Chinese New Year began February 8, 2016. It’s the year of the monkey. Which could be bad news – according to some Chinese tradition – if you were born in an earlier year of the monkey. Monkey years come every 12 years: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, etc. So check your birth year and see if 2016 is the time for you to be monkeying around or watching your back.
The Tibetan New Year (Losar in Tibetan) comes at the same time as the Chinese New Year and is a big Hoo-Hah (Party in English.) Easily the biggest Hoo-Hah of the year. Yes! Buddhists know how to Hoo-Hah! Unlike New Years celebrations in the U.S., Losar lasts at least three days and up to 15 days for the die-hards. In U.S., the New Years Eve party usually ends about 1 am with die-hards making it till dawn, the following day spent taking aspirin, making apologies and trying to find your cell phone and left shoe.
Now, with a religion as old as Buddhism and a country as old as Tibet, you’re going to have a lot of stories, traditions and different ways to Hoo-Hah. There is one tradition that comes through the Shambhala Community (Shambhala.org) which says that the days leading up to Losar are called “Don Season.” (pronounced dooun) during which the universe conspires to turn your life into a poop panini. Dons are expressions of confusion, sickness and discord. They can manifest themselves anywhere from a) stubbing your toe at night on the way to the bathroom to b) locking your keys in the car with the car running to c) having bean-taco-inspired flatulence on your first date with a hottie to d) being forced into watching a televised political debate. You’ve heard astrologers babble about “Mercury-in-retrograde?” Dons are Mercury-in-retrograde-on-steroids.
But, fear not, O Ye of Little Faith! There is a rhyme – if not a reason – to Dons. The rhyme is an aide memoire that life can be a booger. A big, crusty, lumpy, messy booger. And Don season might just be one way the universe reminds us to pay attention. Or, in Buddhist lingo, to be mindful and aware.
When we call the Four Directions at Jubilee! we always ask the bitter North Winds – the winds of pain, suffering, doubt and fear – to teach us wisdom, open us to compassion and remind us of infinite and unstoppable love.
But we ain’t gonna get no wisdom – ain’t gonna learn nuthin’, Lil’ Buckaroo, if all we do is curse the darkness. Wail about how life is unfair. And why me? Whether we’re calling the Directions or celebrating Don Season, the point is to learn something from the crap that gets dumped on us and the crap we continually dump on ourselves. Paying attention might involve a long, seated meditation or could be a walk in the woods. Or playing with a dog or cooking a good meal with a friend. Or writing in a journal or writing a poem or telling a long-lost friend that you love them or making love with a long-loved lover. The point is simply to slow down and pay attention.
That, for the Buddhist is the way to start a new year. Because, once you’ve transformed the dookey-doop into lessons for living, you’ve opened the door to newness with no dookey-doop blocking the way. (Dookey-Doop is not, by the way, a Tibetan or Chinese term. It’s much older than that.)
The truth, of course, is that every day begins a new year. No matter what anyone’s calendar touts, each and every day begins a new period in your life and in the life of the world. So, it might not be a bad idea to spend a bit of time here and there with your own little Don season – a little time to pay attention and allow the dookey-doop in your life to teach you something. And right along with that, it’s good to remember that everyone else – make that everyone else has their own dookey doop. And a little love, forgiveness and compassion can go a long way.