Happy glorious New Year of 2020 to you all! It’s a brand new year, one full of possibility. That’s always the feeling I have at the beginning of a new year, how much delightful brilliant happenings are there to anticipate. The beginning is always more joyous to me than what happens next. It might be overly theatrical of me to anticipate what the new year holds and then it doesn’t measure up. That is a character defect I need to work on. On the other hand, it is delightful to revel in this feeling of anticipation and hopefulness. I indeed wish to feel that all the time.
We have choices to make when we feel different feelings. My Spiritual Director has often told me how I think a thought and that brings on a feeling. I used to argue with her that it was the opposite. No, I would say, don’t we feel the feeling first and then think the thought? On the contrary she said, your thoughts influence what you feel. And if you decide to act on that thought, you will feel a feeling supporting that thought. Or you can choose to recognize that thought and discard it and a corresponding feeling will not arise.
I knew she was right and I’ve been working on paying more attention to my thoughts. I’m also wondering if all the energy people are expending right now to hate or resent or antagonize others is hovering over us like a cloud that can be suffocating. We’re putting out so much animosity into the world right now that it has to have an effect on us. These thoughts are bringing about feelings that we then are choosing to act upon or not. The theme this month is Belonging and there’s a lot of anti-belonging sentiment swirling about us right now. The dangerous animosity between us and Iran, the actions of our administration that could be viewed as murder, all of this energy is spinning around us and it must be having an effect on us. I am feeling such tension in myself just from day to day knowing that any minute we could be on the brink of war, yet another conflict we will be sending our troops to fight. And it feels like it’s escalating and that only creates more fear.
What can we do in our communities to combat this? Individually we can all create practices in our daily lives to calm ourselves, to give ourselves a sense of peace within. We can also bring those practices to our communities and gather each other together to combat these feelings of acrimony or bitterness. But will that community spread out into others, into other states or even countries, to combat the direction we seem to be traveling? Do we have enough of an influence to turn the tide, build a bridge, hold hands with others to create a more peaceful existence? I don’t have an answer for that. I do know that we need to try. We need to consider how we combat these dangerous feelings, how do we change the thoughts before they bring about feelings, before they bring about actions, before it affects the entire world? How can we influence the thoughts in the beginning so that we can bring about change? How do we help others to change their way of thinking to ones of peace, consideration, thoughtfulness and service?
The only way I know is by example. It could be a slow sluggish way to make change, but it seems to be the only way to be effective. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who we will be honoring in a couple of weeks, said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
It will be a continuous struggle to change the direction our world is in, the division, the animosity, the cruelty. Continuous struggle can seem inexhaustible and eternal if that is the thought you have. But if you begin with the opposite thought – that it can be achievable and reachable, you will then feel that feeling and be able to continue.
So let us in this new year, check our thoughts and guide them towards the feelings we wish to feel. We will all be better for it.
Blessings to you all in this brand new glorious year,