The start of a new year is a time for new beginnings but also for endings. We usually think of this in terms of the end of one year and the start of the next, or the bringing old and unhelpful habits to an end and starting to develop new and healthier ways of being. I’d like to share with you, however, a practice of starting and finishing that I’ve found very
helpful, if challenging at times. I came across it in a book called Life with Full Attention (by Maitreyabandhu, pub. Windhorse), in the chapter on Day-to-Day Mindfulness. The practice is, quite simply, to finish what you start, or to put it another way, to complete your cycles. This means seeing your actions through, for example, putting the milk back in the fridge, washing dishes you’ve used, cleaning the shower after using it, finishing the tasks you started. When you do this, you’re demonstrating an awareness of the consequences of your unfinished sequence of actions on others. So, for example, if you just place a used cup in the sink, someone else has to wash it and dry it and put it away.
It also has an effect on your own peace of mind, in that we feel less pressured by the thoughts of myriad uncompleted tasks. When I started this practice, I was taken aback by how scattered my attention was. I would start to put away laundry, for example, remember a text I meant to send, which would lead to some other task and so on, and only a while later would I remember that the rest of the laundry hadn’t been put away! It took effort to follow through completely on each task, but now that it’s become more habitual, I find that I feel less pressured by time and have the sense of getting more things done. It’s also a very good example of how much effect the little, everyday things can have on us. Forgetting things and feeling pressured can make us irritable, which has consequences too for the
people around us, so anything that helps to reduce that will also have a positive effect on ourselves and others.
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