Sometime in the last couple months I started thinking about the whole concept of fresh start, starting over, re-imagining myself, re-creating my life. I was obsessively watching Netflix tv and got caught up in the show Break-Out Kings, which is about convicts, who, of course, want to start over more than anything.
Then at Spirit Rock they had this book on display: Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life. I wrote about Right Intention (part of what Moffitt talks about in the book). Now I’m into his next section on starting over.
I sometimes say, to the people I am closest to, that I have reincarnated 4 or 5 times in this very lifetime. So I’m hardly new to starting over. The longing for a different life, or a new one, or some dream of a another country, or a promise I made to myself when I was a child of how things would be different when I grew up and had more choices, has often driven my decisions. I have, in my life, wanted desperately to get away from things–relationships, bad jobs, voicelessness, violence, poverty, to name a few.
Those are the big starting overs.
Sometimes, I just wanted to feel better, more peaceful, more accepting of my lot in life, sometimes I wanted to be able to love more deeply, to be kinder, less judgmental, less reactive.
Sometimes I just wanted some particular pain or level of pain to go away.
It seems intimate to say these things, but really, is there anyone alive who hasn’t wanted some, if not all of them? I mean, I do sometimes believe I am cursed (or blessed, it’s not clear) with the fate of having to experience everything in life, from the worst darkness to the most ecstatic joy, but that could be just terminal uniqueness (as they say in 12 step programs), though to tell you the truth, I don’t really think so. I think I am on this experience-everything track and some people, luckily, perhaps, are not.
Anyhow, I’ve been thinking of the words “new start” with a kind of longing. So, presto-changeo, this book shows up. And, since it is based in Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, it talks in depth about starting over in meditation as a practice that can be extended into the rest of life. Because in meditation we just wander and come back, wander and come back, over and over again, ad infinitum (which I can testify to, since I am back to meditating every day, something I couldn’t do for months after my friend died).
Moffitt says that starting over can be a practice, that once you set your intentions (I set mine as kindness, honesty, ahimsa, radical self-acceptance, etc a few blogs back), you can use a gentle, non-judgmental mindfulness to be aware of when you stray, and then just stop and start over like you do in meditation. Starting over can be a practice moment-to-moment.
I kind of like that.
And in the meantime, though I read only the very beginning of Living with Your Heart Wide Open while standing in the Spirit Rock bookstore, its statements about critical self-talk and how we treat ourselves has echoed in my head while I’ve been reading the Moffitt book (and the yoga homework Eastern philosophy how we treat ourselves on the mat stuff).
Incidentally, my partner and I have started over. We haven’t really called it that, but we made an agreement to do a couples spiritual practice and to make that the foundation of our relationship since couples therapists are all crazier than we are. I notice a difference. It’s very uncomfortable, because she’s asked me to be more open, and even the meditating together and the communication and restorative yoga, and, the, dare I say it?, prayer to an unnamed whoever/whatever, are so very not something I’m used to sharing with another human being especially the one who’s been driving me crazy for 24 years, 11 months and 7 days.
Anyhow, for myself, I’m thinking of starting over as something other than a move to another coast or another country. As I read, as I study yoga, as I see my partner change, I think there are more radical things to do than a shift in geography. I may move, it depends on what my intuition tells me, but for right now, the starting over has to be in this moment, right now.
And it occurs to me, as the eldest daughter from an Irish/German Catholic family, with an overburdened sense of responsibility and guilt, that the do-over I am looking for is forgiveness. Forgiveness, first of all, for Don’s death. Yes, I realize I did not cause his appendicitis and the following complications, but his medical treatment was less than stellar and I kept thinking there was something I could do, should be able to do, because I always think that, even when I am showing up, and being kind, which I did, around his death. I know I did. But that doesn’t seem to matter in the world of reactive emotions and psychological patterning that too often make up my inner life. I see myself as responsible, always. It’s knee-jerk, and painful, and not at all useful in living my life. And it dogs me. No amount of making fun of it causes it to disappear. No amount of anything has made it disappear, ever.
So. I start over. And my practice, mostly of ahimsa, because that feeling of responsibility is a self-violence, is to spend a few minutes a day saying, “I forgive you,” as my mantra, while I meditate.
I have decided that the I forgive you is my get-out-of-jail -free card. I can forgive myself for all the things that were never my fault, that I never should have felt responsible for, as well as my deepest flaws, my terrible mistakes, the ways I’ve let myself and other people down. I can forgive myself. Period.
And then suddenly all the humor blows away, and what is left is compassion. I have done a very good job with an impossible beginning, and the failures are okay. I didn’t know there would be failures. I didn’t know that not reaching goals was a possibility. And I can just sit and forgive and feel my connection to everyone alive, because really, we know so little. Our ideas about life grow from family, movies, television, books, dreams, insanity, hurt, impossible hopes. We do terrible things to each other. We are incredibly kind. I am of us, I am us, we are one.
Buddhism and yoga teacher training. A random book on a shelf.
The truth is, I’m on this journey because it’s just so interesting. The grief must be lifting because once again, I just want to see what happens next.
(Okay, I know what happens next: lunch. But I’m not sure what I’m going to put in the maki rolls, so there’s always something unexpected. Carrots or red pepper? Is the avocado ripe? Think I’ll go check.)
Just for the hell of it.