Into the Woods

As we draw close to the ending of 2014 my inbox is full of e-mails on ideas for new years resolutions. Along with the busyness of the
holidays it seems we jump ahead to next year without a thought of consciously ending 2014. Before we turn that pBuddha-Snowage maybe we could take some time to contemplate all that we created and all that crumbled in 2014. We can also acknowledge what is dead, dying and/or about ready to die. Just like Yoga being a practice more about letting go… maybe a new year can be more about letting go… cleaning out the weeds and preparing the garden for transformation. We are often so busy moving on to the next thing that will make us “happy” that we miss out on resting in the potency of emptiness.It is hard for us to let go. We often resist change. It is scary to admit that something is ending in life. Robert Ohotto said that newyear can be a time where we examine the year ending and take some space to hang out in the emptiness.

This christmas break has been extra quiet for me so I have allowed lots of time for reflection and meditation. The yogis say that our true self, our inner nature, is full of joy and completely at peace. So if this is true how come I don’t feel this all the time. Sure I may get glimpses now and then but it is not sustained. I am realizing how my thoughts get in the way of that, how thoughts are linked to emotions and how both of these can become habits and then can obscure the present moment. Our true presence is always contented. When we can completely rest within our inner beingness it is always at peace. As I notice the patterns of thoughts I see how they are the root of my discontent. When I watch them with detached awareness it seems to lessen the emotional reaction. This is like my inner weeding. All unhappiness stems from wanting things to be different in that moment and that could not happen without a thought. I have been using a mantra inspired by Byron Katie’s work “who would I be without the thought?” and the answer I always get is “happy and free”.

I went to see the movie “Into the Woods” with my daughter, Eponine, the other day. It is a musical which is based on play with lots of fairytale antics. Deep beneath the silliness of the story is a deeper symbolism. The woods represent a place in which inner darkness is confronted. We all can make the journey inward to discover our trueself and find our inner light otherwise we’ll be lost in the woods forever. In the beginning of the story the characters are all discontented because they want something they do not have. And they each feel alone. Along the journey they discover the darker parts of each other and what they are capable of doing to get what they want. They lie, cheat, kill, and steal. But it is along this journey that they also help each other and discover their own strengths. They realize that they are not alone and together they are stronger so they can face the giant together. There is song in the movie which goes like this: “ Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods. Do not let it grieve you, no one leaves for good. You are not alone. No one is alone.”

It is in hardships that we may discover our weaknesses but we can also cultivate inner strength and contentment. We can all have desires and dreams but we also need to be mindful for what we wish for as it just might come true. Just like another song in the movie: “…careful the spell you cast….Sometimes a spell may last…Careful the tale you tell. That is the spell.” So what story of thoughts are you listening to. As Byron Katie says “Is it true?” What story do you want to create for your own life? 

What the yoga masters tell us is that in our ignorance we can easily spiral into discontent. In that place, things become distorted, and we become victims of our thoughts and feelings. What to do? When we feel alone in the woods we can focus on our inner light and beingness. When you find yourself getting lost in the dark, simply shift your attention to your breath and come back to yourself, your center. Remember you are not your thoughts, although that can affect your peace of mind. Making time to discern your inner garden and rest in the spaciousness, you will journey towards the inner light of wisdom, peacefulness and joy!


  1. Julie Sorhaitz says:

    Nienke, This post really spoke to me. While I want to approach New Year’s celebrations with only hope and joy, there is often some lingering melancholy and unsettled-ness. After reading this, this year I have chosen to acknowledge all of that and hang in the moment between what is done and what will be. Thank you for this and happy old and new year!

    • When we can witness and accept what is in the moment exactly as it shows up, then it is possible to remember our inner beingness / inner presence that is always at peace and is always free… and the biproduct of that is happiness. Julie, may your New Year be Happy and Free. Namaste

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