If there is any significance whatsoever to the change of year, it is that so many people feel themselves to be off to fresh starts. Whether we make dubious resolutions or just have a fresh spring in our steps from vacation, the new year is a communal endorsement to begin again.
Of course, most people talk about it and then promptly pick up where they left off. With all the contentment of a bone-weary body sinking into a hot bath, resolutions are left scattered on the floor like dirty clothing. This is the week we happily kickstart all our standard work habits and expectations back into gear. If you find yourself happily driving back into ruts you’ve left in the road today, know that it’s your ego – that bundle of self-identifications – asserting itself. Habit and wakefulness – awareness – are not compatible. The rut of habits is slumber, the lure of oblivion by roles and responsibilities.
I don’t mean to write with a sneer. Like I say, fresh starts are significant. We have beginner’s mind when we’re first setting out into any journey. Possibilities are not quite so limited. Certainty is scarce, anxiety about security runs high. The worldly solution to anxiety about security is the dreaded rut. The spiritual solution is faith – although I may not mean by that what you do. Faith is not the belief and certainty that everything will work out just how we like. Instead, faith is the certainty that everything will work out for the best. That – “the best” – implies no security whatsoever about your circumstances, body, or mind.
In the classic overthinking that generally causes blindness to grace and miracles, we might set a resolution for fresh starts. You can have a fresh start every day – in fact, you do. You have a fresh start each and every moment if you’re alive to it. Your fresh start this year could be to awaken every day with a fresh start. Taking nothing for granted, letting come what may, being truly alive to the unexpected. This is the very joy of life and crucible of happiness.
Better still, though, we can stop thinking about fresh starts and simply let ourselves be them. Not just for the year, not just for that special half hour in the morning, but as often as we can manage. In meditation, we put our attention on something – our breath or a mantra, for instance, and bring it gently back again and again as it wavers. Every time we bring it back, we experience a light awakening. In just the same way, every time you bring your attention back to the present moment, you are a fresh start.
No roles, no habits, no dependencies, and no expectations are in the wonder and grace of the current moment. Mindfulness reveals that the tear in the veil, the doorway on which we spiritually knock, is this current moment. They are the fresh start – and they are you when you don’t look away.