Chameli told me last night that it was the longest night of the entire year, which means that we have officially shifted from a phase of turning in, dying and withdraw, to a new phase of rebirth, regeneration, and fresh beginnings. By now the last of the brown leaves have fallen from the trees and become mush under our feet on the wet ground. And deep beneath the surface of the earth, the first stirrings are preparing themselves for next year’s spring.
These cycles of death and renewal have always been part of our lives, but I get the sense that this year it is more poignant than ever. For most of us 2009 has been quite a year. Most of the people I have met with this year have been facing, in a personal way, what we are all facing in a collective way: the old habits by which we live our lives are no longer sustainable. We are being presented with a wake-up-call to try something completely new.
I am thinking about my new friend Peter in Oslo, with a beautiful wife and young children. A few years ago he gave up his career as an executive in the tech industry because it no longer felt meaningful to him. He has spent the last several years exploring the different dimensions of his own awakening. But now he is faced with a new beginning. His wife is pregnant with their next child, and in order to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, he has to work again. He feels he can’t go back to his old career. He needs to work, and he doesn’t know what to do. He is ready for a breakthrough into a new dimension.
I am also thinking of my good friend John who lives in Boston. A few months ago he was feeling abdominal pain and went in for tests. They discovered that he had fairly aggressive and advanced bladder cancer. Conventional medicine has give John a ten percent chance of full recovery. But he also has a young child. John can’t go back to the lifestyle which he has followed for a good part of his life: coffee, doughnuts, and steak. And it’s also not acceptable for him to face the possibility of dying young, he wants to see his daughter grow into a young woman. John cannot go back to where he was, but in order to move forward he must embrace a lifestyle that is completely new. John is also ready for a breakthrough into a new dimension.
Then I’m thinking of Eva, who I met recently on a retreat in Europe. After 26 years of faithful and devoted marriage to her husband, she’s come to realize that neither of them are supporting each other in their full potential. They’ve tried everything: counseling, temporary separation, and many kinds of compromise. Eva knows that she cannot continue with the way the relationship has been, yet that’s all she’s had for two and a half decades. She also cannot go back, and doesn’t know yet what it means to move forward. Eva is also ready to break into a new dimension.
I could think of hundreds of stories that I’ve heard like this in 2009, and I’m sure you can, too. When we each live in the bubble of a personal identity, we take it personally, we think that it is me who is going through a challenging time and the rest of the world is humming along just dandy. But this time it is not just about you or me, it is about us.
This year we swore in a new president, as different as you could imagine, in multiple ways, from the leader we had before. Obama got elected from the strength and power of one word: change, because we all know deep in our hearts that it is not personal, but collective. We cannot go on living together the way we have been for so long, and at the same time we don’t know what the new way will bring.
Together, you and me, a few days before Christmas in 2009, we are ready for a breakthrough into a new dimension.
This year we’ve seen the tension enacted before our eyes between the old ways and what must now be born. For example, everyone knows that the healthcare system in the United States is broken and beyond a joke. We ranked thirty-second in a worldwide survey of healthcare quality. There are developing countries surpassing us. And yet even with a filibuster proof majority in the senate of the same persuasion as the president, it has been extremely difficult to pass healthcare reform.
The United States has been involved in two wars, that everybody knows are senseless. We all anticipated that with the new administration, we’d be a lot further along by now with the withdrawl from both of them. But again, you see the dynamic tension between the power of old habits and the promise of new beginnings.
And perhaps more important than anything, by now most on the planet (with the possible exception of Sarah Palin), understand that human beings are having a powerfully detrimental effect on the environment. Imagine if this was your home we were talking about, and you discovered a gas leak in your children’s bedroom. Would you be sitting around in the kitchen discussing if you wanted to spend the family’s recreation money to get it fixed. Of course not. That is called an E-M-E-R-G-E-N-C-Y, and when you’ve got one of those on your hands, decisions get made quickly. No one expected that the climate talks in Copenhagen could have come to such an ineffectual conclusion. Personally, I get the feeling that all the individuals involved know full well we’ve got to change. But, just like you and me, political leaders are caught in this dynamic tension of the momentum of past habit and the necessity for a breakthrough into a new dimension.
As the next few days slip slide from Christmas into New Year I want to invite you to join me in considering the old habits that hold you back in ways that are no longer sustainable, and in asking what is the new green-shoot for you, pushing up through the soil, promising new life?
I’ll be teaching at the Integral Spiritual Experience Conference [that’s the Ken Wilber folks] December 29th to January 3rd.
Our new 4-Part Tele-Seminar series begins January 12th. In this series you will be able to join me and a group of Awakening Coaches for four 2-hour tele-seminars. We will have plenty of time to dialog and learn together. Most importantly you will be able to divide into small groups with direct one-on-one attention from trained coaches who can help you to discover and embody practices to help you shift from old, worn out habits, into a new beginning.
The most powerful catalyst for me in the process of death and rebirth has been silence. Please consider joining me on January 23-28th for a five day silent retreat.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays. May you be filled with sparkle and cheer, and above all the promise of new beginnings.