A new year or just a new calendar?

Written by Lorenzo Colombo - Co-founder of Soulful Soundwaves

On New Year’s Eve, many years ago, my family was gathered around the table having dinner to celebrate the advent of the new year. Two thirds of the family were there, my parents and my sister, my uncle and aunty with my cousins, my grandfather, and my granduncle and grandaunt. I was just a kid back then, and that to me was the definition of a proper party.

Midnight finally comes and everybody gets excited, standing up and toasting to a prosperous new year. It’s just a tradition, but in the eyes of a young boy we looked truly happy without a reason in the world not to get carried away and enjoy this moment. The only one who was not merry at all was my granduncle Aldo, a little wise man with white hair, looking at the rest of the family through his thick glasses in a disenchanted way. Feeling my stare, he turned and explained to me: “Don’t get fooled. This is not the beginning of a new year, it’s just the beginning of a new calendar.” 

This phrase stuck with me for a long time. It made perfect sense, as I didn’t know back then that this kind of mentality is just a result of a common mindset. Meaning it’s not objectively true, it’s just the way you see things. But at the same time it was quite frightening. Can you make tomorrow better than today, or is it going to be just another number on the calendar to be ticked off, disappearing in the dust of time in the same way so many others did before? Being completely honest, can we turn around to the year just passed and count the days that have being really meaningful, that are going to be worth remembering ten years from now? I’m not talking about a birthday party, a ceremony for a diploma, or a celebration for a new job. How many times did we make a difference this past year?

Tomorrow is certainly going to be just another day in the calendar if we don’t understand how our mind works. Kevin Niv Farrow (author, educator, practitioner and researcher) explains it in this way: “When we get angry, our mind does everything possible to get us into that state permanently. If we get sad, our mind helps us to live in sadness. No matter which emotion we feel, our wish fulfilment mind will help us to live there. The strategies of the mind include altering our breathing patterns to facilitate a faster development of the desired emotion as well as getting us to assume particular physical postures such as slouching to lock it in. The mind changes also alters the body’s neuro-transmitters to chemically hook us into that emotion, as well as having the loop of mind energy come back to the same topic again and again to reinforce the feeling.”

How many times does this happen in a day? Countless. So many times that we don’t even realise. And this is the reason why the more we get used to seeing things a certain way, the more we feel unable to change. As if we were “made” like this. That’s precisely what people usually tell themselves when they feel like it’s impossible for them to achieve something. People usually identify the process of getting old as a physical issue. To me it has more to do with our mentality. Growing old is getting used to things, convincing ourselves they are never going to change and therefore creating our own mind cage. On the contrary, growing up is an endless process where we constantly keep on learning about ourselves, and we get our mind used to adapting to different contexts. When I look around I see “young” men and women giving up things before they try because they think they are “not made for it.” On the other hand, I see people of a certain age with a curious, sharp, clear mind who’ve never got tired of challenging themselves. Don’t give up on yourself, and not just because you are important. Every single one of us is not better or worse than anybody else, but we have the power to help each other. Wasting this gift is the worst sin of all.

Observe the way your breath changes when you get anxious, angry, scared. As soon as your emotions come up try to analyse the way your breath has become different. It’s not an intuitive thing to do, but it gets better with practice. Meditation and listening to binaural beats are just two techniques we can use to monitor our breathing regularly. When we get used to our relaxed breathing, it’s easier to identify different, irregular patterns. These practices also allow us to enhance the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, making us feel more detached and less opinionated and judgemental.

So the real question is: are we going to grow up, this year, or are we just going to grow old?

New year or new calendar?