Starting the Year Mindfully
by Leni Cellini
26 December 2015
For the third year in a row, I am celebrating New Year’s Eve in Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in France. I can warmly recommend it to everyone! It is an ideal place to come back to yourself and start the New Year in a mindful way. There are many celebrations, feast meals, and performances, but we also meditate together and be still. A beautiful combination of playfulness and reflection, of joy and contemplation.
A fire of good intentions
For me, one of the highlights is always the ritual on New Year’s Eve. After the Dharma talk, there is a silent walking meditation outside. At the end, we throw our written resolutions into the bonfire. Hundreds of wishes and intentions are sent into the universe, while the community gathers around the fire and chants. It’s very powerful and impressive.
A sister clearly explained to us that you should choose a resolution that is directly related to your deepest suffering. What has been a source of suffering for you last year?
The beauty of this whole event is that it is not really about ordinary resolutions. We are encouraged to go beyond general statements like ‘do more sports’ or ‘eat less sweets.’ Last year, a sister clearly explained to us that you should choose a resolution that is directly related to your deepest suffering. What has been a source of suffering for you last year? It can be anything: your job, your relationship, certain habits, your self-image … After you choose something (and it is recommended to take some time to get this clear), then you can find out what to do in order to relieve this suffering. The more concrete and realistic, the better. You should formulate your intention in such a way that you can contribute a little bit to it every day. A general wish such as ‘I want to feel better about myself’ can be rephrased as ‘I want to take time every day to list three things that I appreciate about myself.’
Je veux de l’amour!
Your intention could start more as an abstract wish, but it is important to formulate it as concrete as possible. Otherwise, it is very difficult to put it into practice. Last year, my intention was clear: I wanted to be more loving towards other people. I often notice that I feel discomfort and even hostility in social situations, and it is my deepest desire to be more spontaneous, open and loving. A little bit vague and ambitious, perhaps. At first, it seemed impossible to change that wish into a specific intention (how on earth to feel more loving?). But after a moment of reflection, an idea came up. Next year, I would smile to people I don’t know every day. In the streets, in the shop, on the bus, … Instead of avoiding eye contact, I would try to look more at strangers and offer them a smile. To support this process, I also wanted to smile more often to myself because of course, love and openness towards others starts with yourself. Rather than judging or criticising myself every time I look in the mirror, I would try to be more gentle and smile to myself. A very small thing, almost trivial, and yet with a strong, healing effect.
From experience, I can say that it works. Not that I’m totally alleviated from social discomfort and I am constantly smiling at everyone I meet in the streets, but I do feel a quiet transition. Step by step. And I especially feel more awareness when insecurity and discomfort occur. And more patience and gentleness for myself when this happens.
So, dear reader, during this time of year I wish you a concrete, achievable, and fulfilling resolution. May you see clearly what you need the most and may you do something small every day to take care of yourself. Good luck! And you’re always welcome at Plum Village to get extra support for your intention 😉
Wishing you a peaceful and joyful 2016!
Love from Leuven,
This article was originally published in Dutch on Leni’s blog