The Gift of This New Year

As the song "Seasons of Love" from the musical "Rent" suggests, we receive 525,600 minutes over the course of the coming year in which to choose. Some moments will be memorable as triumphs, others fraught with struggle.
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According to my calendar, we have launched another new beginning, at least on paper. Funny, isn't it, that we imbue such power to one brief 24-hour period, between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Around the world we rally for another chance. We party. We light fireworks. The younger set makes resolutions. The older one puts them aside, knowing that most resolutions will be toast by February. But each of us, in the privacy of our own heart, feels the quickening of the "Eternal Return," the chance to put right what has gone wrong, to galvanize in the direction of life well-lived. Perhaps it is our need to put to rest what has not been heart friendly and begin anew to advance in the direction of what might bring more peace of mind.

The question is, are you ready? The question is, what will bring you peace of mind? Ready or not, the "Life Book" pages turn without consent. Who knows what will be inscribed on your blank pages by this time next year? One thing is for certain: surprise. Where will you be next January? Who knows? What will have transpired? Surely, there will be unplanned delights, from unexpected directions. New people will have entered your life, and others departed. There will be funerals and weddings, graduations and celebrations. There will be those who get bad news involving finances, jobs and health. Last year holds no monopoly on these conditions and circumstances. There will be phone calls you are happy to receive, and others, not so much. Surely there will be increasing opportunities to lend a hand, as well as times when you will need one yourself, times when you will need to rest, renew, re-evaluate the worth of a life well spent.

So, I ask you and me, right here, right now, how do you wish to receive the gift of this year? (It goes without saying that if you've gotten better at receiving this past year, your hands will be more open to gifts.) As the song "Seasons of Love" from the musical "Rent" suggests, we receive 525,600 minutes over the course of the coming year in which to choose. Some moments will be memorable as triumphs, others fraught with struggle.

Wherever you are as you read this, I think we can agree that the past four seasons, the past 525,600 minutes, have not been a lot of fun. A year's review of the news around the "Global Theatre" make this perfectly clear. Yet this does not take us off the hook from answering for ourselves: How do you wish to live? The year 2011 has given us endless opportunities to consider the answer. Much of last year's strife has been between the "haves" who wish to remain on top of the "caterpillar pillar" and the "have-nots" who feel disenfranchised from not only their voice, but from all manner of hope. So I repeat: How do you wish to live in a way that would bring peace of mind?

I'm with Rumi. He puts it this way:

"A shout comes out of my room
where I've been couped up."

We simply cannot enjoy peace of mind as long as what is most authentic in our nature has no room to move. We cannot enjoy peace of mind as long as we withhold self-compassion from you-know-who. We simply cannot enjoy peace of mind as long as we are encumbered by "oughts and shoulds." We simply cannot enjoy peace of mind as long as we allow ourselves to be held hostage by those who live in fear, mistrust, aggression and laziness.

One of our favorite guests here, at what gypsynomad has dubbed "Cara's Café," offers observation and useful questions. Lawson puts it beautifully:

"... What baggage we waddle through life with if we do not become aware of our burden. What keeps us from the changes that would reveal and instigate that better life to be lived? How to have the conscious mind dredge into and address those tales, half-truths, biases, and fears we drag along? What do we do to ensure the next generation is less weighed down and more aware? Just wondering...

I am sticking with my heart."

Sticking with our heart. Me too, Lawson, me too! What would life be like, this year, if we were to release our old backpacks of self doubt and erroneous thinking? What if we dared to have fun? There, I've "gone and said" it. Yes, the F word: FUN. It seems as though with all the "seriousity" afoot, it seems almost a blasphemy to do so. But is it not a blasphemy to the gift of life if we do not enjoy what is before us? So, I ask: What would you do for fun, if you knew you could not fail?

My answer is that I would write my version of love letters for those who could use a reminder that you are loved "as is." While I can do nothing about international and local bullies, unless I am in the vicinity, I surely can take a stand for those who desire better treatment. While I can do nothing about the world economy, I can do something about fostering a deeper sense of inner prosperity and abundance. Yes, it might sound corny to cynics. Who cares? In fact, I am "upping the ante." I will illustrate each of them so that by Jan. 1, 2013, there will be a weekly illustrated letter waiting for those who wish them, just for fun. This, I claim as my next "Love Project." This is how I choose to spend the gift of New Year, 2012.

Naming intention. Were the two of us physically together, I might sit across from you, take your hands in mine, and have a "heart-to-heart." I would ask your intention for living out this year in a way that makes your heart sing. To prime the pump, here's mine:

My 2012 intention here, at HuffPost:

Let this be a place, increasingly, where love lives.
Let this be a time where you can lay aside the clock.
Let this tiny corner be a place in which to rest, find sanctuary, and
Lay down the burden of what's wrong in the world,
May we turn away from distractions.
Let this be a place where the voice of self-criticism is silenced, and
Graciousness and gratitude resounds.
Let this be a place to Witness
The Good* at work through humane connection.

Together, may our virtual community café flourish,
May this be a place where all are welcome, free to be themselves,
Free of the need to defend, or attack,
Free to simply be, to remember, to be cherished.

May this be our year, together,
To hear and heed the shout that's been couped up inside,
and give it room to sing.

(* by Good, capital "g," I am referring to that which is beyond the puny ego, that which cannot be explained by reason, but surely felt in the heart, whatever costume it wears, whatever language It speaks.)

Your turn: Describe your intention for the gift of this New Year. It need not be fancy, or long, just true. What would you do to bring fun alive? I'm listening!

For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

New: For those who have asked, the first copies of "The Love Project: Coming Home" will be available in several weeks, according to the university press.

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