As the Days Lengthen: A Celebration of 2016

Night-before-last (Dec. 21, 4:44 AM) was the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Oddly, this doesn’t necessarily mean yesterday was the shortest day of the year. (See Britain’s schedule, for example.) But today here in Nashville the day’s length did start to increase — by a whopping 2 seconds.

The thing is, I’ve been wanting to pause, remember, sink into this past year — to learn from and celebrate 2016. And, I wonder, isn’t when the light turns a corner the true start of a new year — especially to those of us who thrive on metaphor?

In any event, as I pause to recall 2016, here are the things I maybe have learned a little better this year:

  • It helps to encourage a light heart and sunny disposition, even when others are in pain — though of course only in appropriate ways, in particular….
  • When those I care about are in pain, the thing to do first is listen. Fixing (if possible, which often it’s not) needs to come later.
  • Slow down and pay attention (listen with my whole self) as often as I can remember.
  • Compassion is a ninja power. I just feel better when I go there, even when the other person doesn’t budge in their dislike, grudge, anger, whatever against me. Mind you, I don’t feel terrific when others act this way, but I can see more clearly it’s about them, not me — which gives me breathing room. Plus this kind of compassion I do from a distance because….
  • As much as possible, only be around those I love and who love me. (While I think of it this way, I say it aloud with some trepidation, since “love” is an over-used, over-simplified, ambiguous word. In this context, I’m using the Buddhist definition, which is so lovely and simple — to want others to be happy).
  • Smile.
  • Practice is the key, so practice most what I care about most.
  • And the key to skillful practice is intentionality. So set my intentions early and often.

To be clear, I’m not saying I’ve gotten good at these things. Rather, they’re coming a tiny bit more naturally than in the past.

Technologies That Have Helped

Since this blog is actually meant to be about the Web, here, in no particular order, are some of things Webbish that have helped — a celebration of technologies I’ve happened across that support kindness, awareness, wonder, vitality, serenity, intentionality, happiness — what I think of in the aggregate as The Awakening Web.

  • I had great fun setting my intentions at the start of 2016 using the Mac and iOS app, MindNode. Using good mind-mapping software, I was able to first see patterns, then focus, and finally simplify my big-picture intentions so I could more easily remember them.
  • In February, right after my husband was diagnosed with what turned out to be a baseball-sized GI cancer, I happened to listen to an On Being podcast with Brother David Steindl-Rast. I listened to it repeatedly, taking great solace in his quiet, gentle words.
  • This in turn led me to Gratefulness.org, A Network for Grateful Living — another source of perspective and hope in those crazy months.
  • To my amazement, mid-January I returned to my sangha of 23 years ago. I had had to step away in 1993 and, as the years slipped by, I assumed I would never belong again — that I wasn’t good enough. But then, once again via the Web, I happened across a “Buddhist Coach” (isn’t that the most delightful concept?) named Bodhipaksa. And a wonderful coach he was. He encouraged me to call my sangha-of-yore, the Rochester Zen Center, and when I did, they welcomed this strayed sheep — even encouraging me to come to 7-day sesshins.
  • Then yet another surprise… it turns out the Zen Center too has embraced some really wonderful Web technologies — in particular podcasting and audio streaming. The podcast seriously motivates me and the streaming nourishes my sense of connection to the Center, even though it’s 800 miles away.
  • I recently discovered a break reminders Mac app, Time Out, thanks to Chris Moffett of Poised Meditation Posture. I have a bad habit of spending long stretches of time on my beloved laptop, but these days Time Out gives me a gentle nudge after 35 minutes.
  • Also on the physical front, I learned about the popular app Strava. I enjoy brisk walks, but, alas, enjoy puttering on my computer even more…. Ergo I can use all the encouragement I can get to push me outdoors — and Strava is just that — with its cool maps, kudos, community, etc.

This isn’t a comprehensive list. If I aimed for that, I’d never finish this post. These are just the technologies I can think of at the moment. I’ve no doubt forgotten others — not to mention the myriad possibilities I’ve yet to happen upon. The thing is it’s so easy for me to find all of these wonderful sites and apps that it gives me confidence that the Awakening Web is thriving.

Now, as I turn my focus to 2017, a heartfelt thank you goes to all of the friends, family, developers, designers, and role models who have shaped my 2016. May I find ways to pay it forward.