For past three years, I have formed the habit of picking a word for the year at the beginning of the year. During the year, this word serves as the focus of my contemplation and the motivation for my actions. It’s a commitment that I’ve made, a summary how I would like the coming year to be. My word for 2009 is “ease” — and it turned out that my first week of the year was not easy at all! The harder I tried, the deeper a funk I got myself into.
I didn’t know if it was a continuation of my “holiday blues” or the word served as a magnifying glass for me to see myself more clearly. Whatever the cause, I was not at all at ease for the first week of my new year. When I went for a walk with my husband, I was busy thinking about all the work that is waiting for me. When I started planning my work for the new year, all I wanted was to have no plan so that I could do whatever I want at the moment. I picked up a brush to paint, and then I thought that I should spend more time reading — but when I opened a book, I remembered that it had been a while since I spent some time with my friends…
So I gave up everything and just sat, doing nothing. I heard clock ticking, and I could hear the voice saying that I was wasting my life sitting here doing nothing! I should do something, but what? I often have a feeling of needing to keep doing more: nothing seems to be enough. Part of me has been rebelling against my internal slave driver, wanting to have freedom from the tyranny. This first week was a concentrated version of what my life has been like for the past 30 years.
So what does “ease” mean? The Chinese word “Zi You Zi Zai” means “freedom and ease”. As I kept saying this to myself, I suddenly recognized its literal meaning — something that I had not noticed in all my 38 years! “Zi You Zi Zai” is “Self allowing self and Self being self”. When I saw this I laughed at myself! Of course, it’s “me” not letting me be free and at ease. So what shall I do? I have to just let myself be, and then be that (whatever “that” is) no matter what. I sat down again and started to check my email. The voice in the head said, “You should do something more important first…”, “You are just avoiding doing something difficult…, “Maybe it’s a better idea that you start writing your newsletter now so that you could relax later…” I heard the voices, and I didn’t budge from my seat. I made a decision that I would let myself check email even if there was something more important I could be doing. And by the time I finished replying to my third email I had forgotten how long I had been sitting here, forgotten about this war with myself. Before I knew it, a sense of ease arose naturally and spontaneously from my body into my mind.
And this is how I cured my dis-ease for the first week of my new year.
In Chinese Medicine, the word disease “Bing” has two radicals. The top one indicates a person lying in bed, and the bottom part corresponds to the energy of the Heart System. The Heart System is in charge of the cognitive, emotional and spiritual aspect of being. The character itself indicates that diseases stem from the dysfunction of the Heart System, which breeds destructive beliefs, chaotic emotions and spiritual disconnection. The healthy Heart is the heart that beats consistently in the moment, not too fast, not too slow; not skipping a beat, not doubling a beat. It senses what is happening at the moment and it is not controlled by the mind. The healthy Heart is in tune with every piece of your being and is present every moment with your entire being. It lets the self be at ease.
No matter what your new year’s resolution is, no matter what journey you are about to embark, I hope that ease will accompany you in every moment. And if you experience dis-ease at some time, please remember that ease is still there, hidden amidst the dis-ease. It is within you. Always.