On Jan. 1, I gave my annual New Year's Address. The post below is edited from that talk. Enjoy!
A very warm Happy New Year to everybody!
As we begin this new year, I want to share my reflections on what this day means to me, and to help all of us think more deeply about the concept of a new beginning and the significance of the powerful, life-positive experience of inspiration that so many of us feel at this time of the year.
The first day of the year represents renewal. It's the beginning of a new cycle in relationship to the passing of time, a moment at which many of us feel as if we are getting a chance to start over. And for most of us, that is usually connected to our higher aspirations, to projects we had wanted to accomplish, and various ways we had intended to improve ourselves. The new year represents that moment when we renew our desire to develop -- and ideally, to live less selfishly, to follow through on our highest intentions to make world a better place.
If we really pay attention to the powerful experience of inspiration that we feel on days like this, we will recognize that it is a felt sense and experiential conviction that we can really do something that we hadn't believed possible -- that we are capable of breaking through to new ground, attaining higher levels of our own potential. If we look more deeply into the thrilling experience of inspiration when we feel it surging through our bodies and minds, we will see that it really is the sense that anything is possible. And that experience of inspiration is simultaneously an experience of freedom, of spiritual liberation, because when we are deeply and profoundly inspired we feel unrestricted by any fundamental sense of limitation.
Most of the time, when we are not in touch with that liberating experience of inspiration, we tend to live with the conscious or unconscious belief that "it's not possible" or "I just don't have what it takes." Within the narrow sphere of our emotional and psychological selves, we often lack self-confidence and don't believe it's really possible for us to change, or to accomplish great things. And this is compounded by the current state of our shared culture, in which there is a deep and abiding cynicism. Many people, for many reasons -- founded and unfounded -- are very doubtful about the possibility of change, either in themselves or in the world itself. Especially now, when we are all struggling with the great challenges of the economic downturn, and with the continued strife and conflict in the world, many of us consciously and unconsciously have fallen into a state of despair because we don't really believe that we as a people, as a species, have the capacity to change and develop in ways that so many of us feel are urgent.
So on days like the first of the new year -- days of renewal when many of us do, at least temporarily, light up with a sense of inspiration -- the feeling of self doubt and the cultural climate of cynicism momentarily fade into the background. We find ourselves awake to a lightness of being, a felt sense of life-positive inspiration, a powerful experiential knowing that it really is possible to change. And not only is it possible, but we as individuals do have the wherewithal and the indomitable spirit to catalyze extraordinary and significant change in ourselves and also in the world around us. We are awake to an infinite creative potential. When human beings are in touch with this powerful creative positivity and inspiration it provides the boundless energy source from which we have historically been able to move mountains.
What I want to make clear is that when you feel this kind of inspiration, it's not just a personal experience you are having. From a mystical perspective, it becomes apparent that what you are awakening to in such moments is the tangible, felt, human experience of the energy and intelligence that created the universe, that catalyzed the evolutionary process and that is driving it right now. Just stand back and bear witness to the majesty of the process as a whole -- the miracle that emerged from nothing in a burst of light and energy 14 billion years ago. See the glory and inconceivable creative power of this cosmic process that ultimately created the conditions that made it possible for you to have the experience you are having in this very moment. And then pay attention to the experience of existence itself when you step this far outside the normal narrow sphere of your daily awareness. Realize the enormity of what it means to exist, right now. What you will notice is that inherent in the enormity of what it means to exist is a powerful driving urgency. That urgency is the felt sense that the entire creative process is moving, is going somewhere, and there is an energy and intelligence that is driving it all.
When you or I awaken to the experience of inspiration, infinite possibility and unrestricted potential, what we are experiencing is not separate from that. As human beings, we are tapping into the source of the entire cosmos. The reason this is so significant is that when we directly experience this tremendous energy, we realize its profound positivity. In those moments when you are awake to this creative inspiration and you are free from crippling self-doubt and the long shadow of cynicism, you directly experience the overwhelmingly positivity of existence itself. Your personal existence is not separate from a vast creative unfolding that is definitely trying to go somewhere. And the experience of inspiration is in fact that cosmic energy and intelligence trying to evolve and renew itself through us, as us.
So the experience of inspiration that we feel on days like today is very important because of what it reveals to us about the nature of life itself. It also points to our potential to be liberated, deeply creative, engaged people, if we only have the courage and conviction to begin to trust what becomes apparent to us when we are awake to this kind of inspiration more than we trust the fears and doubts that come from the psychological self and the cynicism that is so prevalent in the world around us.
It's important to recognize that no matter what appears to be happening in our fast-changing world and in our often challenging and confusing personal lives, the experience of inspiration points us to a deeper, unchanging truth about the nature of reality. Even if personally or collectively we find ourselves in very difficult circumstances, it is still true that the power and energy that is animating the entire process is the experience of overwhelming positivity. That does not mean that the challenges we face are not real or do not need to be dealt with. But our relationship to these challenges changes when we awaken to the mystical realization that the energy that is driving the entire process, which we experience as this powerful sense of inspiration, is positive. Why? Because that means that to exist is good. Life itself, at its essence, is good. Remember, the entire process is trying to get somewhere, is in a state of continual becoming. So on a day like today, the first day of the New Year, when you experience the thrill of renewal, the powerful and life-positive sense of inspiration, realize that it is not simply a personal experience you are having. The universe is always trying to evolve through you. The challenge for most of us is that we forget that fact when we lose touch with the sense of inspiration. I think that's why so many of us, on the first day of the year, seem to intend to evolve and to change, but as the sense of renewal and the inspiration that goes with it falls away, we fall back to sleep, so to speak, and lose ourselves in mundane realities once again. We forget how we felt and what was revealed to us when we were awake to the life-positive experience of inspiration.
So what I want to propose, as we begin the new year, is: what would your life be like if every day was like today? What if every day represented that sense of renewal? What if every day you were in touch with the sense of infinite creative potential and life-positive inspiration? I believe that to live an enlightened human life, these days, it is essential that we find the courage and conviction to live like that. And in order to do that, we need to not only awaken to the life-positive power of creative inspiration but to remain in touch with the deeper truth it reveals to us about the nature of reality, no matter what our external circumstances may be. Remember, when you are awake to the thrill of the possible -- when you can see it, touch it, taste it -- you no longer feel trapped in the mundane presence of the present, because you are awake to the unmanifest potential of the future. You are always reaching beyond where you have already come. When your mystical heart has been opened to a profoundly creative context, you realize that to consciously exist -- which is what it means to be enlightened - -is to evolve, to be in a constant state of becoming, renewal and creative inspiration.
So make this day every day. Then you will find the spiritual self-confidence that comes from being in touch with the infinite source of creative potential that lies at the heart of existence. When we are awake to that, it makes it possible for us to bear the enormous challenges of life, to hang in there and to fight the good fight, to become the kind of people we could be and change the world into the place we want it to be.
The experience of inspiration and sense of renewal associated with the new year is precious, because of what it reveals to us about the nature of existence itself. Let's make every day like today.
Please join Andrew Cohen on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 3p.m. ET, for a free Q&A call about his new book, 'Evolutionary Enlightenment.' You'll have the chance to engage live with Andrew via conference call and ask him any questions you may have about the book.
Follow Andrew Z. Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewZCohen