From The InnkeepersJanuary 2021
January 2021 Blog
The Three Faces of January
The name for the month of January has its origins in ancient Rome. January is named after the god Janus who in Roman mythology was a two headed god with one head facing the direction of the past, and the second head facing the direction of the future. It is quite natural then this time of year for us to look towards both directions.
When we look toward this past year and say our farewells to 2020, it may be more difficult for many people to do so with a sense of gratitude. In this year we faced loss in the form of 340,000 plus deaths of US citizens. In this year we have faced loss of income, jobs, housing, and food security. We faced anger at incompetent, unyielding, uncaring government leaders whose neglect caused senseless suffering. Yet even in the face of all of these losses, there were frequent news stories of neighbor helping neighbor, of people sewing masks for others before they became more widely available, of public applause and gratitude to hospital workers, of small acts of random and not so random kindness. So, in the midst of acknowledging all that was broken about our world in 2020, I do also bow to the past year with a sense of gratitude. I am grateful for the kindness we were able to show others, and for the kindness that was shown to us. 2020 taught me much about myself, about how precious life is, and how thin and tenuous the string is between life and death. We are each of us one contact away from someone infected with the virus. 2020 teaches us we can never take anyone or anything for granted. For that lesson being brought to the forefront of my consciousness, I am very grateful.
In turning my face toward the future, I see reason to be hopeful. Three research groups and consortiums of drug companies have put vaccines out, and soon there may actually be an efficient plan to distribute them. There is scientific light pouring into the tunnel of Covid darkness. No one can predict the future, however, with the changeover in government administrations one can hope that a seismic Karmic shift is in the offing. I look to the future with the hope that the divides between people, whether they be political, racial, cultural, religious, or educational will begin to be healed by compassion and the will to level the economic playing field. I look to the future with the hope that we will create more of a world that works for all, not one that works well only for the wealthy few. I look to the future with the anticipatory sense that our best days still lie ahead of us.
In addition to the two faces of January, one looking to the past and one looking to the future, I would like to add a third face: one that looks to the present. Some spiritual traditions in fact emphasize that there is only the NOW. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, often writes and speaks about how our home is in the now and it is the present moment that is the miraculous aspect of our aliveness. The face of now is important as it is the face of engagement. Living in the now allows us to see the needs of others and meet them where they are. The face of now is what moves us to look around in the present moment and be called to serve and help others.
A friend of mine sent me an article entitled “Closer to Earth” that appeared in the October issue of Experience Life magazine. It was an interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer a member of the Potawatomi Nation and author of the book Braiding Sweetgrass. Kimmerer, a botanist and college professor, has as her mission in life, to introduce non-native peoples to Indigenous Peoples’ ecological wisdom. Having read Kimmerer’s book, I was very interested in the content of the article because of her amazing gift of helping us to understand the environment through Native American eyes. In the course of the article she speaks of the importance of ceremonies and rituals shared in the community because of how they focus attention on something other than just ourselves. The one line in the article that was like a personal lightning bolt to me was this: “The act of paying attention creates intention”. When I think about the third face of January looking to the present moment, this quote helps me to define the present. The present is the act of paying attention in the now. Paying attention in the present moment creates who we end up being and how we choose to spend our lives. To live with attention, to me, has always meant learning to live beyond the needs of oneself. It simply means to look around and be helpful in whatever simple ways you can. It means to live in right relation to the earth and its inhabitants, be they plant or animal, or human.
In the month of January of 2021, I pray that we can look to the past and in spite of or because of it, always remain grateful. I pray that we can look to the future and be hopeful. I pray that we can look to the present with attention and create intention.
May it come to be in our times.
Blessings from our house to yours,
Marcia, Pat, and Sharon
We the keepers of The Inn at the Rustic Gate have made the decision that going forward in 2021, we will not re-open our doors until a vaccine has become widely available, and that we as well as all of our retreat guests have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.