A Fresh Start

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One time, I went on a three-day retreat run by a Buddhist community. It was held in a quiet spot next to a mountain range, in a grand old stone building.

We sat in meditation for long periods, talked in small groups, and at breaks drank cup after cup of fragrant hot tea.

There were about thirty people there, not counting a few monks and volunteers. We all had our own reasons for being there. Some wanted to find calm and peace, others thought this weekend part of their spiritual journey and some were just curious.

Whenever we were on a break and stretching our legs, an older monk would come by with a steaming pot of tea. We’d hold out our small white cup and he’d pour. Every time he’d pour he’d say, “fresh start.” Pour some more, “fresh start.”

At the end of the retreat, he was asked by someone to say a few words. So this tea-pouring monk with a wispy beard and an accent I couldn’t place stood on a podium which was little more than a wooden crate of apples turned upside down.

“My message is very brief,” he said. “Every day, we have fresh start. Every time you wake up from sleep, every day the sun comes up, you have another chance. A fresh start. Use it, please. Fresh start, that’s all.”

He did a little bow, and he walked off. For whatever reason then, and now, his “fresh start” talk resonated with me. Maybe it’s because I’ve made so many mistakes, I feel thinking of a fresh start is something I can embrace.

I look at the first day of a new year and say, here it is. Fresh start. What did I do last year? What is fulfilling at all? How do I want this year to be? If nothing else, I get another shot at it, and I honor that and feel fortunate.

The start of a new month is a fresh start. Every week is a fresh start — and so is every day.

So today is a fresh start. I thought of one thing I could do today, just one little thing I could do to make me feel like I did something to honor this “fresh start” mindset. I settled on this: no soda, but every Friday evening, I’ll treat myself to one special glass of scotch.

How about you?

-Michael Wilcox


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