New Year’s Evolutions

I work with words all the time and recognize the potency of them. One of my favorite things is when words, whose meaning I have always taken page for granted, all of a sudden reveal a deeper significance. My response to that is always the same, “Duh! How could I have possibly not seen that before?” The best example I can give of this happened some years ago with words ‘forgiving’ and ‘forgetting’.

Now, I am not someone who has had a lot of mystical experiences, despite the fact that I engage in many practices in which many people do have them. The first time I ever did a period of silence, the theme that arose out of it was forgiveness. I was so moved by what I experienced during those 4 days of not talking, when it was over, I wanted to do something to ensure I would remember what had been so beautifully revealed. I thought about getting the Chinese symbol for the word forgiveness tattooed over my heart on the drive home. The next town I was passing was Davis, CA. I told myself I’d pull over and if a tattoo studio was close and easy to find, I’d go for it. As soon as I turned off the freeway, there was a tattoo place right in front of me. Alrighty then; that was pretty clear. I went in, selected the symbol, chose some henna-colored ink, bared my chest, gritted my teeth a bit and got my first ever tattoo. I thought it was kind of cool the Chinese symbol for forgiveness is a combination of 3 other symbols, woman, heart and mouth.

The deeper I went into my spiritual practice, the more it became obvious that in the BIG picture, there wasn’t really anything for me to forgive. I noticed that often the biggest and most potent heart education came from the most challenging circumstances. I realized if I was truly able to see the gift in what happened to me, there was most often very little, if anything that needed to be forgiven. It all was quite perfect. All circumstances, no matter the painful or pleasant wrapping paper they were delivered in, were gifts from life to learn to open my heart more fully.

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I do not think it was a coincidence the deeper this understanding went, the more my tattoo faded. Over the course of the next year or so, what had started off as a deep red-brown tattoo became slightly raised and white, looking more like a brand than a tat! I felt kind of silly running around having an indelible mark on my chest that was no longer completely true for me. I did not know the deeper meaning was on the way.

I was at some friend’s house for Christmas Eve and they were going to mass. They invited me to come along, but I declined. I grew up Catholic, but was not taught about Catholicism in a way that made me want to participate in it (or any other) religion. When I was little, I remember asking things like “Why do I have to go through a priest to have God to forgive my sins? A priest is not closer to God than I am.” Thinking like that got me into all kinds of trouble! Sometimes I’d forget to bring my chapel veil to school for mass and the nuns would would try to force me to bobby pin a kleenex to the top of my head to be reverent. I would refuse and rebel, insisting that God cared a lot more about what was in my heart than what was on top of on my head and certainly would not advocate the use of a stupid kleenex to determine my degree of reverence! I knew the deeper truths even as a child, but somehow along the way, they got beaten out of me and buried under unquestioned convention until much later in life.

While my friends were at Mass, I decided to meditate. As I said, not a lot of phenomenal experiences typically accompany my meditations, but on this occasion, I found the body enveloped in a very intense energy that was similar in size and shape to the tube of light that beamed the characters on the Star Trek holodeck to other dimensions. The longer I sat there, the more intense it grew, so I took that as an opportune time to ask a pertinent question.

“What am I here for?” I asked. And then I just waited.

It wasn’t long before an answer came. “You are here for giving.”

I just started laughing. I am for giving… Forgiving… THAT’S what that word meant all along! How utterly obvious!

“And when you are not for giving…” It continued, “you are for getting.”

For getting. Forgetting. For giving or for getting. Wow.

That simple distinction brought an answer to the life long question of why, for the most part, I had felt miserable on the inside. I had experienced so much trauma that the natural state of my giving nature got reversed. The false emergency state I was in most of the time gave the illusion that I was chronically missing something. In order to survive, my life unconsciously became about getting something… getting love, getting approval, getting attention. It was a hard but very enlightening pill to swallow when I realized even my giving was usually done in order to get something.

As I reflected on this past year last night, I noticed again how easily things flow when I am for giving and how much they don’t when I am for getting. I contemplated the concept of New Year’s Resolutions and thought about how many people try to give something up only to fail and perpetuate some story of deficiency.

Perhaps the answer lies in looking at the deeper meaning of ‘giving up’. For me, the words ‘giving up’ used to mean I had to sacrifice something with white knuckled effort and if I failed, I was ‘bad’. Blech. No wonder they didn’t ever last. My resolutions were seldom about what I could give.

What if the deeper meaning of ‘giving up’ is actually to give and to give ‘up’ as in to lift something to a higher state? What if resolutions are actually about our own evolution and lifting us back up to our natural state of giving? Maybe if our wishes for the New Year were all about ‘for giving’ and not ‘for getting’, they would be effortless indeed.

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So my New Year’s Evolutions are as follows:

I commit to stopping as soon as I feel myself rushing, acting out of a place of fear/lack/distress or if I am not enjoying what I am doing.

I commit to walking away from anyone or anything or any situation in which I am not being treated or I am not treating someone with respect.

I commit to strengthening my capacity for empathy.

I commit to resting when my body is tired, eating when it is hungry, feeding it only foods that calm and nourish it, eating for health and not the tastebuds, moving when the body feels stagnant (including taking frequent breaks when at the computer), stretch when it is tight, move when it wants to move.

I commit to creating community where I live and to spend time each day connecting in person with people I love and care about.

I commit to saying what is so for me in every moment regardless of who I am with in a kind and respectful way.

I commit to owning all projections and feelings.

I commit to creating lots of awesome art with fabulous people!

Happy New year, everyone.

Please feel free to share your Evolutions!