The New Year and Beginning Anew

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Dear Still Water Friends,

As the year ends I want to send everyone in our extended community warm wishes for a peaceful, joyous, and contented year. Recently, in a Dharma sharing, a friend mentioned the quote “Now is the time we have been practicing for.” It is, of course, always true. And may be especially true this coming year.

Some end of year announcements:

  • On Saturday, January 1, the Still Water community will greet the New Year at our annual New Year’s Day Vegetarian Potluck Brunch. You are invited to attend with your friends and family. More information is on our web site. Please register on line to let us know how many will be coming with you and what you will be bringing.
  • On Saturday, January 7, the Still Water community will join with other mindfulness communities in the Washington area for a Five Mindfulness Training Transmission Ceremony. Even if you are not receiving the trainings this year, we invite you to attend the ceremony to nourish your seeds of spiritual commitment and to offer support to those who will be receiving the trainings. Details about the transmission ceremony are available on our web site.
  • The Still Water in Columbia group will meet on Sunday, the first of January. On Sunday, January 8, the Columbia sitting will include a Welcoming in the New Year Meditation and Tea, beginning at 6:30 and ending at 8:30 p.m. For more information, please email Tim ( or Abbie (
  • The Still Water Working Group has written an end-of-year review and dana letter. If you haven’t seen it, we invite you to appreciate with us the many ways Still Water is connecting people and the practice of mindfulness, in Maryland and around the world.

Below is an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s end of year Dharma talk in 1997. He encourages each of us to end the year, and begin the new year, reflecting on how our difficulties and sorrows can help us to grow wiser and freer.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

Excerpt from Beginning Anew, a Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on December 28, 1997

The New Year is a great opportunity to begin anew. Because many people look at the new year, the year to come, with hope. “I will do better next year,” you promise yourself. … [B]efore 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 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. The Buddha said that if you have not suffered, there is no way you can learn. If the Buddha has arrived at full enlightenment, that is just because he had suffered a lot. The suffering was the path that helped him to arrive at full enlightenment, at full compassion, at full understanding.

If you want to go to the Buddha, you need your suffering. Because if you do not know what is suffering, then there is no way you can come to the Buddha. You have to come to the Buddha with all your suffering. Suffering is the path. By true suffering you can see the path of enlightenment, the path of compassion, the path of love. According to the teaching of the Buddha, it is by looking deeply into the nature of your sorrow, your pain, of your suffering, that you can discover the way out. If you have not suffered, you can not go to the Buddha. You have no chance to touch peace, to touch love. It is exactly because of the fact that you have suffered, that now you have an opportunity to recognize the path leading to liberation, leading to love, leading to understanding.

Don’t be discouraged when you see that in the past you have suffered and you have made other people suffer. If we know how to handle the suffering, we will be able to profit from our suffering. It is like an organic gardener. If she knows how to handle the garbage, she will get a lot of compost for the growth of her vegetables and her flowers. It is with the compost of the suffering that we can nourish the flower of understanding, of peace, of love. That is why we have to learn how to manage our suffering, how to cherish, how to preserve, how to transform our suffering.

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