We were on the way to the bagel store in NYC on New Year's Day, and I didn't think much of it, but as I began thinking of January as setting the tone for the rest of the year, his passing comment had merit.
2009 was a tumultuous year (for me, and many others from what I've heard), so January 2010 is an opportunity for greater clarity, peace of mind, focused action, levity, and inner strength. In many ways, this is Zen. So, nothing short of complete enlightenment in the coming 12 months - easy!
But in seriousness (but not too much seriousness), Zen means finding the balance between striving for improvement, enjoying the moments during the journey, and recognizing/accepting what we can't change.
Elusive, fraught with contradiction, impossible to measure - seems like the right challenge.
In the Zen trifecta above, if you're like me, it's easy to get caught up in "striving for improvement" (especially with so many things to work on in our personal lives, professional development, and hobbies). This is where we frequently operate, so achieving that Zen balance is about keeping our drive, ambition, and intensity in check.
"Enjoying the moments" reminds us to be present, look for meaning, beauty, and joy in the little things, and cultivate gratitude. This is especially hard for overachievers because we live fast-paced lives, juggling many projects or priorities, and barely have time to eat. It's tempting to say "Slow Down" but I know it won't work. I have to trick myself into relaxing and taking time off by acknowledging the fact that taking time off to "smell the roses" allows me to be more productive, creative, and motivated to work when I get back to it.
"Recognizing/accepting what we can't change" - this is in direct contradiction to our perfectionist tendencies and desire for everything to be optimal (and the way we like it). Whether it's the layout of the coffee station (Au Bon Pain, ugh!), office politics, or traffic - whether you know it or not, your mental energy is being usurped and diffused. By worrying unnecessarily or getting frustrated by it, we have less clarity in what we need to do and this background noise keeps us from being present or focused on what really matters. Of course, in matters that are truly important to you, take the time to encourage and inspire change. Just be ready to accept it the way it is or decide if it's a deal-breaker.
What tone are you looking to set for 2010? Are you already a modern-day Zen master?
I suspect this challenge isn't going to be a one-time achievement, but will require even greater attention to create the right balance every day. 352 days of Zen, starting today.