Twenty-twenty-two ends, and this newsletter enters the fourth year of its existence.
As the year concludes, it becomes a time to pause and reflect — not to apply pressure or create resolutions or intentions but rather to take inventory of all that is or was and maybe, just maybe, to spring forth into 2023 with enthusiasm that, more often than not, will be swept away in a few days’ time by all that is quotidian — and which will need to be corralled back through coming home to our breath.
In past years, I would make resolutions only to break them within a few weeks and this only presented shame or guilt, so I’ve learned to hold loosely to my ambitions and not make strong promises because if there’s anything certain about being human, it is that we are bound to fail, and sooner or later, swallow our words; so sometimes it is best to be quiet and not say anything.
But that doesn’t completely mean we should not make any resolutions or abandon our ambitions. Speaking for myself, I’d like 2023 to be the year that I take on new challenges, learn new skills, and expand some of the things that I am currently doing — but I’ve accepted the fact that they may or may not happen; life, after all, is full of surprises, all you can really do is pull up your pants and put one foot in front of the other. Just show up to your life, put in the work, and good things will come… eventually.
Earlier this week, someone asked me how I grew this year, and I found it difficult to answer without defaulting to the obvious list of accomplishments or things I had achieved. The question made me dig deep beyond the superficial layers, and there was not much to point to or call out — which I know sounds rather bleak.
But, growth, I think, is difficult to measure or quantify in a year — unless it is something extremely objective — which, in that case, I can certainly mention things, but I much rather focus on the less obvious growth — the growth that can only make itself known through serendipity. Maybe a better way to measure one’s growth is to look beyond just a year’s span but to include, I dunno, five years?
As I see it, growth manifests in ways unbeknownst to us, but often, we want the certainty and validation of it! Growth, or the lack thereof, is often reflected in our environments, the people we surround ourselves with, habits, thought patterns, etcetera. And sometimes, it takes someone else’s vantage point to point out our own growth. We are, after all, experts at self-deceit, and it is much more interesting to hear about your growth through the lens of someone that knows and cares for you.
Growth, or the opposite of growth — regression, tends to be painted over with accolades, achievements, recognition, heartache, trauma, happiness, suffering, and so forth. When we are inebriated with our own small selves or a strong sense of identity — our reflection fails to show who we are.
This small self, which makes plans and ambitions, clings to dreams, hopes, desires, and so forth, is typically the root of delusion. It further removes us from the freedom and mystery of life. Grasping and clinging strengthen a false identity that now comes packed with labels.
I am a [insert labels here]. And the more this small self is fed, sure recognition, status, material success, or suffering might be attained but is this really who we are? Are you, your resolutions, and your accomplishments? The more we become who we think we are, the harder we fight to defend it and the more fear we have of losing it. The more solid it becomes, the more solid problems become.
So, as 2022 ends, we are once again here, stuck in this meat sack — sure, we did things, went places, and accomplished things, but here we are again, with ourselves — sooner or later returning to the mess we’ve created, the cobwebs, spiders, and critters.
Dream big, learn, work hard, be kind and hopeful, study, carry optimism, and appreciate your life but remember to come home to yourself regularly. Don’t intellectualize things or use fancy words because you might end up tripping over them. If you find yourself at the top of the mountain, remember to come back down to deal with your neurosis, anxieties, vices, and insecurities — come back to the smog and dust that we fight so hard to avoid.
Surrender to the moment and take care of it with respect and grace. Treat others with compassion, and lift them up. Make the world a better place regardless of how big or small your act may be — the small things count.
Don’t force growth or change — it’ll happen — it’s happening right now. Maybe the change in your life or growth will come long after you are gone, and in future generations or other planets — someone will look back and awe at all that you left behind.
Wake up, make your bed, mop the floor, throw out the garbage, wash the dishes and ground yourself in the moment. Learn to love your solitude and appreciate your company — uninterrupted and without mind-altering fixes that, despite the great insight they promise or provide, you truly don’t need. You don’t need anything but your beating tender heart. Be okay with boredom. Be disciplined and simple. Don’t overthink everything. And don’t take newsletters so seriously.
Enjoy the mad journey — one step at a time.
I will send you a Beginner’s Mind print if you give this issue a like and comment. It’s my way of giving back to everyone who has supported this newsletter. I’d like to hear about what growth means to you.
Notable issues from 2022
Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist
In this issue’s playlist, I include some favorite songs featured in Beginner’s Mind throughout the year.
As I reach 80 years old, I wonder what growth can mean at this stage. Is it still possible to grow? In what area of my life is there room to grow? My world is diminishing around me. My body is aging and nothing I can do to stop it. But there is one place where growth is still possible. I can still play the sitar, exercise and love my wife and family. Such activities offer growth no matter how old one is. I can create a new raag, learn new exercises and love: always growth in that precious realm.
Preparation for the loss of everything is also a place for growth.
Aging is the practice for death. Leaving behind all that I cherish and love is not easy. That is why I am constantly reminded, through sickness, that this body will go up in smoke and fire. My loved ones will continue to live until they pass. Growth at this age is the preparation for nothingness.
thank you for your words, Christian <3
every time I read, I light up with how beautifully you write on themes that are resonate with my experience/ feelings on life in these times and what's coming up around me/for me also. I always appreciate your ability to relay deeper insight and share and provide supportive data. Congrats on keeping it going, to here and now year four !!!
As I’ve grown & continue to, it seems growth naturally becomes embodied - woven into how we hold ourselves and how at peace we are in our own skin. thus, apparent in how we operate. I like to look at the under layers, are we moving from a more connected, true place? Growth in the way we show up. this may just be good measure, though to each their own (varying values and what not), as is ones sense of peace. Growth...it feels like strengthened muscles. improvement via practice, hopefully heart-led and well, there's gotta be some devotion to it for the sake of how it opens us- do you think so?