If you’re like many people, you place at least some significance on January 1st. Whether you make resolutions or set goals, you feel that something important is supposed to happen because the page on the calendar has turned.
Although I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, this day is still unlike any other day of the year for me. I have a couple superstitious rituals that I usually follow: I do some type of house cleaning as a way of starting fresh, and I eat sauerkraut to bring good luck in the coming year. But you know what? I eat sauerkraut all year long, on regular old Mondays or Tuesdays, on the 3rd of the month or the 21st of the month. When I feel like having it, I do. What happens to me in the days afterward has nothing to do with that meal. Eating a particular food doesn’t bring good luck, I know that. But the superstitions persist, for me and millions of other people. I think part of the reason is that it’s human nature to try to find cause-and-effect patterns in events so that we feel more in control of our lives. We think that if we just don’t walk under that ladder, we’ll prevent bad things from happening to us. Or if we carry a four-leaf clover, we’ll win the game. We’re funny animals, aren’t we?
Anyway, I was thinking about all this as I took a brisk walk around the city park today, with the cold wind chapping my cheeks and stiffening my fingers. I was there because it was January 1 and it felt important to get outside: I wanted to see my first birds of the year, and I wanted to start my year off right by exercising and getting fresh air.
But why do we make such a fuss about starting our year off right? Why not start the next day off right? Or the next minute? Life is filled with opportunities to change our habits or make other positive changes. We can do it whenever we want to.
And for that matter, every moment of every day is a chance to improve our lives. Every moment is a fresh start. I remember hearing this advice when I was trying to change my eating habits a couple years ago. Let’s say you’re having a bad day at work and you indulge in a bag of cookies at lunch to soothe yourself. Then you berate yourself for the weakness and decide that you’ve already ruined the whole day, so you might as well have ice cream and cake for dinner too. Well, if you remember that each moment is a chance for a fresh start, all you have to do is decide that in the next moment, you aren’t going to eat junk food. In the next moment you’re going to drink a big glass of water. That’s all. You don’t have to throw away an entire calendar segment just because you ate some cookies. What matters is what you do now, not what you did in the past.
I’ve been through a great deal of difficulty in recent months, as my regular readers know well. I’m so thankful that, in the past few weeks, I have somehow found the strength to pull myself back out of despair. I’m using lots of different things as tools, and I may tell you about more of them soon. But one of the most important has been the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, who shows us how to live in the present moment, the Now. Rather than worrying about the past or the future, learn to accept “what is” and ignore the endless stream of thoughts that run through your mind. I’ve been practicing being in the moment, and it really does bring me some peace. I’ve also been learning to meditate better, and that seems to give me positive energy so that I’m more inclined to focus on good things during my day rather than dwelling on fears or negativity. (Here’s a link to one of Mr. Tolle’s videos on YouTube for those of you who aren’t familiar with him yet.)
And here’s a video I shot today. Animals live in the moment; no worrying about past or future for them!
I’m learning a new way of experiencing gratitude and how to be mindful of the moments in life. Most importantly, I’m learning that our thoughts create our feelings, and if we can manage our thoughts we will vastly improve our outlook on life. It’s a skill worth practicing.
So, in the spirit of living in the moment, instead of wishing you all a Happy New Year, I’ll wish you a Happy Now. It’s a very good place to be.