by Sarah Lipton
Shambhala Times Editor-in-Chief
It’s a tender time of transition. Children are back at school and probably beginning to stew in the thick of new learning. In the northern hemisphere, it’s getting colder, and in the southern hemisphere, it’s heating back up again. The seasonal changes register in our bodies and there are all sorts of responses. We are energized and challenged from the practice we were able to reconnect with in the summer and slightly daunted by the projects lining up from here to the horizon. We are exposed, vulnerable in this transitory time, but there is an undercurrent of vibrancy. It’s harvest time up north, and in the south, it’s spring. It’s a time for new beginnings, whether the leaves are falling or budding.
Today is my birthday. Every year, for years, I have made it a practice to spend the month before my birthday doing a bit of a year-in-review. I tease out the themes and patterns of learning that have occurred in the year past and out of that contemplation, as well as a glance ahead at what is coming down the road of the new year, a new word comes to name the new year. The gift of this new word arises out of the fermentation of my experience and becomes both my question and strength for the coming year.
The word that has arisen for my new year is: simplify.
I have so many projects that I am involved in, as we all do. But instead of losing myself to them, getting sucked up in the fast pace of an internet job (believe it or not, that’s what the Shambhala Times is), and losing my mind to the uncertainty of circumstance, I can simplify. I can arise, as I do most days, early with the sun and go outside for a run or to work in the garden. I can then eat a simple, yummy breakfast and go sit on my meditation cushion for a good, solid practice. These three things: outdoor movement, good food, and meditation practice set me up for a simple day, no matter how many projects I am involved in.
The trick here is memory. Because it’s easy to forget that this simple formula is so easy to accomplish, and that it has such dramatic effects on my day, and therefore on my life. I have a few little tricks up my sleeve. One is that I like to have rocks in my pocket. Another is allowing space and time to engage in creative projects that release my mind from fixed thought. Another is remembering to commune with trees and sky and clouds. Need a break? Look up at the sky and watch for birds.
Simplifying our activities, even in the midst of the chaos and richness of autumn, opens us up to the world. We become available to the people around us, and we open up all the possibilities for creative response to the world. The trick? Be in your body. Feel your feet on the earth. Taste the breath as it comes in and out of your body. And remember that you are basically good, that the world is basically sane. Just come back, again and again to the feeling of your body moving on the earth. All things will arise in their own time, and we can give ourselves the space to take it all in, and respond in our own time.
Trust me, it’s possible to simplify. And believe me, I’ll forget too. So join me as I begin a new year of my life, self-tasked to simplify each day.
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Sarah Lipton has been the Shambhala Times Editor-in-Chief for just over two years. She plans to continue in this role for a little while longer, even though her world travels are slowing down and she and her husband are getting ready to settle down in the Burlington, Vermont area. What does she plan to do this fall and winter? Write books, make quilts, and cook delicious food. See previous editorials here.