Meditation…and the New Year

What does New Year’s Day have to teach us about mindfulness?

I don't know about you, but to me it feels like we just celebrated New Year’s.

The truth is in my house it's almost always New Year’s. There's January 1, of course, the so-called "secular" New Year’s (following the ancient Roman tradition, the month of January having been named by Numa Pompilius after the Roman god Janus.

In the West, January 1 has not always been celebrated as "New Year’s Day." Indeed up until 1751 England and Wales had celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25).

In our house we also celebrate the Asian Lunar New Year, a two-week holiday which begins this year on January 23. Then there's Tu b'Shevat, the so-called Jewish New Year of the Trees—another favorite, sort of like Arbor Day, but with mystical overtones. Let’s not forget the “fiscal year,” which (depending on your organization) may or may not line up with the calendar year. Right after Labor Day we have "Back to School" which feels to many of us more naturally like New Year’s than any other (at least to those of us whose children are still in school).

And then for Jews (as well as for those married to—or otherwise calendarically connected to—Jews) there's Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year (although in the Jewish tradition there is a spring New Year's as well, in the month of Nisan, the "first" Hebrew month which falls—confusingly, if you're paying attention—not in the fall, but in the early spring).

Meaning? When we're talking about the circle of the year, there is no beginning. Put another way, every day is a new beginning.

No matter how long we have been practicing meditation, we slip from mindfulness so easily. It can be just minutes—sometimes merely seconds—after I get up from my morning practice that I find myself caught up in the rush of the day.

But if it’s true that when you notice that you’re being “mindful” you no longer are, it’s also true that when you notice that you have slipped from mindfulness, mindfulness has already begun again. There is no one day or one time when everything begins again. It begins again whenever we begin again.

Your reflections are welcome. Please LEAVE A COMMENT below.

And Happy New Year!

Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Joyful Judaism: Pleasantville Community Synagogue an inclusive, progressive synagogue – with members from twenty towns, villages and cities all across Westchester. Read The New York Times  article. Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 am is open to the public. Everyone – without exception - is welcome and warmly invited.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sarah Studley December 29, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Hi Dina—as a jumping off point, here are a few former blog posts by Rabbi Mark that mention mindfulness: http://patch.com/B-vr5 and http://patch.com/B-mvn.
Michael Woyton December 29, 2011 at 03:53 PM
I learned Transcendental Meditation when I was in college. I wished I kept it up, but sometimes I feel there is too much going on in my mind to relax enough to meditate.
Rabbi Mark Sameth December 29, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Thank you Dina, thank you Sarah. And please see next week's blog-post "Meditation versus Mindfulness: What’s the difference? What are the benefits?" Again, thanks for your kind words.
Krista Madsen December 29, 2011 at 03:59 PM
My latest column fits the theme here albeit from the perspective of another religion, http://patch.com/A-pJpn. Tis the time of year where a moment of mindfulness is so very treasured (and important).
Dina Sciortino December 29, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Thanks Sarah, I thought of that right after I posted! I was like, "I bet there are already blog posts on this." Well, that's the problem Michael. It's called monkey brain! If you practice you'll be able to sit in peace longer. Here is an article a friend posted on how to meditate, I didn't get to read it yet, but hope you find it useful http://nyimc.org/index.php/site/learnmeditate/ Thanks Krista!


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