I meet these latter days of an old year with the same resolution that I greet the young year approaching: I aim for even. This has not always been my resolution regarding the new year or its eve.
Mostly, I marked the event with a grand sendoff to the old with some kind of ceremony or celebration. On the first day of the year yet to unfold, I was ready with my “clean slate” of resolutions and all I hoped to accomplish.
It never occurred to me that I could have the same resolution for every day of the year—aim for even. In other words, just show up for every experience and meet it with what I have to give.
I am not without reflection on endings and beginnings. I am human, and I do mull over moments. It’s just that I am less apt to hold onto an event ending or grab onto a moment beginning. I know that neither experience will stay but for as long as it does it is mine to meet.
Whatever we discover, as we explore it further, we find nothing to hold onto, nothing solid, only groundless, wakeful energy.
Not hanging onto an event as it ends—not trying to make it last longer than is possible—is the dawning of a new day, a new year. It’s a wakeful energy that allows us a fresh look at ourselves and the world around us.
We open to the experience of being alive as the drama unfolds yet again. All we need to do is show up and aim for even.
Yet, I am not without my ruminations on New Year’s Eve. They involve water, the physical reminder that all life is composed of individual currents, tides coming in only to go out.
A lifelong favorite essay of mine, EB White’s “Once More to the Lake,” reminds me that whether my tide is out or in, each event in my life is “infinitely precious and worth saving” for as long as it lasts. In these moments reside “peace, jollity, and goodness.”
In order to “enlarge my sense of things”—that peace and goodness are possible in every moment I breathe—I remember a Hindu story about a master and his unhappy apprentice.
No matter what occurred in the apprentice’s life, it never stayed long enough or left soon enough. Whether an experience was beginning or ending, the apprentice’s vision remained on what was not occurring. Either he bemoaned the past or anticipated the future.
I admit that am taking liberties with the original story but it is true the apprentice was never content.
The master sent the apprentice to purchase salt. When he returned, the master told him to put a handful of salt into a glass and drink it. The apprentice complied and complained of the bitter taste.
That pleased the master. Then, the two took a walk to a nearby lake. At water’s edge, the master told the apprentice to throw the remaining salt into the freshwater lake and then take a drink. The apprentice said the water tasted fresh; the bitterness was gone. Again, the master was pleased.
The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less.
The amount of pain remains exactly the same.
But the amount of bitterness we taste depends
on the container we put the pain in.
Enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.
(Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening)
Often, I re-enact my version of this Hindu story. I do not go to a lake but I do put some salt in a glass and drink of it. The sting of the salt reminds me how easy it is to taste only the salt. I fill a bowl and drink. Already, the sting is less.
I like to think I drink from the lake of life with less expectation and more curiosity–I aim for even—to enlarge my sense of things.
KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.