The Year of Authenticity

Hold in your heart all the sadness and pain of Samsara, and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.
— Chogyam Trungpa

How does one set intentions for the new year? Intentions that are a genuine movement of the heart rather than a ‘self-improvement’ decision? Instead of mind maps or mandalas, this new year I took the question out to the wilds for a day, and let the mysteries of nature and psyche shake it loose...

After a few days enjoying camping with friends on the coast as the new year ticked over, I began to feel a strong tugging at my hem to leave the village behind and converse with the diverse life forms other than human. I know this impulse well, and so too the equally familiar resistance. Why? Because undoubtedly, there is something uncomfortable lying in wait when I ask the deeper questions. Something that heralds change.  

With water, a sarong and a hat I set off along the rocky coast. As I walked further from ‘home’, fear rose in my throat and my walk quickened, as if trying to outrun an invisible stalker. What was I afraid of? I didn’t know.

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A few headlands on, I approached what I immediately recognised as my threshold. A tunnel of slick black rock stood between me and the way. The entrance was a foot shorter than me and as long as a fallen tree. Apart from a few brief hours at low tide, it was clearly a feature of the underwater landscape. To continue onwards, I had to pass through. Stooping low, I noticed the internal rock face was covered in small flying ants. A few of them left the rock to buzz around my face. I took a deep breath and entered. Immediately the flies massed around my face, covering my exposed limbs. I could barely open my eyes to see the next step. Still more mobbed me. I wondered whether to retreat but my instincts said keep going. I dropped to my knees, closed my eyes and crawled forward. I could hear nothing but the buzzing of millions of flies, threatening to envelop me.

Eventually, I sensed the sunlight and burst forth onto the sand. Running over to the shade of a tree I lay on the sand and sobbed. This is what my fear had been trying to protect me from. These tears that had no origin I could trace, no story, just this pure expression of shaking body and heavy heart, and tears that pooled in the sand under me. Having learnt, over years now, to trust these movements, I gave a full yes to the tears and the comfort of the warm earth under me.

After a time, the waves subsided and I woke up to find myself alone on an enchanted bay. Stripping off, I ran down to the ocean and dived in. I emerged as if from a baptism. The next few hours I played like a child, naked and full of joyful wonder. All my senses were alert to this place; the secrets of the rockpools, the dark green forest of kelp sucked in and out of the rock crevice, the osprey circling above, shells making art on the tide line. I began to dance to the soundtrack of this particular place and time, my body the storyteller. As I danced, I noticed the silhouette of a bird perched in the dead branches of a casuarina. Turning towards it I gestured an outstretched hand. We danced together, the bird, the sea and me. When it finally flew, I realised it was a raven, the secret name I have begun knowing myself as.

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The shadows lengthened and the waves lapped higher. Having not eaten all day I began to tire. I gently moved towards a spire shaped rock in the middle of the bay. Behind it, invisible, was a clear oval rockpool. Crabs darted into cracks as I quietly sat at the edge and watched. Protected from the onshore breeze, the surface was still as a lake, the only movement the swaying of anemone. Craning my neck I saw my reflection, my brown face and ragamuffin hair. It was the face of the wild heart of the world.

As I wandered back home, the intention for this year gathered itself in the entirely of the experience. Fear was the protector of grief, and grief was the doorway into a deeper state of open awareness and receptivity. The closest word I could find in my vocabulary to sum it up was authenticity; the courage to be in my full expression.

I returned, carrying this wild heart of the world, and a fresh willingness to live wholeheartedly this next seasonal cycle. And then I made a good cup of tea.


And what about you? What have your new year wanders shown you about the path ahead? I’d love to hear….