2016 UPDATE ON: "HAPPY NEW YEAR - DON'T BE A SALMON IN '09!!"

Okay, here we are, the beginning of a new year. Heart-attack season is finally over - yes, I actually heard yet another story of someone having a surprise heart attack on Christmas Eve - and so, some of us will get back to the business of hunkering back down into the distractions of our lives, not looking behind or ahead for wisdom or guidance, just being glad or sad or both that "THE HOLIDAYS" are over. Some of us will attempt to review and gain wisdom from the events of the past year, and set new intentions for the coming year. That's a viable approach, as well.

But I must admit, I love the fact that so many people have heart attacks on Christmas Eve. It's so specific and unambiguous in its message. It shows us that energy matters, that love is a real force, and if your emotional heart isn't open to that energy, when a surge of it arrives, as it often does at this time of year, your physical heart can break as well, along with your emotional heart.

The heart attacks also show that we're not alone. The Universe/our own Higher Selves/All That Is - however you identify that force - let's us know through our crises that we are being guided, that we are on a path. When we veer off that path, or resist moving forward on it, we get slammed. Sometimes hard. It can seem almost that the Universe is ruthless, or that the "wrath of God" is, in fact, wrath. But while that's a judgment of pain and suffering that may be common, it actually isn't natural. Animals in nature, without any egos in the way, accept pain and suffering as guidance, and alter their behavior accordingly. Only humans tend to see a crisis as "punishment" or "bad luck," or something to wring our hands about, but not necessarily use for change.

The fact that we are guided, though, doesn't mean that our lives are being manipulated or that our fate is predetermined in some rigid way. That's the age old "mystery" some religions talk about - how God's will is always being done, yet we simultaneously have free will to do anything we choose. It seems like a paradox or a Zen riddle.

Well, here's how I picture it for myself: if the force of life, my soul force, the Will of All That Is, is a powerful river that I'm in, I, the swimmer, can choose to swim against the current or with the current at any given moment, exerting my free will. But an observer on the bank of the river will plainly see that regardless of my efforts, the current is carrying me downstream. If I insist on resisting the flow, and keep swimming against the current, I will certainly become exhausted, and maybe even die like many spawning salmon do. On the other hand, if I join with the current, surrender to the flow, I will move much more easily and faster on my path.

Surrendering is an act of free will, too. It is active, not passive. It is not submitting, nor a weakness to give up the stubborn clinging to habitual ways of behaving and thinking. It is an ego-less way of moving through life.

Here is an exercise, what I call a "Five Senses Meditation," to try this year: the next time your leave your house, instead of staying in your ego-mind and mapping out your moves and calculating in advance your arrival to your destination in your head, simply start walking, and only pay attention to your five senses - to what you see, hear, taste, smell and touch. You'll be amazed, I promise you, because while you're discovering a wonderful world of sights and sounds and sensory experiences, you will still get to where you're going, you will arrive at your destination, but filled up with the gift that is life when we don't try and control it.

I'm sure there is an evolutionary purpose to the salmon swimming upstream, so it must work for them. But perhaps, as we begin anew this January 1st, you might consider whether or not you want to be a salmon this year. Happy New Year!

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