New Year's: Harness the Power of Beginnings
New Year's is the most famous (infamous??) time to make positive changes to our lives. We can turbo-charge that process -- and perhaps avoid the dreaded syndrome of NYRE (New Year's Resolution Extinction) -- when we harness the power of beginnings: the beginning of anything contains within it the seeds of its final flowering.
In every phenomenon the beginning remains always
the most notable moment. -- Thomas Carlyle
Every beginning of every day brings you to the present anew, and it is only in the present where real life happens. Where connection, joy and humanity happen. This is why "a new dawn" is such a potent motif in art, philosophy, fairy tales and in daily life. Every new day is steeped in the opportunities and power of beginnings.
Each morning, the opening of your eyes…your whole-body stretch…how you receive the light of the new day -- consider these moments as the most influential you've ever had. No matter a horrid day yesterday, a foul mood last night -- you are able to recalibrate in huge, seemingly miraculous, ways by tending to the power of beginnings.
This is one of the ways we can take charge of our lives, regardless of our genetic predispositions or past history. I myself write this having had a really sucky day yesterday, in which I felt freighted by a combination of daily circumstance (including mice in my cabinets), my melancholic temperament, and one of my occasional mild neurochemical dips (that come with being the biological daughter of a bipolar birthmother).
In other words (to use a hopelessly archaic analogy) you may have been programmed for AM, but you can turn you own dial to FM!
How to Harness the Power of Beginnings
One of the best and simplest ways to harness this power of beginnings is to make the radical, counter-cultural commitment to wonder. A helpful way to approach this is to imagine looking out at the world through your child’s eyes. The more we can live, as Joseph Chilton Pearce puts it, “in constant astonishment,” the more we harness a new dawn in every moment.
You can say, "Today I'm going to see everything anew -- look at a tree as if I've never seen one. Open the closet as if I've never before seen a whole wall of clothes hanging for me to choose from."
I'm going to smell my child's head as if I've never smelled it before. I'm going to eat this apple as if I've never tasted one before. This is when enchantment sets in, and that is one prime ingredient of joy! We are thus free to be joyful in any moment. We tend to wait for conditions to shift before we can be joyful or even merely satisfied. (E.g., once that mouse problem is gone…once I feel better…)
But the power of beginnings -- and indeed, much of my book Parenting for Peace -- hinges on the power of our own perceptions: we have the ability to choose which story we tell ourselves about whatever is going on. The more we can perceive (that is, tell ourselves a story about our circumstances) with mindful consciousness, the more we harness the power of beginnings to shape our own being.
You can say, "I used to be pessimistic; today I'm going be an optimist." It often begins as an "as if" process, where you feel like you're pretending, or you're being fake or inauthentic. But the more you act "as if," the more you will become it! (This is just one of my concerns with many video games -- or even the coarse posturing that young people feel they must do to fit in with peers: what we act like, we become.)
Maybe there are times when you feel gripped by such an intensely negative mindset that you can scarcely act at all, let alone "as if" something new. These ebbs are part of most lives, and as we get older we gather life data that whispers to us in even the darkest of those valleys that things will feel better. (This is one of the issues in teen suicide: they simply haven't gathered the evidence from enough living that their intensely painful state will indeed pass.) At those times, you might try applying some of my Seven Ways to Rewire a Negative Mind.
If those are just...too much...you can still put the power of beginnings to work for you. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking the next indicated step. This 12-Step strategy is really helpful when we're overwhelmed either by internal mood or external circumstances. The power of beginnings is harnessed when we take each of those next indicated steps with mindfulness, presence, and care. Then the next. And the next.
New Year's Power of Beginnings
From esoteric psychology and initiatic philosophical science comes the interesting concept that we have an opportunity to set a trajectory for our entire year through how we navigate the beginning. Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov taught that during each of the twelve first days of the year, we energetically sow seeds for the month corresponding to that day. (So January 1 is January, January 2nd is February, and so on.)
To put this to practical use, you can be mindful of inner and outer harmony during those first twelve days. Keep a simple, small diary in which you jot down a few notes at the end of each day: what was the mood, the color, the tone of that day? What happened inwardly is most important, though you can also include a few outer circumstances that that made impressions on you.
This offers you a sort of retrospective guide: when you're in July and having a difficult time, look back at
January 7th and check the color and tone and mood of that day. What influenced you inwardly? You might find clues to what you're facing in July. There are many legends, and certain fairy tales, that depict the twelve months having a meeting in a clearing deep in the forest, to shape the year. When we consider each month, each year, each time and chapter in life as alive and responsive, we can greet their arrival with reverence while bidding farewell to the departing ones with gratitude.
This helps us tune into a dimension that we're not used to accessing or tending. It asks that we engage some of the seven principles of Parenting for Peace, such as rhythm…presence…simplicity…and trust. Rhythm invites us to slow down (which is pretty much a handy, all-purpose prescription for improving virtually every situation!). Presence is about bringing ourselves to the now (for if you can master your now, you can have a new dawn in every moment). Simplicity does away with the complication and excess that can clutter our perceptions and our daily life. And trust? Well, that is a muscle that becomes strong through these practices -- the muscle that allows us to calmly rely on forces beyond our immediate perception and control. This brings tranquility, ease and peace.
Envision Your Power of Beginnings
Each new beginning (a year, a day, an attitude) is like a new conception, and brings with it the same rich opportunity as we have when conceiving a child with mindfulness. The near-infinite possibility we have at each new beginning (as at conception) can be compared to sending a pebble into a lake: as studied in physics and in ballistics, the freedom to determine its path and destination is virtually unlimited, concentrated in the direction you send it, right up until the moment it leaves your hand (or sling-shot or rifle) -- when it arcs and then settles to leave its infinite crown of ripples on the lake.
Here's another way to think of that brief window of near-infinite possibility that lies in beginnings: imagine yourself at any international airport with 500,000 free miles, dozens of aircraft preparing to depart, and your choice of any. The biggest influence on your entire trip is cast as you choose which flight to board. Once you arrive you'll have moderate influence over smaller details of your experience (what food to eat, what clothes to wear, what souvenirs to buy), but once you've engaged the power of beginnings and boarded that chosen flight, that's it: you're going to Quebec and not Bali.
It's a wild concept to grasp, the power of beginnings -- certainly with conception. Within the conventional Cartesian worldview, the size of something is directly related to its importance and significance, and there is the tendency to think, regarding conception, How could anything have a lasting impact so very early, when there is just one or two or twelve cells? But when we recognize that human beings are dynamic systems whose workings can be illustrated by chaos theory…when we consider chaos theory’s central tenet of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”…and with a small but quantum shift in how we look at it…wouldn’t it make sense that the influence of a very positive, or very negative, environmental message would bear the most pervasive influence upon a tiny, emerging system, at the very beginning, considering that each cell division will replicate that cell’s knowledge again and again?
The same holds true for the tiniest genesis of an idea, a recipe, a conversation, a year. Just as conception sets a point of departure and a trajectory for the pathway of becoming, the beginning of anything has within it the seeds of the totality of that thing.
Wishing you a light-filled abundance of all that you envision for this New Year's -- as I like to call it, "Lucky '13"!
I'm the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, and also the adoption expert on Mothering's expert panel. I write and speak around the world on prenatal, child and parent development, and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. On the wings of my new book I'm delighted to be speaking at many wonderful conferences all over the world in the coming months, and I'm happy to be sharing dispatches and inside glimpses with you here on Mothering.com! As a special gift to Mothering readers I'm offering "A Unique 7-Step Parenting Tool."