“Be hospitable to an unwelcome emotion, as if it were an unexpected guest. Offer it a cup of tea. Greet it kindly and see if you can learn something from the message it brings. If it does not bring you something useful say “thank you” and send it on its way. Above all, do not invite it to share your supper and offer it a bed in your house for the night, or you will have a difficult time getting it to leave.”
~A Buddhist saying
I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I used to. They were usually something trivial like “This year I will stop biting my nails” or “This year I will stay organized and keep my house clean.” Inevitably, a stressful day would come around and I would find myself nibbling on a pinky nail (a nasty habit that I have finally kicked, thank the lord) or I’d find myself halfway through January with a laundry bin full of clothes and a sink full of dirty dishes without any motivation to do anything about either. Or I’d set myself up to run four days a week and “really work out this year” and then February would roll around and I’d realize that I’d only done a few extra crunches and I was still relying on the old “I’ll start tomorrow” adage. That just didn’t work for me.
These days, instead of setting myself up to feel like I’ve failed at something, I like to begin my year by reflecting on where I’d like to grow in the coming year and thinking about the areas of my life and myself that I want to work on. I don’t put pressure on myself to necessarily do anything concrete to change myself but rather think of small ways to initiate the growth I want to work towards.
I came across the quote above shortly after christmas. It’s from a book that was gifted to me about pregnancy and birth (Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic & Birth by Suzanne Arms) in a chapter dealing with managing fears about giving birth. This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in a comprehensive overview of the history of natural birth and labor, how the medical model of birth grew within our culture and its effect on the way we think about and treat birth. It’s also a treasure trove of information about preparing for a natural childbirth. I have found the author’s writings inspiring and motivational (more on that another time), but this particular quote really stuck with me.
This year, my “resolution”, if you will, is to keep this quote in the forefront of my mind as I journey into this new stage of life. I have already found it useful and challenging as I move through my days. Walking to work right after New Year’s, I found myself feeling annoyed with the slow-moving tourists walking in front of me and thinking negatively about dealing with customers all day. Instead of letting these feelings get the best of me, I thought about this quote and decided to simply breathe and greet these negative feelings kindly. I invited them in for a cup of tea and asked them what I could learn from experiencing them. I listened quietly to see if I could perceive where they came from, and then I released them on their way. Surprisingly, it worked. I started thinking about how nice it was that the family in front of me was able to enjoy their morning together unhurried by the usual commitments and bustle of life; how lucky my customers were to have a welcoming shop to stop into.
As I move into this next phase of life, as I prepare to give birth to my son, to move back across the country and settle into a new routine, as I prepare for labor, for change, prepare to handle fear and pain, to be strong in the face of newness and uncertainty, I will keep this quote present in my mind so that I remember to welcome negative or unwelcome feelings kindly, to learn from them and share a cup of tea with them but never let them spend any more time than need be before I send them on their way. I feel strong and ready for what’s to come; prepared to handle the fear that may accompany change. Most of all I feel ready to keep this quote in my mind as I become a parent and am faced with exhausting, compromising, tough situations so that I may have a cup of tea with any unkind thoughts and send them on their way in order to concentrate on the immense joy, love and wonder that is to come.