At the end of 2019 right before the New Year, my friend sent me a link to a Word of the Year Generator. You click the link and a word randomly, yet divinely chosen for you, pops up giving you an intention or direction for the New Year. Why not? I thought, I’ll give it a try. I’ll trust the universe to send me a meaningful word for the year. After all, the year 2020 was beginning and I cannot tell you how excited I was to begin “the year of seeing clearly”. It’s all I talked about for months, sometimes incessantly.
I couldn’t wait to see what my word would be. My friend’s word was “explore”. Now that’s a nice intention. Maybe mine would be “adventure”, “joy”, “courage”, or something even better. I was ready for my amazing year to begin and I clicked the link. The magical word that appeared was “pass”. What??? Pass. What kind of word of the year is pass? I felt a little disappointed and somewhat disgruntled at the person who included this word on the generator. Clearly, they were making a mockery of my New Year intention. But something in me told me to tuck that word in my pocket and wait to see what unfolded.
Fast forward to March 2020. When March began, my life seemed perfectly normal. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening, just the regular routine. By the end of March, it seemed the whole world had flipped on its side. You know the old saying about March. The month came in like a lamb and went out like a lion! Schools, restaurants, and clothing stores closed (some forever). Churches with open door policies shut and locked their doors. Even funerals were happening on Zoom. I was standing disoriented with my mouth dropped.
After I felt my feet connect to the earth again, my word of the year came back, pass. What wisdom did this small simple word have for me? Most of us were having no choice but to pass on many of the events of our daily lives. Pass on working from the office, pass on meeting with friends, pass on concerts and sporting events, pass on travel, pass on quick trips to the grocery store.
Then I heard a question come up for me. How do you want to let this experience pass? Do you want to fight and struggle against its strong current or would you rather sit on the shore and watch the ripples flow by? I’m not suggesting that this is always an easy or obvious choice. Everyone has their own unique circumstances that affect their response to what’s happening. I’m just saying that when we enter into a situation consciously by setting an intention for how we would like to experience it, we are much more likely to have the kind of experience we desire. When we use the tools and resources that have worked for us in the past (maybe yoga, meditation, journaling, time in nature, being creative, etc.) or be open to new resources, we can at least feel more grounded, more centered, more peaceful than if we let our monkey minds run the show.
In January, I began Mindfulness Teacher Training. As I learn to teach others about mindfulness, I am reminded of the importance of being present in this exact place, at this exact moment. The timing seems perfect for what’s happening in the world. The great mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote, “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
In other words, everything we are experiencing is passing through. Nothing, not the pleasant, not the unpleasant, lasts forever. We are continuously in a state of impermanence. We can cling to our experiences, we can resist them, or we can let them pass by, being as present to them as we possibly can, knowing each moment holds something sacred in it.
I am choosing to let this experience pass through with as much peace and ease as I can muster each day. I am passing on judging myself and others for how each of us handles this. I am letting this pass by dancing in my living room, hugging trees instead of people, taking more deep breaths than usual, tuning into how I can be of service to others, allowing myself to be open to the lessons of this experience, filling myself with gratitude for the little gifts along the way, and trusting that I am being held by the Holy through all of this.
Maya Angelou is attributed as saying, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Let us refuse to be reduced by this experience. Let us use this as an opportunity to be present with whatever this situation brings, pleasant or unpleasant, knowing that whatever comes is simply a visitor passing through.