Well here we are at the end of 2021 and still in a time of uncertainty with the pandemic raging. Who would ever have thought that in our lifetime we would encounter a pandemic? Nevertheless, two years on we may be going into fresh restrictions as a way of keeping us and others safe.

It’s definitely a time of uncertainty and uncertainty brings it own stress. There is a wonderful zen saying: “When everything is uncertain. Everything that is important becomes clear."

I have found this to be true for me during these troubled times. It’s as if my inner compass has been reset to guide me through this time and equip me with the knowledge of knowing what to do as we live from day to day. The priority of course is to keep ourselves safe and in doing so keep others safe. If ever there was a time for mindfulness practice, it’s now.

Mindfulness practice enables us to tap into our inner rich reservoir of resilience that guides us through uncertainty. In the words of the great Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”

My zen teacher, Ryushin Paul Haller (an Andytown man exiled in San Francisco at the Zen centre there) has taught me that when we practice mindfulness we sit with 'don’t know mind'. For me this is humbling as I’ve discovered that I truly don’t know and this opens up new possibilities. This moment has never happened before and this moment is blessed with new ways of navigating uncertainty.

Let’s begin by congratulating ourselves for getting this far. Let’s take this holiday season to rest and digest as we prepare for 2022. I know that my New Year resolution is to deepen my mindfulness practice so that I can be of benefit to others, by being a bit kinder, more thoughtful, and compassionate.

I’m going to take better care of myself and enjoy the simple things, like walking and bathing in nature. I find that a good walk clears my head and refreshes me. I love going for a walk along the Lagan towpath to be amazed by the wildlife. The grey heron, the majestic kingfisher in all its vibrant colours, and much, much more.

The very colours of the trees bring an ease to my eyes, the fresh air clears my lungs, and the moving water tells me that life flows. As we have just celebrated the winter solstice we know that a new year is born as we say goodbye to the old and embrace the new beginning.

As a New Year's pick-up to get your year off to a mindful start, here's one of my favourite poems by Mary Oliver.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?