Be a Buddha, not a Janus

One winter morning a few years ago, I grumbled about the Midwestern cold and ice. Snow from a few days earlier had melted just enough to leave a glaze on walks and driveways. I fell on the ice and injured my wrist. So that morning, I bemoaned my bruised and sore arm and wrote in my journal, “I am already ready for winter to be over.” Not the most artfully crafted sentence, but it expressed my opinion about the season.

I feel the same this winter. The solstice has just passed, and we face at least two more months of winter. Maybe three. We will likely hear frequent threats of weather events becoming ever more dire because of climate change. The second anniversary of the pandemic hitting the U.S. is almost here.

Life seems glum.

Many days I tell myself I just want to skip winter. Or get through it as quickly as I can.

That morning several years ago, I mused to myself about hiding at home until winter is over. I caught my depressing thoughts and wrote, “Why is so much of life a rush to the future and a mourning of the past? Too little time spent in the moment.”

It didn’t seem right then — and it still doesn’t seem right today — that I wished several months of my life to pass in a flash. What life would I experience in the months ahead? What would I choose to do with my days? What should I choose?

Once past, time does not return. So I should make use of each day, winter or not, pandemic or not.

Every holiday season I think of Christmases past, when my children were small and giddy with the excitement of Santa Claus. And I dream of Christmases to come, when my grandchildren (I hope they will exist someday) will bounce with their own anticipation, eager for me to spoil them. But surely I should focus on the blessings of this season, of the present.

Unlike Janus, who looks forward and backward, I shouldn’t feel wistful about past delights nor desirous of future pleasures that may or may not come. I should face my days straight on and experience each moment’s joys and sorrows in its own time.

I reflect on a quote I found from the Buddha:

Don’t dwell in the Past;
Don’t dream of the Future;
Concentrate the mind on the Present Moment.

Even the Buddha experienced the same thoughts I have, the same desire to look forward or back that statues of Janus display. But the Buddha realized that we should focus on the present. And that is one of my goals for 2022.

May you savor each moment of this new year!


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