What a Body Knows

Finding wisdom in desire.

A New New Year's Eve

This year I am going to empty my boat

I love New Year’s Eve. I always have. I love the excitement of it—the anticipation of new beginnings about to begin. I love gathering that energy into visions and goals, plans and projects. I welcome the day as a time to clear my mind, commit myself to what I really want, and catch a wave of intensity that will carry me far into the new year. I greet it as a time to slough off past failures and frustrations, and emerge, more free, into a realm where all things are newly possible.

On New Year’s Eve I don’t drink. I rarely stay up until midnight. The worst thing for me would be to welcome the first day of the year with sagging lids and a soggy spirit, unable to move with its newness.

Instead, my family and I do a ritual of our own making. We sit in a circle in front of our wood stove, its fire raging, and reflect on what we are leaving behind. We read letters written by the selves we were during last year’s ritual. We write letters to the selves we will be in a year. Then we take milkweed pods as boats, and fill them with “cargo.” Every year is different. There may be pine needles for energy; burrs for commitment; nuts for nourishment; orange chunks for the returning light; a slice of ribbon for our enabling family connections; and folded up pieces of paper on which we have scribbled visions for the new year. Then, one by one, we launch our boats into the fire of the wood stove and watch them burn.

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Every year I pack my boat with projects, cover every inch of my folded paper with words, and add as many burrs as the boat will hold. Burrs are the best. Each one is a tenacious bundle of conviction—holding fast to whatever it touches. Each one is a seed, promising new life. Each one, when it hits the fire, explodes into a bright crackling star, better than any firework. Every year I send my stocked vessel forth, and delight as it dazzles. Then we all head off, hopeful, to bed.

This year I want to try something new. It is not that I am frustrated with my project planning approach. It works for me. I moved here in 2005 to write three books, and this past year, I finished the third.

However, I am also realizing that sometimes, in the press to check items off my to-do list, I miss what is happening in me and around me. So focused am I on the task I long to complete that I fail to notice that "more" than I could have imagined is being given, in every moment, by the ongoing movement of life itself. The books I ended up writing were different than the ones I intended to write. They emerged more slowly than I planned. At every step of the way there were frustrations and struggles, obstacles and delays. There were also energies and events that came to life in those books, making them more than what I had planned.

So I am wondering. What if, this new year, I decide to shift my attention from the projects I can imagine to ones I cannot? What if I hold onto my projects with a lighter grasp, open to the “more” that will enable them to evolve in ways I cannot yet foresee?

As much I like to exercise my sense of agency on this New Year’s Eve, the fact is, I never accomplish anything on my own. The life that I am is ever being given to me in every moment by currents of air, water, and sustenance; of thinking, feeling, and acting; of relationships with others and the earth whose trajectories exceed my ability to control or conceive. Every day I swim in these currents. Or rather, I exist as whatever these currents are creating as me. Opportunities to move, to grow, and to give arise and fall away, pulling me into forms of living I could never plan or pursue.

This year, I want to shift my experience of my own movement--my own acting and agency—so as to become more conscious of this “more” that is constantly given and giving to me and through me.

I want to open to receive—all of what is—even and especially when it seems at odds with what I think I want. 

I want to receive every obstacle as a path to deeper understanding; every struggle as an occasion to find greater freedom; every challenge as an opportunity to exercise creativity; and every sensation of pain or displeasure as wisdom, guiding me to move in ways that will better align with my ongoing health.

I want to receive the beauty that surrounds me; the goodness that enfolds me; and the impulses to move arising within me. I want to drop into the powerful currents of life that are making me into whatever I have the potential to become. Ever more free. Ever more able and willing to choose love over reality, and honor the earth as an enabling condition of every human's ongoing life.

I don’t want to fight to make myself into what I am not, or force the currents of life into the shapes of “my” projects and plans. I want to open my sensory awareness and receive the currents of energy that make new movements possible. I want to participate in this dance with greater consciousness and precision than I have before.

So this year, after making all my plans and predictions, I am going to empty my boat.

I’ll send it forth, and as it dissolves, in its smoky wake, I’ll toss in a handful of popping burrs to celebrate the "more" that is always being given.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

Kimerer L. LaMothe, Ph.D., has taught at Brown and Harvard universities. She is the author of What a Body Knows: Finding Wisdom in Desire and Family Planting.

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