Friday, 9 January 2015

Sunrise as a New Start, Applying Beginners Mind to a New Year

Welcome to my first blog post of 2015! By tradition, at the turn of the calendar year, we like to make new years resolutions, which by now, being over a week into the new year, we may likely have already forgotten about! 

While setting such resolutions to improve our lifestyle is by no means a bad thing, as it can give one goals to aim at, what one also has to be careful of is not to find themselves ‘lost’ within goals or resolutions to the extent that one becomes frustrated or even depressed if new year’s resolutions don’t turn out how one hoped. Alternatively, people with Asperger’s Syndrome may experience high-level anxiety with the uncertainty that a new year brings. From a mindfulness perspective, a more helpful approach to resolutions can be to focus on making resolutions or setting goals to do the work involved in enabling them, thus enabling us to be in the present as it unfolds.

Sunrise seen from Seaburn, Sunderland
When making our new year’s resolutions, we often see the start of a new calendar year as a new start or a new beginning. Personally though, something that I feel I have learned from 2014 is that a calendar year can be broken down to a whole set of new starts or new beginnings, down to each day being a new start, starting with sunrise, which can be pleasing to the eye. With careful observation, one may notice that each sunrise is unique. Watching sunrise over the course of a few days you will likely notice that position from which it arises over the horizon changes slightly. More visibly, the effects each sunrise has on the sky and landscape vary dramatically.

Sunrise over the Ganges, Varanasi, India
Watching the sun rise over the Ganges in Varanasi, India, one of Hinduism’s most sacred sites, the sky transforms with a distinctive orange hue, which in turn reflects off the water surface. Meanwhile the many thousands of pilgrims begin their meditation and yoga practices as the day gradually dawns. According to legend, Varanasi was founded by Shiva, who in Hinduism is seen as the ‘destroyer’ or ‘transformer’. Shiva takes the form an angry god who will eventually destroy the Earth, but can also be seen as a regenerative force. Similarly, in day-to-day life, when faced with ever-alternating circumstances, depending on how we confront them, they can either feel like a force of destruction or regeneration, an opportunity to make a fresh start. The latter approach can open up new possibilities which could see Asperger-related strengths flourish.


Being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, something that I find even now is that I do still have a tendency to find myself lost within obsessive thought or over-reliant on routine. Though mindfulness has helped me to notice when I feel I am lost within such thought patterns and when I am reliant on routine, I find that it is easy for expectations develop including when I set out to do various tasks that I do regularly, when doing a gym workout, when pursue I read about a particular interest/pastime or when I approach different mindfulness exercises that I practised over the last few years. With expectations, a comfort zone begins to develop, which can be hard to let go of.

After questioning as to why such expectations develop as well as investigating their origins, an approach I have found helpful when starting afresh is to apply Beginners Mind (Shoshin). A concept in Zen, Shoshin, enables one to put aside knowledge and experience gained, however limited or extensive, and to be able to see ourselves in relation to our surroundings, almost with the imagination of a child of seeing something for the first time. It is not un-normal for people with Asperger’s Syndrome to have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge on a topic of interest or to have the ability to process excessive information. But sometimes though, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, one can find themselves ‘trapped’ within such knowledge and experience that it either creates expectations as to ‘how it should be’ or feeling that you already know something or know how something works, it can hamper your curiosity and you start to feel frustrated through boredom. Being ‘trapped’ within knowledge and experience can also see preconceptions develop when looking for new experiences.

It isn’t to say though that to apply Shoshin involves completely forgetting knowledge and experience, but rather Shoshin involves being able to use knowledge and experience gained to face up to and cope with alternating circumstances as they unfold. This is why it helps, when making a new start, whatever your personal circumstances, to start with what you have regarding abilities, strengths and weaknesses including those related to Asperger’s Syndrome. Letting go of any preconceptions and expectations, allows us to open up to different experiences in both new and familiar situations, which could also lead to developing an ever deeper understanding of ourselves in relation to our surroundings, as well as well as any un-noticed strengths of personal qualities we may have and how we can apply them to good effect.

New light on unsolved mysteries? Sunrise on Easter Island
We tend to associate seeing something for the first or only time in our lives with a rare occurrence or phenomena e.g. a total eclipse of the Sun, but applying Shoshin to events in day-to-day life, such as sunrise and sunset, can enable us to see the uniqueness as if it were for the first time. Noticing the different position from which the sun rises and its effects on the sky and landscape, including different degrees of colouring and other optical effects. Watching a sunrise at over Easter Island’s mysterious Moai statues not only sees the sunlight transform the colour of the compressed volcanic ash from which they are carved, but the effects of the dawning of the day provides s reminder of a characteristic people with Asperger’s Syndrome may have that can be a regenerative force, curious mind regarding the many unsolved mysteries of the statues and the island itself, including when and where its first settlers came from.

Soshin, enabled by curious mind, can help to open a whole new range of possibilities for a new calendar year by being with each experience as it unfolds, rather than being hampered by preconceptions that can lead to high-level anxiety.       

  

2 comments:

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