This week is always an interesting time of year. Are the resolutions going to plan? Have they crashed and burned? Or are you hunkering down with grim determination to make this year different?
Someone recently remarked that the holidays are a ‘study of expectation and disappointment.’ New Year’s resolutions can have that feel, too, if we hold them too tightly. ‘Whoops! Binged on pizza and doughnuts yesterday. Might as well ditch the plan to get fit this year.’
Just as in meditation, I prefer rallying around an internal intention, rather than striving towards some projected goal. We establish the intention to incline the mind to notice what’s true in this moment, releasing it from the myriad mind-worlds it will inevitably find itself wandering. And this requires that we begin again, over and over and over. We’re always coming back to This.
And so with resolutions, can we align our energies to return again and again to our primary intention, regardless of how we may have faltered or slipped. If we strive for a goal, any perceived deviation will appear as failure and reinforce futility.
But with patience – and humility – the wise begin again, starting from This, never cleaving from This – the only Reality we ever encounter.
Lately, I’ve been reading from some dharma talks by the Zen teacher, Steve Hagen, from his bookBuddhism Is Not What You Think.
In one talk, Hagen includes a poem, ‘The Snow Man,’ by Wallace Stevens which I wanted to share:
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pinetrees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Hagen comments, ‘There’s no trail to this place. We’re already here. All of us. If it’s winter, one must have a mind of winter – indeed, one must bewinter – to be here. That is, not thinking of spring, not longing for summer, for something that doesn’t exist now, here. This mind isn’t reaching for some other place.’
Originally published on January 4, 2011