Reflections on 2020: Finding Light in the Darkness

Phew! What a year 2020 has been! Between the pandemic, violent political unrest throughout the world due to injustices, systemic racism among other isms, and more it’s been a tense year! A year that has included a lot of loss for many – whether that be as simple as your social outings to jobs, family members, and a sense of security. In such challenging times, where do we find light and joy?

It can be difficult to do so in the face of such loss, including loss of the rituals that help us cope. At Nextpat, we’ve spent much of the year focused on how to develop rituals to boost resiliency and find moments of calm or joy in the midst of this challenging time. As I reflect on this year and my gratitude for what I have and the year that has turned out far better than I’d have expected and certainly more than I’d have asked for, I realize that a great deal of this perspective is due to two things. First, I have been truly lucky and thankful for the grace I’ve found this year. Second, I’ve been practicing meditation for three years now and the equanimity it has afforded me has changed how I approach such challenges.

For those familiar with the Buddhist tradition you may have heard of the “Middle Path.” For many it embodies the idea of balance or to consume or engage in all things in moderation. For me, a few deeper layers of meaning have helped me navigate 2020 and I’d love to share the experience with you.

Please note that I am by no means a scholar or expert in this topic. I practice a form of meditation that teaches you to learn from your own experience. Therefore, what I share is based exclusively on my own experience and learning. Hence, it is fairly individualistic. If anything, I urge you to find your path as well and experience, reflect, and learn and adapt. Your middle path probably will not look like the one I traverse, but that’s okay, the point is to find your middle based on your experience.

For me, the idea of the middle path embodies the concept that neither extreme suffices. This includes pre-eminently attachment to any of the ever-changing things in the world. Just as we are changing, growing, learning, so does that that around us change at both the physical, material level and the microscopic level. Our job then is to explore these changing phenomena and to understand this as reality without attachment. This might sound like disillusionment or detachment, but this is where the middle path (for me) comes into play. It is to engage a curiosity and learning and to live fully in each moment, knowing that it will pass and that this is simply an experience. It is to live wholly but without desire that this reality continue nor distaste that it should end or despair that it will. All those emotions and reactions are futile in that whatever we experience will undoubtedly change but more importantly take us out of the moment, leaving us living in either the past or the future, and therefore failing to truly learn from the now.