Last night I submitted grades for the last of my courses, finally bringing the Fall 2011 semester to a close. I “slept in,” arising at around seven, and decided to kick off what amounts to a vacation with my usual walk. Toward the end, I saw a sign outside a realtor’s office that was curiously wise.
A NEW YEAR BRINGS A FRESH START TO AN OPEN MIND.
But it’s commerce about which they wish you to have an open mind, buying and selling. Have instead an open heart, and you’ll have a rhyme!
That was only the beginning of my inner dialogue with my surroundings. Shortly thereafter, as I crested the hill that’s typically dark when I walk it, I felt the sun warming my back and illuminating the conservation land “path” that wends its way along the river. Unbidden, words popped into my head.
To look upon the New Year is to feel a temptation before a trackless forest.
When jotting this in my yoga journal, I would add the following:
The ancients knew of wild possibility at the cusp of things.
To spell this out further, thus we need to make noise at the New Year, we’re told to dispel “evil” possibilities, but I wonder if we also wish to participate in the wildness.
I don’t wish to demystify this for you, but I must claim a lineage on the words “feel a temptation before” (thus actually bringing some promised sociology into the blog). I think here of Peter Berger’s words in the opening of his now-classic Invitation to Sociology.
People who like to avoid shocking discoveries, who prefer to believe that society is just what they were taught in Sunday School, who like the safey of the rules and maxims of what Alfred Schuetz has called the “world-taken-for-granted,” should stay away from sociology. People who feel no temptation before closed doors, who have no curiosity about human beings, who are content to admire scenery without wondering about the people who live in those houses on the other side of that river, should probably stay away from sociology.…
A few years ago, when I was quite new to this path of yoga, my younger sister suggested to me that she didn’t make New Year’s resolutions, she set New Year’s intentions. I kind of liked that idea, as hokey as it might have sounded at the time. I’ve heard it said since, and to people who say this, it seems that resolutions have such a finality to them that if broken, one is off the path. Intentions are so much more pliable, with the fragrance of dust brushed off clothing when one has fallen, but picks oneself back up again. I think intentions may require much more quiet reflection to develop, and it’s time and space for that I’m trying to steal from whatever can so easily fill up my life right now.
Through some accidents of remote biography, I have had the occasion to learn about the beautiful practice of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which incorporates mindfulness. The chief dialectic is between acceptance and change, so how wonderful to be thinking about this in a season which causes so many to set intentions for change in their lives.
One of the minor maxims in DBT is “be curious,” and here is where I tie it all together, folks. Chiefly this arises in consideration of interpersonal matters. “Be curious” about the other’s experiences, thoughts and feelings. I think when we step on this path of yoga, engage in adhikara, “studentship,” we become primarily students of ourselves.
So the “invitation” today is to feel a temptation before the trackless forest of the New Year. Make some noise, but make some quiet, too. “Be curious” about yourself and where in that trackless forest you will take yourself this year. Set your intentions accordingly.