Begin again and again

Begin again and again

Dec 30, 2018  |  Sunday Letter

Grace to you

Time does what time does. Time ticks. Time ticks at the same rate all the time and yet because we have agreed to categorise time in the way we do – certain of its ticks carry deeper significance; though essentially time is doing what it always does: tick. Our story of time allows for time to start over in various categories: a new second (free from and different to the last second), a new minute, a new hour, a new day, a new week, a new month, and new year (free from and different to the last year). Each ‘start-over’ is a gift reminding us that we too can start over. Even if we are not “into” new year resolutions it is difficult not to silently desire the newness of ‘starting over’ at this time.

During the 10 day Vipassana I participated in a few weeks ago I was struck by how often Goenka (one of the founding teachers) would repeat: “Start again” … “Start again” … “Start again”. They are words of invitation. They are words of hope that this time can be different from the last time. They are words of liberation reminding us that our past does not have to determine our future. They are words of faith – faith in our potential to start over.

Sadly the ‘Christian’ word for ‘start again’ is stained by fear and threat. The word I am referring to is: ‘Repent’. Repent is often used and often heard as a ‘turn or burn’ threat, but it is actually a very beautiful and hopeful and encouraging word. Repent is an invitation for us to turn – to turn around and face a new direction – the direction that leads to fullness of living. Repent believes we can change even when we think we are stuck forever in our ways. Repent is an encouraging whisper, inviting us to: ‘begin … begin again … just begin … just take one step … you can start again … you can start again”.

Today or tomorrow I hope we will carve out some calm from the chaos and seek out silence from the noise to reflect on what it is we are being invited to start again … to repent.

Goenka would also repeat two other phrases over and over again: The first: ‘Practice persistently and patiently’. All things that are meaningful in life take persistent and patient practice. The deep things of life demand dedication, diligence and devotion. In the calm and silence we are invited to reflect on what we are called to practice more persistently and patiently.

The other phrase he would repeat is: ‘Take rest’… ‘Take rest’. There is a time for work and there is a time to take rest. To know when to take rest is as important as knowing when to work. In the calm and silence we are invited to reflect on, that from which we are called to take rest.

Start again …
Practice persistently and patiently …
Take rest …

Be truthful and kind with yourself,
Alan


A House Called Tomorrow

You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries

And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step

Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,

The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.

If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:

The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.

We simply would not be here
If that were so.

You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.

You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward

Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise. But think:

When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—

It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.

From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,

The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:

That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,

Is ourselves. And that’s all we need
To start. That’s everything we require to keep going. 

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.

Be good, then better. Write books. Cure disease.
Make us proud. Make yourself proud.

And those who came before you? When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.

~ Alberto Ríos, 1952

 

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