I have a history with new year’s resolutions. Namely breaking them. And then swearing off them as I prefer not to do things I don’t anticipate will be successful. In recent years I’ve played with intentions instead. Feeling less pressure to do anything other than sit back and let the universe take the reigns and make the magic happen.
This year I’m going deep. I’ve made a vow. It all happened on New Year’s Eve in a mini meditation retreat at Insight LA in Santa Monica.
A few mornings before the retreat I was in tears about going. I had agreed to it. Even been the person to initiate the registration after the invitation from JH had been sitting in my inbox for weeks (ignored by me, patiently waiting from her). Still, there was some dread. Some fear. She had just returned from a month at a Modern Zen Buddhist monastery. I’d been meditating 3 to 10 minutes a day… most days. Could I keep up? Was I good enough? Was it going to be uncomfortable? Was I going to be judged for my relative inexperience and my obvious lack of skill? The answers my fear provided in order were: No. No. Yes. Definitely.
I didn’t want to go anymore.
I had already committed, through conversation with my naturopath, purchasing of a book, writing and mailing a check for a registration fee, and many many hours of discussion with JH, to a different relationship with my body in the new year. I was going to be participating in a group who, along with me, would remove all grains and sugars from their diets and explore the changes to their spiritual body as a result. My confidence level was high going into this new way of life. Even though I had NEVER been successful at implementing anything like it before, I was certain I could do it this time. And I was sure that SOMETHING was going to come up in the silence of meditation that would shake that confidence. I was dreading it.
The retreat opened with the teacher guiding us through a ritual. He explained that the bodhisattvas made vows daily. Vows to take on the suffering of all. Something like:
However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to save them.
However inexhaustible the defilements are, I vow to extinguish them.
However immeasurable the dharmas are, I vow to master them.
However incomparable enlightenment is, I vow to attain it.
These vows give them direction. When repeated daily, and worn with a protective garment (for them, their robes – for us, knotted blessing cords) they provide steady guidance toward the fulfillment of those vows.
And then, without the need to take on any more than what causes our own suffering he invited us to make a vow that will set the compass of our hearts. With my eyes closed and my breath at the forefront of my attention the vow came easily. I vow to value, prioritize, & choose (above all else) WELLBEING for: my body, mind, & spirit; those of my family; loved ones; & those whose I may encounter and can impact.
Red strings were passed around and knotted, first for the belief we hold most dear, second for compassion, and third for our vow. We tied them on and knew them to be for our protection. Protection from what? For ourselves of course! The rest of the evening was spent in silence. And in the remaining hours of meditation I did not suffer. I soothed myself when soothing was needed. I felt my heart take the lead and set direction toward my vow. I connected to the power within me to live without suffering. And the new year rang in with a soft bell, a tearful smiling kiss with JH, and hope.
Happy New Year. May you find what you seek in the silence when you turn your attention to your heart.