First, credit due. At the end of 2016, there were just a few things I was totally sure about. I’d finished reading The Universe Has Your Back and had moved into A Course in Miracles. I’d begun to feel a release from integration work, and to be more forward looking, open to making new connections, forming new patterns. It was as though a large book I’d been reading had naturally finished, and many of the characters seemed just about ready to go their own way. In fact, many did!
One pressing discouragement had been quite small bucket list items that year after year, remained on the list. These were things like Indian cooking classes, checking out the Unity Church, organizing a dream practice workshop, and getting organized about writing every day. And in 2017, I did follow through on these, as well as related things that seemed to ride the tide. The Universe met me in kind; intuitive guidance returned.
I renewed meditation practice, and let myself off the hook for not living up to the image of the disciplined yogi in my mind who sits for 2 hours a day and is consistent like clockwork. Instead, in large part thanks to not seeking this kind of support in the same places I had been, I allowed myself what before I’d seen as crutches: using Insight Timer app, and checking in with a small group of friends via SMS to share favorite guided meditations. To be clear, the yogi in my mind would never use guided meditations, but I’ve come to love having choices between light music or weather conditions, silence, or someone holding my hand and walking me through.
There were a few hard challenges, and a few areas where I went against my introverted grain, to do what felt right to me. In one case, the risk to my pride was significant, but I followed through. In others, the ice breaking was awkward, but that awkwardness didn’t feel as much like death. In that category, I have one more phone call to make before the year is out.
I was supportive with friends and family that leaned on me, and received help when it was my turn, having to drop some grudges along the way. I became more politically outspoken, while working to find places of compassion for those I disagree with. I strove to be honest with myself and others, and not to lose sight of impermanence… that although these feel like dark times, in which ‘sides’ are becoming more and more prominent and entrenched, time, by nature, arises and passes away. Being shape shifts.
The books I read in 2017 were along a wider range than the year previous, from a charming little book about a master gardener’s apprenticeship in the temple gardens of Japan called Cutting Back, and a somewhat odd book recommended by Susannah Clarke, Thursbitch, to the Upanishads, Twin Peaks related books, Lincoln in the Bardo and The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve (plus many others in between and on the fringes). And all the articles, goodness! I kept pretty well to my determinations not to read much click-bait but rather dive deeper. Oh! I read Pullman’s Book of Dust as well, without letting my fangirlish admiration get in the way of admitting that it was great for anyone else, but just okay for Pullman.
A year ago, I was also having a lot of anxiety. During the day I would go about my usual business, enjoying my projects and communities, but in the middle of the night, and if not then first thing in the morning, I would often wake in panic and dread. Instead of rising with appreciation for the new day and my one precious life, I would quickly find myself in a position of judgement and problem solving. Rather than rising to meet those challenges, I would often just try to get through the day without making trouble for anyone else. I leaned on “this too shall pass”, and little by little, dug my way into more openness.
A great resource in that regard, has been the Facebook Live teachings and ‘cyber sangha’ of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. I’ve been fond of him since the day ten years ago that I found his book The Yogas of Dream and Sleep in a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Dream practice had come up quite naturally for me, and I was gesturing back to the void, trying to learn as much as possible. Although I did try the methods he introduced in that book, they were a bit too technical at my level of study. His clear writing voice and gentle guidance however, made him someone I have continued to seek out. Yet it wasn’t until he began Facebook Live pop-up teachings, that I felt him to be a constant teacher. His last few talks, on Mirror-like Awareness, have lodged deeply in my being. The gist? Be the mirror rather than the reflection. And actually, that is the way I would describe my seat, my stance, leading into 2018.