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Beginning Again
January 2010


By Joanne Sales

It’s really great that we get so many chances to start over. The old year ends and a new one begins. Night falls and we wake up to a new day. Spring comes and we plant a new garden. A breath goes out and we breathe again. There is a beauty and wisdom in these repeating cycles with their endings, rest and new beginnings.

In January, it is culturally sanctioned to let go of the past and start again. We’re encouraged to throw out the chipped china and make a toast to new possibilities. However, we could make life changing changes each new moon, birthday, morning, or with each new breath. |

The commitments to quit smoking, exercise and read more are resolutions with physical form. But for the moment, we’re referring to the subtle, freeing shift that takes place quietly and quickly whenever we let go of the past and start again.

In our day to day life, it often feels like we’re trying to finish something - and we don’t even know what it is. Bogged down in the complications of old trains of thought, we feel the weight of all the things we think we need to figure out, fix, or complete before we can move on. Meanwhile, the train keeps moving, and we never have time to resolve it all. So we just carry all that unfinished business around inside of us.

It’s morning and the mind is already racing, gnawing at something or another. We don’t necessarily want to spend the day unraveling a ball of tangled yarn, but right or wrong, we’re stuck. A conversation begins and goes wrong, but we’re hooked. We could say, “Forget it, let’s start over.” But we can’t help ourselves. That’s when we need a New Year!

But why is it hard to start over? What’s our resistance? There’s the attraction of the complication; even though it may be costing us dearly, it’s interesting. We want to prove we’re right, mostly to ourselves. There’s guilt; we have to explain or resolve it to exonerate ourselves. Sometimes we have an agenda. Sometimes we think we can’t because we haven’t yet; we’re on a roll of powerlessness.

Starting over can be legitimately painful. The efforts of years crumble, the house burns down, or we lose someone. This is a serious journey we have embarked upon, and we want to know how to travel it well. We’re not looking for tricks; we need real methods that have proven to work.

Most wisdom traditions recommend beginning each meal, day, endeavor or whatever with an awareness of beginning, marking it with a prayer, a phrase, a breath, or at least a good thought. The Sufi’s use the phrase Bismillah, “We begin again in the Name of the One.” The Hindus use special mantras. Christians are encouraged to “Let go, let God.” In Buddhism, they speak of the Beginners’ Mind.

Sometimes people create simple actions to remind themselves to drop the weight and start again. So they snap a rubber band, tap fingers, repeat an affirmation or take a deep breath. The intention of these practices is to establish the moment of beginning in the Highest Possible Place - whatever that means to each of us. We want to begin well and often!

This does not mean to throw out people from our lives, or ignore our streams of responsibility. If we only change the externals, and ignore the internals, we’re destined to repeat the past.

The past carries a lot of baggage, and the future is totally dependent on Now. It is only the present moment that is open to the Truth. Now is “a good place to stand.” The part of us that knows the most does not always speak the loudest; but if we can find that beginning place, then the higher part of us can make the choice, speak the truth, set the mood, and step forward.

We can’t solve this dream of life. Sometimes we heal wounds and resolve mysteries, but more often, all we can do is let go and start over – to try again with a clean slate, an open mind, a fresh outlook, and best intentions.

New Year’s Eve has passed, our resolutions made and broken. Let’s remember that no matter how often we blow it, fail to do it right, and suffer loss or set back, it is also culturally sanctioned to begin again at any time - with every breath.

Come, come, whoever you are
Even though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times
Come, come again.

by Rumi