Renew and Remember
Renew – v.
- To make new or as if new again; restore: renewed the antique chair.
- To take up again; resume: renew an old friendship; renewed the argument.
- To repeat so as to reaffirm: renew a promise.
- To regain or restore the physical or mental vigor of; revive: I renewed my spirits in the country air….
- To bring into being again; reestablish.
- To become new again.
- To start over.
Many of us modern spiritual practitioners have already had access to many profound teachers and teachings, whether through direct study or through reading publications or even online courses. Access is practically unlimited. This has created an interesting phenomenon. We have unwittingly entered into something I will call ‘spiritual consumerism’, playing off of what Chogyam Trungpa coined, ‘spiritual materialism,’ which describes the phenomenon of engaging in spiritual practices while knowingly or unknowingly building up an even more concrete ego structure. “I am such a popular yoga teacher!” Or “I am special because I have received these rare teachings!” These are easy traps to fall into.
Spiritual consumerism could refer more to the phenomenon of having too much access to many different spiritual teachings, which can give rise to ‘spiritual indigestion’ the feeling of overload and even confusion about which path to take. What an interesting problem of abundance to have, but not a surprising one in our society. Many people bypass this ‘problem’ by just synthesizing a bunch of different things and forging their own path. This is not bad, but it can prove misleading if one has not steeped for a long time in the traditions they are trying to synthesize. As the saying goes, ‘When digging a well, it’s best to dig one deep hole rather than many shallow ones.’ Many great traditions have been born of synthesis, but only when the original paths had been well trodden by the synthesizer first. If older traditions were not malleable, they could not survive and serve our modern times. Great traditions should adjust to changing needs, but lets study their roots so that we know our foundation is good and strong.
Coming back to the theme of ‘renewal’: The longer nights and shorter days leading up to the Winter Equinox on December 21st naturally entrains our internal rhythms to draw inward and contemplate deeper truths for our own direction in life. The idea of renewal at the juncture from one year to the next is natural as we are bringing our same old self into the new light. We long for changes and new inspirations, new habits and new adventures. And yet, what about all the wonderful teachings and practices, places and people you encountered last year and the year before? If renewal means to ‘make new again,’ ‘to restore,’ then this act of contemplation and renewal entails bringing the core of our heart’s purpose into a refreshed, re-inspired place so that we may continue to dig our well of self understanding and contentment even more deeply.
Let’s renew our commitment daily to our path, to our awakening. And remember (which means ‘to recall to the mind with effort, or to think of again’) our spiritual friends and the teachings they imparted upon us. Then based on this we move forward into the light, into our renewed sense of purpose and adventure. Perhaps this year we stay close to home to cultivate community and our work, or perhaps we pick up and go on that pilgrimage we have been longing for. In either case, know where you are coming from and why it is you are going, or staying. Be honest and be humble. And have fun! Happy Re-Newal Year!