“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
Two women sat watching their sons play basketball. Each woman was passionate about the sport and about her son’s team. It could have been any basketball game, I suppose, with opposing fans sitting near each other, but this involved small children and adults, an interesting mix in any arena. You see, when your child is involved in an activity, it is so easy to lose track of etiquette and kindness in heated moments. Those two women didn’t know freedom, for they were clinging to anger and anxiety in those moments.
There’s a new year on the horizon, and while I hear lots of folks say they won’t make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ because they’ll probably just break them, I continue to hope that the clean slate offered me on January 1st will be the opportunity for fresh starts in different areas of my life, and I encourage you to take a similar view in your own life.
In the past, I have tried to have a focus for the year. One year it was ORGANIZATION, and I purchased all kinds of organizational tools, made lists, and was set to be on top of things. By January 3rd, I had all of the birthday cards purchased and addressed and gifts wrapped to get us through the first three months of the year. I got sidetracked before the April birthdays. Another year, my theme was HOSPITALITY. I decided I would have a pot of coffee brewed every morning, the front door opened, and be ready to visit with anyone who might want to pop in for a cup of coffee and conversation. After a couple of months, I decided that I must have left out the most important detail: I had forgotten to tell people I was waiting for them!
Oh, I’ve tried to have so many wonderful themes, and even though I didn’t get through the entire year maintaining my focus, I didn’t fail. For every day I managed to feel successful, I felt like I was making progress toward the person I hoped to become.
Everything we do to create positive changes, in fact, is a step in the path we are traveling.
Maybe instead of making a resolution to lose 20 pounds, you’ll make a resolution to read one article every week about nutrition. After a while, you’ll probably find yourself making small changes in your eating. Perhaps, instead of a resolution to be more involved with your family, you’ll resolve to send a note or make a phone call each week. Small, specific goals are so much easier to attain than the big, broad goals that inevitably overwhelm us only to be dropped altogether.
Here comes 2015, and I guess you are wondering what the women at the basketball game have to do with ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and what any of this has to do with the opening quote. Well, my goal or theme for this new year is FREEDOM. As the quote explains, holding to anger or anxiety or possessions keeps us from true freedom.
I might not be giving up all of my possessions, but I’m making a decision to look more carefully at the things in my home, the things hidden in boxes in the garage or attic, and things that seem to hold me hostage as I fear having them lost or broken. I’m making a decision to look at the things that create anxiety in me (there are many things) and looking for ways to handle them differently. Maybe I’ll still need to breathe into a paper bag in highly emotional moments, but it might be that I can take on new habits to help move many anxieties out of the picture. You see, there just isn’t room for lots of things in our lives if we really want to feel freedom.
And then there’s the anger. I’m not an angry person, but when my son was playing basketball as a small child, I would get so caught up in the moment when I felt he had been wronged on the court. My friend felt the same way about her son, and back then we were not friends. In fact, it was a number of years before I didn’t feel that knot in my stomach when I would see her or hear her name. I was a hostage to the anxiety and anger that had been created in a moment when two mothers shot deadly glances at each other as their sons had some fun on the basketball court.
Freedom has come for these two mothers, and today they are friends who laugh about how caught up in the heat of the moment they had been. I am so grateful that both of us were willing to move forward, for she is a staunch supporter of me, and I of her.
Through history, there have been many moments of emotion that have stolen people’s freedom. Has your freedom been kept at bay as you’ve held a grudge or failed to forgive? What a great time to make a change! 2015 might be the year you discover freedom in a whole new way.
Look around you. There are people you avoid because they made you mad ‘that time.’ There are folks who avoid you because you take life too seriously. You might like the way you’re feeling, and that’s just fine, but not me. No, this lady is letting go of a lot of things, and when she does she’ll have room for freedom. Freedom, the only condition for happiness.
Happy New Year!