28 June 2007

My New Life’s Resolutions

Here's an attempt at humor that was written in 1999....

I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions. I always regarded that custom as something commercially contrived, like holidays invented by the greeting card industry. But now that 1999 has arrived and we are nearing that magical, mystical date of 2000, I can’t help thinking what whoppers of resolutions people are going to concoct next year. They’ll be on a monumental scale, like promising to be good for an entire thousand-year period. Now, that appeals to my sense of the absurd—and it also stimulates me to think seriously about some meaningful resolutions to make.

But instead of “new year’s resolutions,” I’m going to call mine “New Life’s resolutions” (a reference to a phase of Meher Baba's work called the New Life). Here are a few that I’ve come up with so far:

Lose weight. Remember that old joke: “Want to lose ten pounds of ugly fat? Cut off your head!” For my New Life, I’d like to shrug off some of that excess mental poundage, like worry, circling thoughts, overreliance on analytical thinking, and “the fume of an irritated mind” (Baba’s memorable phrase describing anger). However, since it’s impossible to control one’s thoughts, I must surrender all my mental activities, good and bad, to Baba. That way, He will take care of the sanskaric results of my thoughts. Now watch those pounds of worry melt away!

Exercise more. . . tolerance and compassion, that is. When I was trying to think of what to write about in this column, someone suggested that a useful topic might be “developing compassion in everyday life,” and at first I thought, “Huh? What do I know about compassion?” In my work as an editor, I have read a lot about how to develop compassion through various Buddhist meditations and exercises. But what helps me most is the realization that compassion is a divine quality belonging to the Compassionate Father, and any compassion I may feel is Baba’s, not mine. He allows us to experience His all-merciful nature from time to time. It is an extraordinary gift. I pray that I can be ever more open to receiving it.

Simplify my life. Bal Natu once told me he’d gotten letters from people who described their problems to him at length. He remarked, “I don’t need that much detail.” I cherish that phrase. (I am now speaking for myself and not alluding to what Bal may have meant when he said this; but please understand that Bal’s comment was not a dismissal of his correspondents’ distress.)

“Less detail” can mean many things. One possibility is: I don’t have to burden others with painstaking details of my own suffering or my likes and dislikes. If I need to unburden myself, I can do so directly to Baba, the only One who can do anything about it anyway—who is already, always doing something about it. Why else did the Avatar take human birth, except to release us from the many false details in which we are enmeshed, and restore us to the big picture, which is the simple divine reality of Oneness?

A nice place to tell Baba my troubles is at the Baba Tree at Meher Mount, where I live. It’s the tree under which Baba sat when He visited here in 1956. I’m trying to practice the method that Don Stevens recommends, which is to actually speak one’s concerns aloud to Baba. This is hard to do but, I am convinced, highly rewarding.

Use time more wisely. People are always complaining that they have no time. A few years ago I discovered the secret of time management, and I want to learn to make use of this secret more consistently: If I put Baba first, everything else falls into its proper place. For example, when I was treasurer of the Boston Baba center, I occasionally had to go to the bank to make a deposit. I always felt there wasn’t time to do this, because it was out of the way and I had to get to my job or do something else pressing. Finally I just decided, “This is Baba work, and it’s the most important thing I can do now or anytime.” I went to the bank in the morning and got to my office a little late, but no one noticed! After that, whenever there was a chance to do some work for Baba, or perform any action for His sake, I would put Him at the top of my list and let the “pressing matters” take care of themselves. When I really place Baba first—in time, and in my mind and heart—a little miracle takes place, and the oppressive sense of time vanishes into the nothingness that it really is.

Stop smoking. I don’t smoke cigarettes, actually. But you know, Baba says that the heart should be on fire (with love for God), while no smoke escapes the lips!

Spend more quality time with the Beloved. On second thought, make that “every moment”!

Happy New Life!

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All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.