Well, 2016 has been a real humdinger of a year, amiright?!
On a global level, it has sometimes felt like the world is collapsing around us. We’ve lost so many incredible artists and global icons. We’ve witnessed political calamities unfolding like Brexit and the election of Trump. In public commentary, behaviour and voting patterns we’ve seen an unfortunate rise in anti-“outsider” sentiment and blatant racism. Terrorist attacks continue to inspire fear and sorrow around the world, and our hearts have broken wide open upon seeing the ongoing atrocities and slaughter in war-torn Syria.
On a personal level, 2016 was really a year of two halves. The first half of the year was spent in joyful exploration of my calling, with eye-opening and fun-filled travels around Thailand, Malaysia and Bali, meeting amazing people along the way. As for the second half – well, devastation is the word that best sums up the past few months. After the agony of losing my Dad, my family has been hit over and over again with more illness and death. As the year dragged on, I kept trying to pull myself together and get on with living, but with barely any time to recover in between waves of bad news, I don’t mind admitting that I spent a lot of time in a tearful and despondent state. I’ve been shaken to the core; paralysed by sadness and grief. I spent days and weeks stuck to the couch, lethargic and broken. Christmas was an intensely bittersweet affair – family bonds have grown stronger than ever through our shared suffering, and so it meant more than anything to spend the holiday season surrounded by each other. But with four deaths in six months, the absence of our loved ones was stark.
As this rollercoaster year now draws to a close, I don’t think I’m alone in contemplating what it has all meant; musings on life, death, human nature, the future occupy my mind.
I usually maintain a healthy level of cynicism about New Year celebrations and the inevitable promises-to-self that “next year it’ll all be different”. After all, the day itself is just an arbitrary dot on a man-made calendar; the earnest resolutions to better ourselves usually abandoned long before the end of the first month.
But this year is different.
2016 has really felt like a “rock bottom” year. There has been so much pain and suffering on every scale, and the direction the world is heading in seems truly hopeless.
Go low to go high
In my experience, though, hitting rock bottom often serves as a real catalyst for positive change. It was when I was in a similarly low and depressed state three years ago that I first started chanting nam myoho renge kyo, a practice that has changed my life in drastic measures. Critical levels of homelessness in Ireland have prompted groups of determined citizens to tackle the problem head-on and reclaim state property to serve as shelter for those left out in the cold. Charity donations have rocketed in response to the continued slaughter of innocent Syrians and the destruction of their homeland, and it has warmed my heart to see so many people on Facebook and Twitter seeking out concrete information and tips on what more we can do to help.
As Serena Dyer recounts, her late great father Wayne Dyer offered the analogy of a high jumper needing to crouch low to gain the power to propel herself over the bar. In retrospect, we often find that the lows we went through were entirely necessary to give us the strength and the motivation to discover our true potential and achieve even greater heights. Ultimately, I have faith that this is true – for me, for you, for us.
Even though things aren’t looking rosy just yet – certainly, with the advent of Brexit and the Trump presidency still looming, and no end in sight for the rise of Isis and the devastation they bring, you could say things are looking decidedly bleak – you cannot deny that there is a shift happening in the world. The worse things get, the more people are inspired to stand up and speak out. I almost feel a sense of exhilaration in the experience of simply being alive during times of such upheaval and transformation. As we look out over the abyss of the dark unknown ahead, I am excited to show up, to allow recent events to prompt me to make the most of every single day, and to make whatever changes I can in serving my Self, my soul, and the world beyond. If we’ve learnt nothing else over the last few months, it’s that individuals really can make a change – we’ve already demonstrated that by showing up and voting in huge numbers against the status quo and flying in the face of all of the learned predictions of analysts and pollsters. Regardless of my personal feelings about the outcomes, it is nevertheless encouraging that people everywhere are posting, campaigning, talking, and participating in change.
That change ultimately starts with you. An individual making choices. As we roll into 2017, let us all make the choice to approach this symbolic new beginning with a positive mindset. We can choose not to dwell on anger or hatred or fear, and live instead from a place of love. We can choose to focus that love upon ourselves, with the understanding that it is when our souls are singing that we then radiate positive energy and take positive actions to affect the world at large. So be good to your Self.
Every small change can count. Quit smoking and drinking. Stop eating junk. Start walking or running. Meditate. Chant nam myoho renge kyo. Smile. Dance. Read more. Volunteer. Donate. Help your neighbour. Love yourself. All of these actions, and more, will serve to make you feel better at the most basic level, and can trigger a domino effect of positivity which will eventually impact the rest of our global family. We are all One, after all – one community of humans who thrive best when we build solid foundations of love and compassion in order to help and support each other on a wider scale.
For my own part, I’ll be taking on all these changes under the umbrella of a single resolution to “do the things that are good for my Soul”. Let’s all take on that challenge and make 2017 the year we learned from our mistakes and turned things around. Let’s truly make it a Happy New Year!