A Just-Before-the-New Year Beginning Anew

A Just-Before-the-New Year Beginning Anew

Discussion date: Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Many of us know Beginning Anew as a way of deep sharing with those with whom we live our lives. We come together as a couple, as friends, or as a community. We settle ourselves. Then with care and tenderness we share our appreciations for each other, our regrets for unmindful actions (or our failure to take appropriate actions), our suffering and our difficulties. We recognize our shortcomings, and we nourish the intention to live in the present moment and to act with love and compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that the beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to do a beginning anew with ourselves. In a just-before-New Year’s Dharma talk in 1997 Thay said:

Before the year ends and before the New Year begins, we may practice sitting meditation and walking meditation in order to see how we can begin anew, how we can prepare ourselves. So that the New Year will be a much better year than this one. Before the New Year begins, we can already have everything renewed. Of course we have made mistakes. Of course we have been not very skillful. Of course we have made ourselves suffer. Of course we have made the people around us suffer. But that does not prevent us from beginning anew and to make things much better next year, or even the next moment. We should look at our suffering in such a way that the suffering can become a positive thing. Of course you have made some mistakes. You have been unskillful. All of us are the same. We always make mistakes. We are very often unskillful. But that does not prevent us from improving, from beginning anew, from transforming.

Thay also suggested that on New Year’s Eve we may wish to do the Touchings of the Earth as a beginning anew, to affirm our connections with those who have come before, and with those who are close to us:

It is very important to touch our ancestors. When we touch our ancestors, we touch ourselves. We know that we are one. If we know that we are from the same roots, then we know that we are one. After having bowed to our ancestors, we turn around and bow to each other and embrace each other and forgive each other for the unskillfulness that has been committed in the past. That is also beginning anew. It would not mean anything if you bow to your ancestors and you don’t forgive your brother or your sister. … Celebrating New Year, we have to celebrate in such a spirit. Touching our ancestors, blood ancestors and spiritual ancestors, we have an opportunity to realize that we are brothers and sisters to each other.

The texts of the Touchings of the Earth are available on our web site. I invite you to practice with them this week.

I wish you a mindful, heartful, and joyous New Year.

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Dec 31, 2009


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