If you read my blog entry from last year, you saw my mild contempt for the New Year Holiday. Why? If we endeavor to be mindful and live in the now, then everyday is both special and the same. This year, however, I have embraced the New Year celebration. I celebrated in Japanese Zen style at the Shao Shan Temple with Roshi Taihaku presiding. A small group gathered for a meditation and reflection ceremony. Think about the past year, what went right, what didn’t, and try to connect to the affect of when things were going right. Right down what you want to let go of and what you want to move towards. So, we all wrote and then took our slips of paper to the alter and offered them while the group chanted “gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhisvhaha” After everyone had offered the intentions at the alter, we took them outside and placed them in the fire. This was followed by a new year feast. For a few adventurous souls, meditation continued until 10:13 p.m. at which time a meditation on time commenced. With the 108 minutes remaining until midnight we sat in a circle, each with a different bell. At the top of each minute the time keeper rang his or her bell, and everyone followed suit. At midnight all the bells rang, and we stood around the fire breathing in the new year. This was followed by more feasting on the traditional soba noodles and tempura.
The evening revolved around ritual and ceremony. What Taihaku explained so eloquently is how the ritual heps us to relate to our own experience. So it is not about the external happenings, but how these happenings open us to ourselves and help us to remember the moment and the intentions we create in it. For me, this new year is a reaffirmation of the value and place of meditation in my life. I told Taihaku that I’ve been a beginner now for over 23 years. In this time of transition for me, I placing formal practice at the top of my priorities. Everything else will flow from this.