We are coming to the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. While it is an arbitrary point on an ongoing calendar, it is always a reminder that we can start over, remake ourselves, and choose different directions. In Japan, you try not to carry anything from the old year into the new year. People take a bath to get rid of dirt from the old year. Debts are paid off where possible, and the house is cleaned. Then many people dress in their finest clothes and go to the Buddhist temple, where a large gong is rung 108 times to symbolize the 108 temptations a person faces. Ringing the gong is like ringing out the old and ringing in the new.
At this time of year we are reminded that we have the capacity to recreate ourselves and our lives. In fact, we can start each day with a choice about how we are going to inhabit our environment and ourselves. Much of what we carry with us feels protective, strategic, or valuable. And much of it is. The art is in distinguishing the learning that we want to use and keep from the learning, conscious or unconscious, that we want to recognize and release.
We have the histories we have; we have the experience we have; we have the circumstances and environments in which we were born and developed. In other words, we have the hands we were dealt. What makes us as human beings is our ongoing, aware, active decision-making about what we want as ideals, what we want as our internal environment and what we want as our external environment, including space, location, work, goals, and relationships.
We create ourselves by the choices we make. Some of those choices are easy, but some are unfamiliar and require more effort. Over time, as we become more adept at life and more discerning about what we care about, our decisions become deeper, more complex and multi-determined, and we can increasingly create ourselves based on our reflective inner gyroscope instead of our knee jerk reflexes from early experience. Abraham Lincoln said, “Over forty, a man is responsible for his face.” It is more than that. Over forty a man or woman is responsible for his or her character.