It may not look like it, but this moment is the most powerful time to shift your story. This month, the planet celebrates a new beginning. Summing up the past, we're given the opportunity to witness who we really are beneath the charade, writing a fresh, preferred chapter. Perhaps I am particularly receptive to this because January happens to be my birthday month, so it has a double wallop for yours truly, as it does my grandbaby, whose birthday is New Year's Day.
Regardless whether you will be blowing out your birthday candles or not this January, the fact remains. Our chance is now for that rewrite, to take up the real business of our lives, doing a better job than we've ever dared before! And, by "better," I mean finding more wonder, shared joy, laughter, inspiration, and that freedom to stand up and be counted in meaningful ways together.
On the symbolic level, like our ancestors, we are shown Janus, whose one face looks east and the other west. Funny, how we believe past and future give us the answer to the one most vital question that must be asked to evolve. So, today, right now, between you and me, who do you think you really are? What is your unlived life?
Soul Guide for 2013: 6 Aspects to Your Own Truthful Answer
1. Be yourself. Oscar Wilde brings an answer: "Be yourself. Every other role has been taken." It takes a good deal of awakening, I grant you, to realize that who we believe we are turns out to be a series of roles in which we've costumed ourselves for protection. But who we really are is an original. Where do we begin?
2. Perhaps, this year, you would be willing to meet me in what I will call the "space of unknowing." Tricky for Americans, uncomfortable with admitting we "don't' know." I learned this overseas. We like to "fake it 'til we make it." Perhaps this is why I adore another Wilde quip that brings a bit of humor to the fore: "Only the shallow think they know themselves."
Who has not met the one with the supercilious smile who deigns to put up with the rest of us inferior creatures by their "know it all" attitude? I don't know about you, because on bad hair days, I'd like to haul off and smack them! (Aggressive, I know. Patience is a virtue I have yet to master.) The real irritant, of course, is the undercover fact that to discover present truth, we've got to release masks keeping us safe from the discomfort of unknowing, vulnerability and imperfection. We've got to be willing to crack open, as Leonard Cohen put it: "... the cracks are how the Light gets in..." May this be our year of many cracks, of much light to illumine the way to our own deepest truth. In the "space of unknowing," there is complete permission to discover original beauty and peace.
3. Be willing to be bewildered. The trap is that we believe we should know the answer to who we are. Jungian analysts might call this an "identity complex." As a creative, I experience it as a dynamic force, an internal urge to push through limited thinking, cracking open the portal, allowing transit into the land of discovery. Little monkey mind gets very nervous about the whole thing. But as every practicing artist, mystic and Buddhist finds, it is in the space between our beliefs and old attitudes that new life resides, new ways of knowing who we are in relationship to creation.
Trungpa Rinpoche, a master teacher, put it this way: "That first space is heaven ... it is just basic space in which you have no idea what it is going to do or what you are going to do ... a kind of positive bewilderment..."
The fact is that no matter what's on your list, neither you nor I have the faintest idea of what will unfold. If we crowd out the unknown with our expectations, we only place obstacles in the road up ahead that diminish our effectiveness in quietly responding to what is called forth from getting to know our best self.
4. Be willing to leave more space for space, for wonder, for witnessing the wonder mindfully. Sometimes the space will bring fear, anxiety, and doubt. Sometimes you will be drowning in uncertainty. Sleepless, restless nights may find you tossing and turning, trying to "figure things out." Stop it. Just for this day, what if you refused? What if you chose another way? What if you decided to embrace what confuses and disturbs you, to simply notice you, in that space, witnessing yourself in relationship to your tangled thoughts, breathing deeply, releasing tension, simply witnessing?
Only last night, in the middle of one of my 2 a.m. dragon fights, I did just this and was amazed. At last, I felt free from a tangle that is past due. Chuckling to myself in the darkness, I remembered Martin Luther King Jr.'s mighty words: "Free at last, free at last. Thank God I'm free at last." That said, new tangles come. No foul, no shame. Just another opportunity to engage mindfulness and breathe. Always best to keep breathing, don't you think?
5. "Interbeing." No one goes it alone. This year is a turning point: the shift from "me to we," a superb opportunity to become what I call "friends of the work." I typically capitalize "friends of the work" for these people, like you, are those who have become devotees of awakening consciousness, of co-creating a better world, of that sort of "interbeing" that Thich Nhat Hahn describes as part of our responsibility as well-intended citizens of a "global ethic." I do not care how important or famous an individual might be, we cannot create an enlightened society without one another, as hearts touching hearts, as equals, as co-creators of the magnificent.
Yes, you may be saying we are far from magnificent. It all depends on perspective. We can focus on the mad acts of desperate, wounded people who take the lives of our children, parents, teachers, principals, first responders, and other innocent bystanders and conclude the situation is hopeless. One such shooting took place three blocks from my home two days after Sandy Hook as we slept.
Alternatively, we can take up the cry of "miago," described in my most recent book, The Love Project: Coming Home. The word refers to the belief "I am because we are." That is, our concerns, hearts and souls are intertwined as part of something bigger. To the degree we awaken to connectivity, the greater the universal homecoming, the more beautiful our creation.
6. Become involved in a 2013 love project that serves a greater good. Become a fuller instrument for the good to operate through your life in a way that touches others' hearts, reminds them that just as there is sorrow in the world, so, too, is there great beauty. Join others in an endeavor that lifts your spirit, brings humor, praise, gratitude and connection. One such project, entitled "Carrie's Quilts," may be found on my website: carabarker.com. Check it out? We will need many hands, many talents, and much energy for this meaningful collaborative creation to be made concrete for the surviving siblings of Sandy Hook, Conn. Neither can I do it alone, nor do I want to do so. Please pass this on to all you know.
Love Letter to the Willing,
So much more is possible for you this year. Do not deny yourself! Be good to you. Leave space to serve a greater good through new doors opening. Do some housecleaning. Get rid of everything that stifles new life, new inspiration. Release stale old ways of seeing yourself and what is possible. There is no time but now.
Thank you for being you so beautifully. You renew my faith in humankind.
Be the love you are,
Your Turn: What would you like to see demonstrated more in the world? I'm listening! Thank you for this and links to carabarker.com, where the 2013 Love Project for our children is described as "Carrie's Quilts."
For more information on grieving, see my archives on HuffPost, and/or carabarker.com. Also available through Sounds True is "Grieving the Loss of a Child," which many have found helpful.
For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.