“It is necessary for us to keep the constant way. Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. If you become too busy and too excited, your mind becomes rough and ragged. This is not good. If possible, try to be always calm and joyful and keep yourself from excitement. Usually we become busier and busier, day by day, year by year, especially in our modern world… But if we become interested in some excitement, or in our own change, we will become completely involved in our busy life, and we will be lost. But if your mind is calm and constant, you can keep yourself away from the noisy world even though you are in the midst of it. In the midst of noise and change, your mind will be quiet and stable.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
This is a fascinating time of year. New Year’s a fleeting moment when we shed our past and look, with almost universal optimism, toward our future.
It is a fleeting moment because, just as universally, our idealistic dreams of the year to come quickly fade as our minds once again fill with the distractions of everyday life. Our bad habits quickly return, and the world in this year turns out not to be that much different from the world we thought we had just left behind.
The period following New Year’s is often depressing not just because the weather is cold and grey and dark and awful, at least here in the Northeast, nor it depressing just because the Jets have broken the hearts of its fans once again.
It’s depressing because we put too much pressure on this new year to deliver tangible results. What kinds of things do people hope for in the new year? More money? Better abs? I fear we’re either setting our sights too low, or too high in the wrong direction.
Perhaps, instead, we can point the arrow inwards. Perhaps we can aim to simply work on being better at being ourselves. Perhaps we can focus on something crazy, like inner peace.
We stress ourselves out when we try too hard. Perhaps this time around we can stop trying so hard, let the friction die down, and simply be ourselves.
“A frog is very interesting. He sits like us, too, you know. But he does not think that he is doing anything so special… he has no idea of zazen.”