from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 2 January 2011

tabula rasa

– except of course that it never really is. 'Wherever you go, there you are', as wise mindfulness teacher Jon Kabbat-Zinn titles one of his books. And January 1st is fundamentally a calendrical quirk – not related to the natural cyclical 'turning points' of the year, such as the more obvious date of the winter solstice, the point of maximum darkness/minimum light in the Northern hemisphere, before we turn back towards the sun; or New Year in the Celtic calendar, which is samhain (pronounced 'sowen'), 31st October/1st November, the time (Allhallows) when the veils between this world and the Otherworld are thin, a 'cross-quarter' date, the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

I realise I only assume, I don't actually know, whether the year's beginning on January 1st was a result of the Gregorian calendar's introduction, adopted in 1582, to deal with the fact that the old Julian calendar assumes that the time between vernal equinoxes is 365.25 days, when in fact it is about 11 minutes less, which, in accumulation, throws things out big time.

Anyway, in terms of New Year, I celebrated the solstice, and Samhain, and we accidentally adopted a kind of 'so what' attitude to this New Year's Eve (which was nothing at all to do with the fact that this year we weren't invited to any parties), and thus I have been silent. It's such a big deal, if you let it be, the first blog of the year – what can one say that will be meaningful but non-platitudinous?– But I had a fabulous 3-mile walk, each way, on my childhood beach, with my oldest friend. So let the new year begin!

But to the tabula rasa: the important thing is the notion that we can symbolically wipe the slate clean and begin again. And, as for many people and the world at large, the last year was a hard one for me and my family and friends. I don't ever wish a year away – every moment brings something unique and precious, but it's been hard, and something in me quickens at what the new year seems to offer – another chance, another opportunity to move closer to what is, and away from the patterns that keep us stuck.

EASE is my word for 2011 (thank you, Susie). I spend my life, like the salmon, swimming upstream, leaping near-impossible obstacles. It's only today I realise that the salmon only does that to create new life, in a fraction of the year; the rest of the time she swims at ease in the wide ocean, letting the currents take her. (The salmon, in Celtic mythology, is a symbol of wisdom.)

Sheng-yen says: 'Be soft in your practice. Think of the method' (or the dharma, or the Way) 'as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course... Never let it out of sight. It will take you.'

Melody, who runs a transpersonal psychology site ( to which I subscribe, posted this quote from Abraham Maslow to kick off the new year: 'If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life.' I don’t think we deliberately plan to be 'less', do we; we just don’t always take the steps – through fear, inertia etc – that we might, to grow into the potential size of our lives...

And I have been thinking about my friend (a different friend) whose husband has recently had a frightening diagnosis. How does one live with heart, at the stillpoint of the turning world, despite illness, mortality, fear, despair – not to mention the world's burden of warfare, cruelty, ignorance, greed, poverty, privation, despoilation – and so on? And I remembered a quote I heard from Satish Kumar: 'There is never enough darkness to extinguish a single candle'. 

I leave you with this, and the catkins, and the earth's predictable cycles. And I remind you of the solar eclipse, visible in the UK at 8.52 on the morning of January 4th - at the same time as a meteor shower from the Quarantids. 

And I wish you all you would wish yourself for this next year. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive