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New Year's Resolutions

9th January 2012

Lying in bed, watching the perfect stillness of the garden in the morning light, I look for signs of last night’s storm but not a single leaf stirs. Admittedly, there is not a single leaf left to stir on the lovely old oak but on all the evergreens below, the foliage is utterly, silently still. It seems that the howling winds of the night, now spent and breathless, haven’t the strength in them to disturb this lovely morning.

If the outward world is a reflection of the inward state of mind then certainly the past night has been a true manifestation of mine. Turbulent thoughts and dreams may stir us up to a frenzy and yet, all in a moment, the storm has passed and mental turmoil gives way to a feeling of peace and security. Those of us who haven’t yet had the sense to work on our unruly states of mind are doomed to remain at the mercy of the whims of weather and emotion - ruffled and torn, pulled this way and that, ever grateful to be soothed with a balm of intermittent sunshine or to feel a momentary sense of peace.

Mary Hopkin View of an Oak Tree

I remember my brief experience of T’ai Chi where we were taught to yield and use the physical strength of an opponent to advantage, deflecting the force of his attack with the slightest touch and a simple side-step. This yielding, both physical and mental, can be used to great effect and may be far more powerful than brute force or mental resistance. The sturdy trunk of the oak, however rigid its wide girth may seem, can be seen to sway in gale force winds, where an unyielding post or fence might snap or fall. In the same way, most problems will be resolved more easily with gentle, thoughtful consideration rather than an aggressive approach.

If I make any single new year’s resolution, though the ghost of past failures wags a warning finger, it will be to be more flexible and tolerant. The very next time someone tries my patience with rudeness and stupidity, instead of rising to the bait I shall follow the example of the great masters, yielding graciously and showering them with love and compassion. (Are you buying this?)

No longer will I soak up other people’s negativity like a thirst-crazed sponge. I have more than enough of my own to overcome. I will have no more of this nonsense and shall become master of my mind and live in wisdom and peace for the rest of my days. Hah!

To tell the truth, I’ve been making this same resolution for many years now and, so far, I have failed to put into practice any of the good advice and teaching I’ve received. I suspect that this is an overly ambitious resolution and that perhaps I should be content with a more humble goal… such as getting through a single hour without swearing.

In the meantime, I shall endeavour to channel my vast store of frustrated anger and tension into making music and other creative projects. Perhaps this is why my poor fingertips are throbbing from gripping my guitar neck in a stranglehold, and possibly why my guide saxophone part sounds less syncopated than constipated.

Through the other window, overlooking the front garden, I check the little winter-flowering cherry I planted two years ago, a spindly and dainty tree that has just come into bloom. Amazingly, it has kept hold of its tiny pink blossom through the storm and stands quite still, unscathed and at peace.

In 2012, I plan to be…. a healthy, yielding, bloomin’ tree.

Happy New Year!


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