Fresh Start

January is the month you often feel inspired to make some kind of fresh start. Maybe it's that diet you've been trying to begin. Or maybe it the new gym you join to begin working out and taking care of your health. Perhaps you enroll for a class at our Zen Center or sign up for a class at a yoga studio. It's wonderful to use this time of year to get a fresh start on some aspect of your life. If you haven't already, I encourage you to seriously consider making  the practice of mindfulness meditation a regular routine.  It can have a profound and transformative impact on the quality of your life. Mindfulness can help every moment and every month be fresh and new.

Life can be challenging. You might have a very stressful job. You might be overwelmed by financial worries. You might feel down because your life has lost its purpose and meaning. These problems can weigh you down. You begin to feel stuck and something in your life begins to feel stagnant. Zen and mindfulness become important tools and practices for getting unstuck and moving forward again. It's like cleaning your house. If your office is too cluttered, if you clean it up, you'll immediately feel better. If your clothes are dirty you wash them and enjoy their fresh feeling on your skin. When you take a shower, you feel fresh and alive as you step out of the shower.

Mindfulness can also help you sweep out your mind. Your thoughts and feelings can drag you down. You may obsess and worry about a problem, and as you do this, your thoughts about this situation become very solid and large. Essentially, they become unworkable. Mindfulness helps you to come at these thoughts in a fresh way, with more spaciousness. And it's practice will help you work with those thoughts in a way that doesn't solidify them. In this way, it can bring a  freshness to the problem and give you a new way forward.

Zen and mindfulness are very direct and to the point. They help you appreciate this very moment where your life is actually taking place. In the singularity of this moment, you are whole and complete, and nothing is lacking. Everything in your life is constantly changing and shifting. You can begin to relax and be at home with this. The good news is that even your suffering is impermanent. The bad news is that the pleasures you try to hang onto are also changing constantly.

So while January may be here and its an excellent time to get a fresh start, from a Zen perspective, this moment of your life, regardless of the month, is always an opportunity to experience your life with new eyes and ears.

If you're looking for a place to find support for your burgeoning meditation practice, the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago offers you many opportunities for getting started.

Happy New Ears!

Robert Althouse