And soon after we’re in the full swing of the new year, reality sets in.
What will make next year any different than what came before, short of circumstance beyond your control?
Well, for one, are you growing any wiser? Think so? How well do you really know yourself?
With a little wisdom, we can recognize the true value of things or at least what it is that we value by taking a closer look at how and where we spend our time and money.
With wisdom, you come to realize that your choices, in every moment, are what determine your experience, and that only by being aware, mindful, and fully present, can you possibly be in any control of what those choices are and why you choose the way you do.
Each moment, once it passes, is gone forever. Only by being fully present can you fully experience it. This moment will never repeat exactly the same way again. Your memory is flawed, is limited by your beliefs and perspective, and ultimately corrupts. We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we think they they are.
Let’s work towards realizing that we each have only one perspective, shaped by many things, and it is only one of many. Open your heart and mind to that of others. And, to become more aware of what that perspective entails, what your true values are, and how your choices determine your life – to have any chance at all at making the kinds of changes in your life that are actually experienced – you must practice being fully present.
On the “circle of balance” where people can lay out and give scores from 1 to 10 on the different areas of their life – health, relationships, career, financial freedom, spirituality, charity, etc. – there are two that consistently get the lowest scores: spirituality and charity.
First, let’s look at Spirituality.
What is your perspective of a higher level of spirituality? Is it based on how often you go to church, temple, or mosque? If you believe that is the only way to judge your level of spirituality, then you surely have some guilt when you don’t go. Why not make the effort and go a little more? You can make that choice. And if you did, would you feel better about your spirituality?
If not, or additionally, or instead of (your choice), meditate every day and practice being fully present – as if your life depends on it (because it does). Do this regularly and consistently, as if your whole life is one big meditation practice – lose the moment, come back to the moment, lose the moment, come back to the moment – do what you’re doing, period – then try and tell me it’s not “spiritual”.
In fact, let’s make that our goal for the coming year: to practice being fully present, 24/7/365, and, to repeat…
act as if your whole life is one big meditation practice.
Spirituality is connection – are you connected? You can be if you choose to be. Simply focus there, or rather, Here – Now.
Try turning off all the constant distractions that have become such a normal part of our experience – mp3s, iPads, iPhones, text messages, and TV’s – all that sensory noise. Do you really have to always be doing something? do you always have to have some sort of artificial background noise to cover the silence or natural sounds of life? Or, can you just “Be” a bit more often?
It is in your power to control and that alone will make next year a far different, I’ll even say greater, experience than the year that is now gone.
This brings us to the second, and most frequently the lowest score on people’s circle of balance: Charity.
When you hold a door, help with a package, pick up what someone has dropped, are kind, show compassion, take an interest in someone, share, present your best self, have manners, show respect, be a positive example and influence that inspires others, and expect nothing in return – what is that called?
Charity, or as it is called in our motto: Benevolence, is not simply giving money to a worthy cause, though that is certainly included. It is anything and anytime you are thinking, feeling, and acting on behalf of others and beyond yourself. There are countless personal benefits to this (people who give are known to be happier, feel more connected and fulfilled in their lives, and that’s not even mentioning the people skills and deeper knowledge of our system and the teachings that is attained for personal use by being more involved in the process) but that is not the focus of this article.
One’s true character is exposed by adversity. Do you know yours? Unless you’ve been thoroughly challenged where you had to reach deep down inside to get through it, you really cannot say for sure.
Training here will expose it. Here you are a part of something very special – something very powerful. You have people here that are able to see the best in you – the what you can become – even if you are unable to see it yet for yourself. How do I know this?
Because these people have lived the changes, within themselves and been here long enough to witness the same kinds of changes in others. These people, these very special people – our Black Coats and other senior students – recognize the importance of their place in the experience and personal growth of those around them. And when I was unable to be here for a while, they took the bull by the horns and not only kept this place afloat, they kept it moving forward. Progress continued. Growth continued. They took their part in the big picture here and did what needed to be done to keep the power here.
That is what is possible when people stick together for a common purpose. This place is bigger than any one person. Each of you have your part in what this place is and what it can become.
What have you done to get where you are? What are you willing to do to do to get where you want to be? Can you be honest with yourself? Can you stop blaming others and circumstance and instead take a look in the mirror to find the answer?
If your life, your work, your health, your relationships, and / or your progress here with your practice are not where you’d like them to be then take a long hard look in that mirror. Are you doing what you need to do? How are you spending your time? On what do you spend your money?
It takes a lot of courage to live by what you believe, to be be your true and authentic self, even when it is not convenient. Or, to be willing to change even when it’s not easy or if you’re afraid of what may come – the unknown – if you make a certain decision.
Remember, the only way for the coming year to be any different than the last, for your life to change and be more in line with what you want it to become, is to be always making the necessary changes – the moment by moment choices – consistent with that result.
Is it worth it? What would your life be like if you were in total control of you? What would you be like?
External factors are of no consequence – good things happen, bad things happen – it is only your response that counts.
You can only change what you are aware of. Want next year to be different? Going forward, be fully present.
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