My New Year’s resolution for 2016 was not to watch the last season of Downton Abbey. I’ve learned that carrying out this resolution was not a one-off deal. It wasn’t just a matter of missing the first broadcasts on PBS. It also meant not watching repeats, on-demand, or online. Also not reading reviews or summaries, or asking people what happened. At least one reader took this resolution as an implicit criticism of her enjoyment of the show. Far from it. As I noted subsequently, far from fear of missing out on the action I felt a joy in missing out, which includes enjoying that she and others enjoyed the show.
There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping.
The spur for this resolution was being turned off by all the hype about the coming broadcasts. If I’d known that this hype was minor compared to the media obsession with a certain circus clown in 2016, I think I might have resolved not to watch TV at all in 2016. But who knew?
With that uncertainty in mind, I’m not making a resolution for 2017. I just have a plan to meditate as often as I can. For years I approached my taiji practice as a form of meditation, and still do. I never thought I could stay still long enough for sitting meditation, but one of my favorite taiji teachers would use sitting meditation to start the class. It wasn’t long, but I learned I could do it. About a year ago I started sitting irregularly with a Thich Nhat Hanh group that met on Sunday afternoons. Unfortunately that group disbanded after more than 20 years together. For 2017 I plan to attend an Insight Meditation group which meets on Monday evenings, and an English-language session twice a month at the Sri Lankan monastery where I tutor ESL.
My view on meditation practice is that it’s more social than individual. By “social” I don’t mean making and meeting friends. I mean more that practicing quietly can help contribute some still calm to the cacophony of this frenetic world. With this in mind I plan to spend January 20 as an American version of “Uposatha days,” which are times of renewed dedication to Dhamma practice. A qigong session is scheduled for midday, and a meditation at the monastery in the evening. All day I will observe the eight precepts, as is done on Uposatha days in South Asia. I think of this practice as getting in shape for the Women’s March the next day in Philadelphia.