of the next 30 Day Sit. I look forward to spending time with you in meditation soon.