Windhorse Zen Community
Reflections on the Turning of the Year by Roshi Sunya Kjolhede, 12/29/21
Our December 31st New Year’s Eve is not one of the Earth-based “holy days’ like the solstices and equinoxes. It isn’t connected with any actual planetary shift or other natural phenomena. In fact, through the eons, humans in various parts of the globe have commemorated the year’s end-and-beginning at all different times: on the Winter or Summer Solstice, Spring or Autumn Equinox, the first New Moon of the lunar year, etc. So the December/January New Year tradition now dominant throughout much of the world is, in a sense, an artificial human construction.
We humans, though, have a genius for creating stories and time markers that potentize our lives, to collectively exercise our imaginations in ways that help us gather our energies to create power vortices and thresholds charged with significance. Recently I came across these lines from a poem by Molly M. Remer:
May you spin your own spells
from threads of raindrops and roses.
May you breathe in the knowing
that you hold the power
to make the world anew.
Who among us does not have this super-power, with its potential for positive transformation multiplied by the convergence of millions of minds concentrating on a specific doorway of time?
In his book Callings, Greg Levoy writes: “The double entendre of threshold is fitting. A threshold is a place of passage, a portal through which we pass from here to there and from known to unknown. But it also means a measure of endurance. If we can increase our threshold for crossing thresholds, then we can transcend some of the limits of life, and we can change our lives in the most prodigious ways.”
When we cross this invisible threshold with zazen, and especially if we take time for certain house-cleansing practices and focused individual and/or group reflection, it can help us to truly let go of the Old and welcome in the New. This practice has the power to deepen, strengthen, and refresh our minds and hearts, enabling us to better meet whatever this New Year—with all its perils and promise—may bring.
And when we send our heartfelt wishes for peace and prosperity, wisdom and compassion to all beings throughout the world, as we do each year with our collective reading of the New Year’s Prayer, who knows what healing waves may radiate out in all directions, to make the world anew?
Great is the matter of birth and death
Life slips quickly by
Time waits for no one
Wake up! Wake up!
Don’t waste a moment!
– Zen Master Bassui