Me and my sister talk about your blog all the time since summer and we think we’re getting it but we were talking on new years and it made us wonder
if new years are even real?
I believe you’re referring to the official Western concept of New Years on January 1st and by “real” I’m assuming you mean, does it actually exist? Firstly, I’m glad you feel you’re getting somewhere with the blogs and yes, you’re right—there is something fishy about a “new year.”
Of course a “day” is one revolution of the Earth. One month depends on where you’re from but wherever they started it was usually about lunar cycles. Unfortunately a bunch of powerful Roman Emperors kept adding days to the months named after them so thanks to guys like Julius and Augustus that’s just an approximation now. And a year is the Earth travelling around the sun in an orbit for one revolution. So your birthday is less a time that it is a location.
So the Earth goes around and around. And when a couple exchanges rings on their wedding day, what is said about them? That as rings they have no beginning and no end. They are an expression of the love, which is infinite. So if the orbit of the planet is endless, then where do you start from? What is the beginning? Turns out it’s wherever you say it is for whatever reason you choose.
As you may know, the Chinese celebrate a different new year that those of us on the Julian Calendar. Different religions have different weekends. Changing cultures can changes your calendars a lot. Because these aren’t things. These are human ideas layered over the natural world. Just like time and wealth and fame and borders and nations and the number two. Again: these are not things these are ideas.
You and your sister must be learning something because you’ve done well—by noticing the arbitrary nature of a “new year” you have identified what the Buddha called The Illusion. It’s that layer of thinking that creates the illusory things that are made of nothing more than concepts made of words. You use these words all the time—words like Monday, or Summer or Beautiful or Good. These are just ideas in our heads. You may have noticed that the actual weather doesn’t care much if we named something summer or winter. 🙂
Now that you’ve spotted this illusion, that’s a demonstration that your mind is quieting—which is critical to your development. You’ve lived with this fact for your entire lives and only now have you noticed how silly it really is. And that’s because you’re not so busy thinking about yourselves. You’re like a clear-headed kid—you can actually notice things again. So let’s encourage that. Anyone can do this, but it will be especially fun for you because you can do it with your sister.
For the rest of January compete with your sister. Each day see who can collect more word-based ideas that masquerade as actual things. Make a list and trade it. Cross off the ones you both get and count what’s left. You’ll probably have to debate a few out, but with enough discussion (that’s another term for out-loud meditation) you’ll figure them all out. You can feel free to post your lists here in the comments if you like (and so is anyone else who decides to try this). Because now that I’ve invented it, I realize that this is actually quite a valuable exercise.
When people tell me they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking I tell them to consciously wait for the next thought. And of course they always get a pretty good gap of no thinking. Why? Because their mind—like my metaphor of a crane in the water hunting—is fully occupied with waiting. Because they are busy watching for the thought they can’t use that conscious energy to actually create the thought they’re watching for. Get it?
Eventually they slip out and they start over. Same with this exercise. If you’re busy watching for these ideas then you are also disassembling the illusion that surrounds you. But you’re also not thinking about yourself. Because you’re having intake thoughts rather than egotistical ones, you’re not even using internal narratives to create a You. You’re just Being a person who’s expressing the act of looking for something, and that is much healthier than creating a you who can then compare and complain and otherwise suffer under the weight of their own narratives.
The exercise will probably be fun. I think I might do it myself. But I appreciate your question and I hope you feel I answered it satisfactorily. I also hope you and your sister both enjoy your day, week, month and year.
(For questions originally submitted via text or email or social media messaging, I will edit them for grammar and punctuation but only as much as is required to ensure they are clear.)
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.