Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 31: NEW YEAR


Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is NEW YEAR. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.

All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD! 

Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world.  The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority. 

Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!

Opening Meditation
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:

O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of mind and body so that we may learn the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen.

The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.

Opening Thoughts
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.

The New Year calls for celebration because we are alive in it. The New Year also calls for reflection because the race is still on. Where have we been? What have we done? What has changed in our lives? What remains to be changed in our lives? What is our vision of the end? What could we do to reach there? For some of you it may be the first time to reflect on these questions but it is never too late to do so. The important thing to note this year is that your life on earth is limited and this is the time to seriously think about your life with the end in mind!

Famous Quotes
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote.  Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.

1 Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man. Benjamin Franklin
2 New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change. Sarah Ban Breathnach
3 Make New Year's goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you're interested in fully living life in the year to come. Melody Beattie
4 The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals. Melody Beattie

5 Whether we want them or not, the New Year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the New Year will bring new opportunities. Michael Josephson
6 We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. Edith Lovejoy Pierce
7 One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. John Burroughs
8 I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's. Henry Moore
9 Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. Thomas Mann
10 A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other. Author Unknown

Sacred Texts Quotes
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found. 

1 " For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Judaism: The Tanakh: Jeremiah 29:11
2. You should devote yourselves to find joy in pleasures of the Dharma, and should take no pleasure in desires. Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 4
3. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Judaism: The Tanakh: Isaiah 41:10
4 O let us live in joy, in love amongst those who hate! Among men who hate let us live in love. Buddhism: Dhammapada 15:197
5 To seek gladness through righteous persistence is the way to accord with heaven and to respond to men. Confucianism. I Ching 58
6  When a man finds his existence and unity in the SELF-who is the basis of life, who is beyond the senses, who is formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates-then alone does he transcend fear. Hinduism: Taittiriya Updanishad
7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Christianity: New Terstament: 1 Peter 5:6-7
8 But those who put their hope in the Lord shall renew [their] vigor, they shall raise wings as eagles; they shall run and not weary, they shall walk and not tire. Judaism: The Tanakh: Isaiah 40:31
9 The Infinite is the source of joy. There is no joy in the finite. Only in the Infinite is there joy. Ask to know the Infinite. Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 7.23
10 He has made everything beautiful in its time; also the [wisdom of] the world He put into their hearts, save that man should not find the deed which God did, from beginning to end. Judaism: The Tanakh: Ecclesiastes 3:11
11 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof. Christianity: New Testament: Matthew 6:33-34
12 Did I not command you, be strong and have courage, do not fear and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Judaism: The Tanakh, Joshua 1:9

Teaching Story
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?

“Jesus and the Adulterous Woman”
Once upon a time Jesus went to the temple and he taught the people who came to meet him. Meanwhile the Scribes and the Pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Jesus. They told him that the woman was caught in an adulterous act and that according to the Law of Moses the woman ought to be stoned to death. They wanted to know what he thought in an attempt to trap him but Jesus pretended not to have heard them and instead stooped down and began to write on the ground.

As he wrote they continued to ask the same question and at a point he lifted up himself and asked any of them without sin to throw the first stone. Jesus stooped down and began to write again. Knowing that they have all sinned they dropped their stones and left the place one after the other until only Jesus and the woman were left. When Jesus lifted up himself and saw that the woman’s accusers have all left he asked her if no one condemned her? The woman replied that no one had condemned her because they all left. “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Closing Meditation
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study.  The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.

The New Year is often seen as a day of celebration which it should be because we are alive in the New Year but the New Year is also a time for introspection, meditation, reflection and forgiveness. Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. We should be reexamining our lives every day but the New Year makes it easy. Let us look back and reflect on our accomplishments and short comings. Let us give thanks for the blessings of life and set goals, make plans for a better year. Here are a few thoughts for the New Year

  1. Health: Gradually cut down on your bad habits including drinking alcohol, smoking, using drugs, eating fast foods regularly and all the things that you consume that could affect your body adversely. You have only one finite body that is susceptible to diseases that will surely die at an appointed time. Think seriously about wellness. If you are overweight set goals to reduce your weight. If you drink alcohol set goals to be completely sober at a certain time. If you can’t help it, see a professional for help. If you are using drugs see a professional immediately. “A stitch in time saves nine”
  2. Money: Are you meeting your financial obligations? Do you have any debts? Do you have enough savings? What would happen to you financially if you stopped working today?  Do you have enough resources for your retirement? These are very important questions to consider this New Year. If you have debts, set goals to liquidate them. If you have no savings this is the time to begin to save. If you have no retirement account it is very important that you have one today. One final thought is to avoid debts at all costs this means that you should pay off your credit card purchases at each billing cycle.
  3.  Livelihood: Do you have a means of livelihood? Do you have a career? Do you have a hobby? Do you have a vocation? Are you barely surviving with your present income? If you are unemployed consider having a job today. You may not necessarily have your dream job right away but you could have any job today. Do not wait for your Unemployment benefits to end before you begin to look for a job. Look for something to earn a living while you still have your unemployment benefits. Downsize if you are barely surviving with your present level of income. It is better to be at the lowest level and be happy than to be on a pedestal with thorns. John Bunyan once said that “He that is down needs fear no fall.”

You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.

Closing Prayer
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer. You may use the sample prayer if needed.

A New Year Prayer by Dr. Sonari
O Lord who pervades the Universe;
May you bless this New Year with all the inhabitants in it!
Bless my family and friends in all their undertakings.
May you also bless my life including my work, my thoughts and my hopes!
Bless my work to produce fruits for all creatures.
Give me a thankful heart to be thankful for the things I enjoy.
Give me a generous heart to give without expecting any reward.
And give me a loving heart to love all creatures without discrimination. Amen

You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Study Program.

Talent Contribution
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a good time to share some Awakened living tips for the benefit of the group. 

Universal Spiritual Values…..
Guide us through Life.
Are timeless and endure forever.
Unite us by being the same from place to place.
Enhance our lives by pointing to the way of Life.
Give us hope through the journey of Life.
Assure us that we are not alone on this journey.
Encourage us at the cross roads of Life.
Bind the world as one people

The Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.

There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.

1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods, etc?

1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated or prayed?

1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?

1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?

1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?

1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?

1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?

1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?

1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?

Personal Development
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?

1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How often do you recycle?

1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?

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