The New Year – A Time for Fierce Love and Expanded Peace
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
New Year has always been a time of mixed emotions and feelings. There is the almost compulsory celebratory feeling – It’s a NEW YEAR, as though somehow simply the newness holds inherently a betterness than that which has past.
However, new does not inherently mean better. There is nothing “new” about January 1st compared to Dec. 31st on any level that would render the world somehow earlier to navigate, more peaceful, more conscious, or that would somehow provide extra water, food, medicines, education for those who don’t have.
If there was no water on December 31st, there will be none on January 1st. If we are at war with our neighbouring country or our next door neighbours or a family member living in the same house on December 31st we will also be at war with them on January 1st.
Unless, we make a conscious decision to actually do something differently! Our own thoughts, choices and behaviours are the missing link between new and better. So as we look toward 2021 the question we need to ask ourselves is: What will I do differently? What will I change about how I think, speak, eat, dress, vote and live that can actually have the ripple impact in my own life and in the world that I am hoping for?
However, please stop for just a moment and take a really long, deep inhalation and then an even longer and deeper exhalation. Please know that just because there is a beautiful, exciting variety of ways for us all to think, speak, choose and live differently, that does not mean that there is something wrong about who we are right now. One of the most exciting and exquisite seeming paradoxes of deep spirituality is the dance between knowing deeply, that who you are is perfect. Pure. Full. Whole. Complete.
And, wow, there are so many ways that I can choose to think, to speak, to schedule my day, to spend my money in ways that will bring me a greater and deeper state of awareness, love and truth.
It is not either-or. It is yes, and.
Yes, there are so many beautiful resolutions you can make – to meditate, to do yoga, to exercise, to go vegetarian (or even vegan), to buy organic/fair-trade as much as possible, to be of service in whatever way you can, to speak more gently, lovingly, tenderly with your family members and with yourself.
And yes. You are whole. Full. Complete. Infinite. Divine. Right here. Right now. In this very breath. Exactly as you are, right now.
New sankalps (vows, pledges) should be exciting opportunities to expand into more and more of the fullness of who we really are. They should not be opportunities for the complaining commentator in our own mind to work overtime by reminding us that we are lazy, out of shape, selfish, unspiritual, worthless beings.
It is subtle but very important.
Even if you don’t have a habit of New Year’s resolutions, I recommend it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to harness the simple, meaningless turning of a page in the Gregorian calendar into a ritual of peeling back another layer of illusion covering the pure divinity of your own Self. So, why not grab every opportunity we get to re-remind ourselves that we are here on earth for a purpose higher and deeper than one measured by our bank account, or our waist size, or our followers on Facebook.
As you sit to decide what will be your new sankalps – your new resolutions — choose ones that you actually can do without too much extraordinary stress and strain. I say this because a) you are precious, so love and tenderness are essential and b) because the dilemma with resolving to do something that we pretty much know we won’t be able to sustain is that not only do we lose the benefit of the act itself but we also severely damage our own self-perception. If you are someone who generally rolls out of bed at 8 or 9 am and you vow that you’re going to start getting up at 4 am every day, the likelihood is that you will simply hit the off button each morning.
However, even more insidious than missing the sacred hours of meditation is the change in your self-identity. You will begin to self-identify as “I am not someone who does what I say,” “I am not someone who fulfils my commitments. “I make resolutions every year and I never do them.” So, then whatever you commit to, you are unlikely to succeed because you have established a self-identity that says, “I am a flake.”
Instead, begin by getting up at 7. It’s certainly a lot better than 8 or 9 and it’s likely that you will actually be able to do it. Then, each morning when you get up at 7, not only do you have an extra hour or two for meditation, yoga and other morning practices but also you establish a sense of “I am someone who does what I say. I am someone who upholds my vows.” Then, grab every auspicious opportunity – the full moon, or new moon, or the first of every month and get up 15 minutes or 30 minutes earlier each time. Eventually you’ll hit 4 am, but you’ll hit it in a way that is successful and sustainable, gifting you with both the benefit of the Brahmamurth and the benefit of knowing, “I am someone who keeps my vows.”
Additionally, as you make resolutions please begin from a foundation of love, compassion and tenderness. For yourself. It’s been a really rough year. Even if you have not personally suffered from the illness of Covid, even if you have not lost a loved one from Covid, even if you have not experienced economic loss this year or political upheaval this year, nonetheless we have all spent the last ten months living in an energetic field of tension, fear and uncertainty. Even those of us blessed with safe beautiful places to lockdown, nonetheless, there is a vibrational energy of stress. Almost everyone I know is struggling more this year than ever. So, if you’ve made it to this point, give yourself a big hug. Really. It has been tough. And we have all had to find new resilience, new patience, new stamina, and to expand our own inner experience to make room for all this while maintaining our peace, our practice and our stability.
So this is NOT the year to whip yourself into shape! It is the year to make gentle, loving, compassionate resolutions that will help the flower of you unfold and open your petals more and more to the presence of love, truth and consciousness within yourself and in the world.
My sisters and brothers and friends – this is not the end. Yes, we may, by God’s grace, be mostly free of the Covid pandemic over the next several months. But then it will be a superbug, another virus or bacteria, or simply a tragic and devastating increase in natural disasters, climate change, lack of water, etc. There is a long queue lining up to wreak havoc upon our lives. This is where our own choice becomes so critical. This is where we DO have the capacity to make new into better. We have learned this year that none of us can be safe unless we are all safe. None can be truly healthy unless we are all healthy.
The call at this time is a call for consciousness, for full, loving awareness and presence. The call is for a courageous ability to sit with our own fears, our own longings, our own sense of lack – long enough, still enough and compassionately enough that we don’t need to act in ways that harm others and ourselves simply to assuage or numb or deny these internal experiences.
It is a time for fierce love – love that reaches out and grabs the universe, even the parts that are kicking and screaming like a child throwing a temper tantrum, a love that will not, cannot be suppressed or frightened away. A love that loves simply because ‘to love’ IS its dharma!
And it is a time for expanded peace – a commitment to peace that doesn’t end with simply a cessation of the missiles, bombs, guns and grenades, but a peace that expands to include equality, protection of our environment, access to safe water, sanitation, hygiene, education, health care and human rights – including the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, harvest from clean soil and lie in the soft bed of needles beneath towering trees in thick forests.
Let us, together, anchor ourselves in the awareness of the perfection of the present moment. The perfection of our Selves and our universe. The fullness, the wholeness and completeness of all. And let us, together, stand up off our meditation cushions and off our yoga mats and be vehicles of healing and service in that already-perfect and deeply-in-need-of-our-help, world.
Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati, a PhD in Psychology, was raised in America and graduated from Stanford University. She left the US to live permanently at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in India and took official vows of renunciation in June 2000, from her guru Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji. Bhagwati teaches meditation and her talks blend knowledge and logic of the West with the insight, spirituality and wisdom of the East. www.parmarth.org