“What you are is what you have been. What you will be is what you do now.”
~ Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha
I love this quote. I have it hanging above my desk. It’s a nice reminder that every day, I have the power to determine my future. As we move towards the new year, it is not only natural but socially encouraged for us to look forward and to take steps towards bettering ourselves. With just these few words, Buddha teaches us that as students of life, it is good to look at where we are coming from in order to see where we are going.
Where we are now has been determined by the past – the choices we’ve made and the paths we’ve followed have brought us to our current place in life. It’s a life that we’ve created. We are all creators of our circumstances, good and bad. Even a mess takes creativity to occur. The phrase “Bless your mess” is a call to take responsibility for your life. None of us are victims here. At any given moment, no matter what your life situation, you can turn it into something better – the trick is to not get stuck on how bad it is today. Your creativity led you to this place and your creativity can get you out of it too.
Think about it. Creativity is a thing that comes to us when we are shaken up, when things go wrong. That’s when the brain wakes up from auto-pilot and begins to think about how to do things differently. I remember a quote from “180° South” where Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia said “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” Wherever you are, you can use your situation as a launch pad for something new and better.
One of the yamas, or principles of yoga is Aparigraha or “non-attachment” which encourages us to approach change with curiosity and possibility rather than attachment and loss. Change is ongoing and inevitable. Suffering comes when we grasp or hold tightly rather than remaining open and curious to the winds of change and what they have in store. Something that I like to do when I am feeling overwhelmed, sad or stressed is to take a moment to journal. I begin with some deep breathing, emptying my thoughts and arriving at an intention to learn. Then, I ask myself the question “what’s not working?” and let the pen fly. I don’t put myself under the pressure of needing to find a solution to these problems right away. The only thing I need to do is write out what it is that is causing me discomfort. More often times than not, the answers are already there, I just needed to first state the problem. Usually, I discover that I am unhappy because I am putting the needs and desires of others before my own, or that I am stuck in inactivity because I am afraid of failure, or that I am feeling bullied by life because I have forgotten my own creative power over it.
When we take responsibility for our lives, let go of our attachment to old systems, beliefs and fears that are no longer serving us, and remain open and curious to what change has to offer, then our future becomes what we want it to be.
Buddha reminds us the importance of looking back in order to look forward. So as 2012 approaches and you begin to gather your thoughts around stating intentions for the new year, take the time to celebrate all that you’ve created so far. Make a list of all of your greatest achievements, from birth to the present, acknowledging your creative power in action. And then make a toast to yourself – to all that you’ve been and all that you will be.
Happy New Year. Happy New You.