A New Day

Some­where in the vast­nesses of the In­ter­net and the al­most equally im­pen­e­tra­ble thicket of my book­mark col­lec­tion, there is a post by some­one who was learn­ing Zen med­i­ta­tion...

Some­one who was sur­prised by how many of the thoughts that crossed his mind, as he tried to med­i­tate, were old thoughts—thoughts he had thunk many times be­fore. He was suc­cess­ful in ban­ish­ing these old thoughts, but did he suc­ceed in med­i­tat­ing? No; once the com­fortable rou­tine thoughts were ban­ished, new and in­ter­est­ing and more dis­tract­ing thoughts be­gan to cross his mind in­stead.

I was struck, on read­ing this, how much of my life I had al­lowed to fall into rou­tine pat­terns. Once you ac­tu­ally see that, it takes on a night­mar­ish qual­ity: You can imag­ine your frac­tion of nov­elty diminish­ing and diminish­ing, so slowly you never take alarm, un­til fi­nally you spend un­til the end of time watch­ing the same videos over and over again, and think­ing the same thoughts each time.

Some­time in the next week—Jan­uary 1st if you have that available, or maybe Jan­uary 3rd or 4th if the week­end is more con­ve­nient—I sug­gest you hold a New Day, where you don’t do any­thing old.

Don’t read any book you’ve read be­fore. Don’t read any au­thor you’ve read be­fore. Don’t visit any web­site you’ve vis­ited be­fore. Don’t play any game you’ve played be­fore. Don’t listen to fa­mil­iar mu­sic that you already know you’ll like. If you go on a walk, walk along a new path even if you have to drive to a differ­ent part of the city for your walk. Don’t go to any restau­rant you’ve been to be­fore, or­der a dish that you haven’t had be­fore. Talk to new peo­ple (even if you have to find them in an IRC chan­nel) about some­thing you don’t spend much time dis­cussing.

And most of all, if you be­come aware of your­self mus­ing on any thought you’ve thunk be­fore, then muse on some­thing else. Re­hearse no old grievances, re­play no old fan­tasies.

If it works, you could make it a holi­day tra­di­tion, and do it ev­ery New Year.