Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Beginning Anew

As this new year begins, I'm drawn to this wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh:

I like this because, right off the bat, Thich Nhat Hanh changes our perspective on what it means to begin anew. He tells us that forgiveness from others, or even forgiving ourselves, is not a pre-requisite for starting fresh. The surprising message is that we shouldn't waste time with recriminations against ourselves; rather, we should let go of guilt or shame for whatever we said or did - or didn't say or do, and simply be here, now, ready and willing to act upon the opportunity to change.

This isn't to say that there should be no introspection - it is only through svadhyaya - self-study leading to self-awareness - that we come to see clearly where and why we went off track, and perhaps keep going off track time and again. Instrospection is necessary for knowing what we would do differently in the future from what we did in the past. But there is no need, and no point, in hammering ourselves over the head for behavior that was less skillful than we would have liked. 

Is it wrong or bad to ask forgiveness? Of course not. But, really, being forgiven only serves to put salve on our guilty wounds. It makes us feel better to be forgiven, but forgiveness in and of itself doesn't change anything. Change comes from seeing  and really understanding why we did what we did, said what we said, behaved as we did, and then - THEN, saying "Okay, what must I change in myself so that I do not repeat my mistakes? What must I change in myself so that I do not continue to act in ways that cause suffering for myself and others?" 

This is how we begin anew. And if we missed the first day of the new year with it, we don't have to wait until next January first. When you stop to think about it, every dawn brings the start of a new year. And we could even begin anew halfway through the day. There are no rules to it - just begin.

I chose Parighasana - Gate Pose - as my pose of the week. It symbolizes that taking of a first, simple step toward change - just open the gate and step through.

Protect the knee by padding it with a blanket. Align the knee directly under the hip. Extend the other leg to the side, resting the heel on the floor and the ball of the foot elevated on the block. I like to stretch away from the extended leg first, to create length on the underside of the torso and remind me to keep that length when I come into the full pose.

Here is Gate Pose. I side-bend in the direction of the extended leg, reaching the arm and hand toward the foot. The upper arm reaches up and over. Keep the hip and bent knee aligned; don't shift weight such that the hip moves out of position. Be careful not to put pressure on the extended leg knee. The pose is about length and extension as opposed to distance. The lower hand reaches toward the foot, but not at the expense of collapsing the torso forward or down. 


  1. Interesting and wise.
    Possibly easier said than done. Which doesn't mean not making the attempt(s).

  2. I really needed to hear this. I might print it and read it everyday.


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