mettā letter 4
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Dear fellow soul,
There was a funny joke I heard a few months ago, and it went something like:
“Can 2016 be over yet?” or simply “2016 sucks.”
And it was a good joke. It was told over and over and in many different permutations. If a message resonates with people it will stick in our public consciousness, especially a good joke (a.k.a a meme) because these days with the tapping on a phone or keyboard, a message can travel to millions of people in every corner of the world in the blink of an eye. And then resent, retweeted, shared, etc., many times over. The problem is if you repeat a joke (especially an insult) enough times, it begins to be solidified into a “fact.” Something not intended to be serious evolves into something taken as serious.
If I really wanted to, I could list all the reasons why 2016 was the worst year ever. And in my mind I would be right and it would be case closed — what is there to argue about next?
But if I changed my mindset — how I perceive the world — I might realize that 2016 was actually awesome.
So how does one change their mindset? They entertain some new thoughts which may lead to a new perspective. Here are three thoughts to counter the belief that 2016 was the worst and may help someone begin to appreciate 2016.
Meditating on death
How much do you contemplate your own death? I’m going to guess not that much. There was a time I spent two minutes each morning meditating on a time in the future when I did not exist. I just closed my eyes and imagined the world continuing to spin, the sun continuing to rise and fall, people I knew as well as strangers I’ll never meet continuing on with their lives, spending their days moving things back and forth or telling others to move things back and forth. “I” no longer existed, so I could fly off to any part of the world, and then any part of the galaxy, and then any part of the universe, because why the hell not? I didn’t have a body or an existence to hold me back. The sensation of being free from all that kept me on Earth was invigorating, and afterwards it allowed me to go about my day worrying less about the trivialities of life and savoring the experience more. The key to it was actually meditating on nonexistence to directly experience the feeling of being free, and not just intellectually knowing that those thoughts would lead to a sensation of being free. We all have a death sentence. When you remember that there will be a time that you — or the entity that you know as “you” — will not exist, then maybe you will be open to appreciating this thing we collectively call “2016.”
Defining a year
What is “2016?” Is it something you can put in a scrapbook, or put away in a drawer somewhere, or hang up on your wall? It can be, if that is how you have been trained to know it. Here is another definition. 2016 is really just you falling asleep and waking up over and over a bunch of times in a row. What was 2015? The same thing. That goes for every series of fallings asleep and wakings that are labelled with a number. Forget what you know about calendars defining what a year is. Calendars turn the years of life into something abstract and therefore distant from the real thing. We tend to place less value on distant things and more value on closer things. A new definition of a year is you falling asleep and waking up bunch of times in a row. You can’t get too distant from that because you do it every day. A “year” is right in front of you now, so are welcome to begin appreciating it again.
This habit is a challenge to break but if you’re still with me after the first two thoughts, let’s keep going. Is there really a need to judge our experiences? “This was good. This was bad.” Your experience on this plane of existence is a gift. (If you disagree, I have more work to do.) When you are opening up gifts on Christmas or on your birthday, do you react to each gift, “This was good. This was bad.”? Hopefully you’ve learned to appreciate all your gifts. That includes 2016. If not, check out the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” because if a man can learn to be grateful for his ordeal in multiple concentration camps during the Holocaust, you can learn to be grateful for 2016. To generalize this point though — the more one judges, the less one enjoys. You are now welcome to stop judging 2016 and begin appreciating the experience.
So if you are still wondering what the best part of 2016 was, from my perspective there was no best part (reread the last paragraph — that would be judging.) I really just enjoyed that period of time I fell asleep and woke up a bunch of times in a row. That was pretty damn awesome.
Thank you for visiting. Your attention is a gift to me. My writing is a gift to you. I invite you to share this gift with another.