In anticipation of Christmas it's important for me to pause for a moment and consider the meaning of the holiday, and to clarify my hopes and intentions. I consciously open my heart to let the love in. I become willing to receive gracefully and to give without expectations. I invite joy and hospitality and patience and grace into my being. I welcome the songs and the lights and the presents and good food. I express gratitude for my family, and the people who love me, and for the people who I love. I pray for good humor and serenity, and to be an instrument of peace. I vow to let be what is, and to let the day and the week unfold as it will, free from my interference, and free from my complaint. I welcome Christmas and the whole range of emotions that it brings. I welcome it absolutely and with joy.
I open my heart and my spirit to the grateful loving energy of Christmas.
Subtle but powerful energy runs through us and around us. If we could see it, it might appear like heat waves over a desert highway in the summertime; sometimes smooth and flowing like a wide river, and sometimes choppy like whitecaps. Our personal energy, and the energy of those around us, can be radiant or diminished, clear or cloudy, loving or vengeful, hot or cool. It is constantly shifting. Laughter shifts it, as does anger, exercise, food, conversation, stress, delight, and all of the vagary currents of life. This energy affects us deeply, every day, in every way, even if we are not necessarily aware of it. It is this subtle energy that we feel when we are suspicious of someone, or repelled by them, attracted, or calmed.
I believe it's an important part of our life journey to bring consciousness to the presence of this energy in ourselves, in others, in nature, and in everything living in the world. We can raise our sensitivity to it. We can check in with it inside of ourselves and feel it buzzing and tingling, or flat and lacking inspiration.
This subtle energy, the life-force energy, call it "chi" or "prana" or whatever you will, I understand to be the manifestation of the divine within us, and as such, there may be nothing more valuable that we could turn our attention to- not finances or clothing or being right. Let's experience it in all of its flavors and colors! Let's awaken to the experience of the living life force within us!
I feel energy within me and in others. I feel it shift and move. I pay attention. I am awake and aware.
How can we possibly feel happy if someone we love is suffering? It feels like the worst kind of betrayal. We are sure that we too must suffer, and we do. But perhaps, we do not truly honor them by piggy-backing on their hard time. Perhaps, the best way to demonstrate our compassion is by remaining solid in our peace and love, by continuing to enjoy the pleasures life affords us, and by being present- absolutely and completely present- to listen, or entertain, or just to sit; to not become so flustered and discombobulated ourselves that we cannot be of service.
When people we love have lost their anchor and are bobbing around unsure, the thing they need is not for us to pull up our own anchor and bob about with them in sympathy, but to stay rooted and reach out.
I respond to the suffereing of others with earthed energy. I do not react with impulsive fears and frenzies that match their own.
I acknowledge the sorrow in life as well as its joys. For every heartful of gratitude and grace, there is an equal portion of hardship and loss. They exist together like the rises and dips of waves. And we all experience both and will again. We all have our share of happiness and grief.
And yet, even as we experience the flooding swells of sadness for ourselves and the ones we love as we travel the path of loss, there is a certain somber beauty in the experience. And mixed with our ecstatic joy is a soft but lingering sorrow. And just as the deep ache of our primal grief feels as if it will consume us utterly, it recedes like the tide. And joy fills us up so that we feel we will always be full with it, and then it empties. Both of them ebb and flow and life goes on.
Over time, the rushing surges of grief become more gradual, and we learn to assimilate our losses. But it's important to recognize that we are sad still in subtle ways, for all of the myriad of our accumulated grief, and that our sadness has a place in us. It cannot be pushed out with forced gaiety or affirmations or cheer. It recedes, and joy floods forth. And today's bursting joy becomes dull and foggy, but the echo of it lives on in us and has its place. Both of them come and go, and come and go. Joy rises and sadness recedes, and then sadness rises. In the experience of one is the shadow of the other. And each have their part in the rhythm of life.
I honor the sadness in me as well as the joy. Together they make me whole.
I have some ability to manage my level of physical resilience with my mind and the thoughts that I think. Recently, I have been kneeling to stretch my clients on the new gym floor which is ridiculously hard, even with padding for protection. The hardness has felt like a personal affront to me and I have been resisting it in every way. It doesn't make sense to me that a floor in a gym should be so hard, but it is, and there's nothing I can do about it being that way. Stubbornly, I have not altered my routine at all, thinking I can somehow force it to be comfortable. Not surprisingly, my knees have been bothering me, and I have righteously blamed my pain on the wretched floor.
And then, yesterday, it occurred to me, as I watched someone my age doing explosive jumps on the same floor, that maybe my knees could handle it after all, and that maybe they were tougher than I thought. I realized suddenly that I was being a bit precious about them... and other things too lately- my elbows and hips- certain muscles. I have been a bit of a scaredy-cat about hurting myself and feeling potential pain.
So I made a mental decision to toughen up, to trust my knees to be ok, and to trust my body to do the work I have trained it to do. I have put in the time and effort to build physical strength in myself, and balance, and flexibility, and endurance. And then lately, like a guy who owns a muscle-car and always keeps it in the garage covered with a cloth, I have been afraid to drive.
But I need not be. It's my mind stopping me more than my body. I am ok, and the floor and my knees and elbows and all of it are ok. And here's the proof: as soon as I made the decision to trust my knees on the hard floor, they stopped hurting. So how about that? The thoughts I have about my body can be a powerful ally, or my worst enemy. I need to remember that I have a choice.
I stop talking myself into physical aches and pains and trust my body to be well.
In our fast-paced, achievement-driven culture, I think we regularly undervalue the feminine. We're all about the masculine virtues of action and pride, of pushing and striving and manifesting, and not so much about the soft and quiet, the under-spoken and gentle, the compassionate and intuitive. When considering these attributes, I am not thinking about men and women, per se, but more about the combination of masculine and feminine energy that resides in each of us. As a culture, we are more about the masculine, for both sexes, and I believe that our devaluation of the feminine is a great loss for us all.
Let's lose our hard edges and allow ourselves to be gentle, both with ourselves, and others. Let's be nurturing. Let's wrap ourselves up with love and good mothering and the wisdom of the crone. Let's give birth to ourselves fresh in the coming new year and encourage our own stumbling first steps. Let's embrace feminine fortitude, for there is something strong and resilient in us that is different from our active, masculine strength if we will only call upon it. It is deep and quiet and life-sustaining. Let's be balanced and whole and remember that we are all made beautifully of both yin and yang. We are not one or the other exclusively. We are illumined and shadowy, active and receptive, male and female. We are the perfect combination, and the perfect mix.
I value the quiet and enduring feminine energy in me, and in the world. I slow down and embrace what is soft in me, and gentle, what is intuitive, and endlessly compassionate.
Our inability to understand the future rippling effect of a horrific happening that we are currently enduring is a liability to our gratitude. But the truth is that things always work out somehow, and that what seems initially bad often ends up being good. We grow through our adversities. They make us stretch and become right sized in relationship to the universal mystery. And our scar tissue is exceptionally strong.
In my life, events that I was sure were the worst possible thing have turned out to be great blessings, and the most difficult people have been my best teachers. If I were to consider what is happening now in my life, whatever it may be, by my understanding of the way things have turned out in the past, I would have no fear. I would be full of trusting curiosity. But I'm not, or not always. I seem to revert to an expectation of punishment and disaster.
I want to become ever more grounded and solid in the faith that all is well, and all is always well, and happening on time, and for a reason, and that it's all going to be just what it's supposed to be. If it's tough, if it's dark, if it feels impossible, then what blessing! I will grow in depth. I want to have the gratitude while it's happening instead of only in the looking back. I want to have that kind of faith and that kind of trust. I want to know and believe all the way down to my core that whatever happens is going to be ok, and going to be ok with me. I want to trust the process beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I catch myself freaking out over something that's going on in my life and remember that all is happening exactly as it's supposed to and right on time. I am willing to be ok with things the way they are.
The longer I live, the sillier the whole human experience strikes me. We judge others pretending we have not done exactly the same thing we condemn, or forgetting that we have. We trip and fumble all the time, in a myriad of ways, and yet we pull ourselves up and act as if we have never stumbled at all. We worry fretfully over the future as if our worrying will give us control. We do not admit to our crazy thinking or to any darkness within us. We take ourselves seriously and put on quite a good show.
Being able to laugh at ourselves and at life may be one of the most important features of a satisfying life experience. It's vitalizing to call a spade a spade, and to be able to smile at our futile efforts and social posturing, our fragile egos, our false prides, and our false humilities. It seems to me that authentic living has to include a sense of humor. Without one we are kidding ourselves that we have more importance in the world than we actually have.
I do believe it's true, however, that our power runs deeper than we know and in ways that we rarely acknowledge. And that it's not about running companies or controlling a fortune or being famous or loud, but about having a spiritual aliveness inside of us that reaches beyond the level of human experience and human drama, and is pure light and tingling energy. It functions against all odds and thrives in the most unlikely of places. It's in laughter and smiles and surrender to the mysteries of life. It's letting them be what they are and not needing to push and shove and force our half-blind will.
It's the power of love, and it's easy and gentle light demands nothing of us. It flows through us and frees us from rigidity and heavy, serious living... if we will only open to it, if we will only let it flow through our laughter and our bright eyes.
I acknowledge and enjoy my part in the silliness of human drama.
Being hungry makes me edgy and internally restless, and too much coffee does the same thing. Sometimes I am unaware of what's wrong with me; only that I feel crawly and emotionally itchy. I want to squirm and stretch. Lingering in the background is an urgency, a desire to be somewhere other than I am. It's a bit desperate and a bit exasperated.
It's incredible to me that all of the discomfort that I feel can be corrected by eating something, or by drinking a great big glass of water. But if I do not connect the dots, and do not understand what is going on with me, my restlessness can utterly overtake me such that I snap. Keeping a tab on my blood sugar and caffeine levels is a must if I want to feel calm.
I don't go too long without eating or over-drink coffee. I maintain a healthy blood sugar balance so that I can remain steady emotionally no matter what life throws at me.
It's easy to get caught up in a moment and make allowances for things without properly considering the cost of our choice. We make a split-second decision to act against our better judgment, figuring that just this one time, surely, it can't hurt. We have a sense of being invincible- that we can lift something ridiculously heavy, or stay up all night, or get soaking wet in freezing weather with no way to dry off, or over-eat desserts.
But the piper comes and he always demands his pay. It may seem that we have "gotten away" with something, that we have skirted through completely free of negative consequence. We feel smug and righteous. So no one is more surprised than we are when the bill comes and the dues have to be paid. We wonder how it happened. We feel unhappy and full of regret. We thought we had escaped. We thought we had gotten off scott free. Sometimes it's sooner and sometimes later, but the dues for our choices always have to be paid in the end.
Let's refrain from impulsive action and remember that for every decision we make there is a consequence. Poor decisions exact a high cost.
I am uncomfortable when I am mentally scattered. A lack of focus makes me inefficient. I begin one thing, intending to have it be simple, and then it leads to something else and something else. What starts as sweeping the kitchen foor becomes a whole house overhaul- changing beds and doing volumes of laundry and dusting and decorating... and all the while, the plan I had for my time has gotten derailed and I feel frazzled for not doing what I had set out to do, and a bit of panic as I see the clock moving onward and the day wearing away. Re-grouping becomes difficult. Half-way through multiple projects, it doesn't feel possible to just stop and start over. I have to finish what I began before I can move on.
Maybe my error is in having the initial plan. Maybe I'd feel better if I could just let the unstructured time unfold itself instead of my having to impose structure all over it. Maybe that's the lesson and the hope for emotional restoration. I can pause in all the activity and take a deep breath. I can lie down and take a nap. I can sit in the sunshine for five minutes. I can shift the energy of scatter. I can re-group internally. That's probably the only place where things are as scattered as they feel anyway. The external stuff is just stuff. I've given it power and importance that it doesn't actually hold.
I always have a choice for inner quiet, though it doesn't always feel like I have a choice. I am so good at creating little duststorms of flurried activity and mental anguish. I think I have to move faster to make it stop... that getting every single little thing done will make it stop... but the only thing is to stop me, to sit for five minutes and remember what I'm all about, and what matters. Then I can move on refreshed, and full of better, calmer, more stable energy; energy which is actually far more productive in the end.
I catch myself in an internally frantic mode and stop moving. I restore balance and perspective before I continue with my day.
Whether we admit it or not, we are all alive and living not by our wit, or even our intuition, but entirely by grace. Our lives are fragile and tentative beyond our wildest imaginations, and can be taken from us in an instant for no particularly good reason. When our time is up, it's up, and we have no control over when and how. We can eat well and exercise and take good care of ourselves, the best care we possibly can, and we might increase our chances for longevity, and we can definitely increase the quality of our lives, but death comes anyway, and sometimes under the most unlikely circumstances. Freak accidents happen everyday.
So life is a gift, and one that we cannot take for granted. It's naive to expect that we have years ahead of us in which to make better choices and pursue our dreams. We can't wait to be kind, to be forgiving, to show our love. If we want to be loving, we have to be loving now... or fit, or gentle, or well-read. This is the time- this day. This is the day we have. This is the body we have, and the life.
Let's be grateful for all that we are given, for all the blessings, and the beating of our hearts. Let's treat ourselves and everyone we encounter with appreciation. Let's treat our houses and the earth with appreciation. Let's bubble over with thanksgiving for the grace that keeps us going and allows for all possibility. Let's make the most of it. Let's wake up and enjoy the day.
I don't know about tomorrow or next week or five years from now. I appreciate this day.
We don't always have to be right in the middle of everything, all caught up in the drama and the fray. It's ok to step back and be an observer, of our own chaos as well as the chaos of others. It doesn't make us callous or unfeeling. It gives us objective perspective and a sense of humor and freedom from angst. We can be the observer of life in small ways as well as big ways. The distance and presence we create by mentally and emotionally stepping back is the key to wisdom and internal peace. It demonstrates curiosity about the nature of things and people, and a certain humility in the recognition that we don't have the power to change nearly the things we think we do.
My husband shared his stampede analogy with me yesterday, which I think speaks beautifully to this point. If a stampede is coming across the plains, we might feel an internal thrill as we puff out our chest and resolve to stand tall against it, or do whatever we have to do to survive- curl up in a ball, climb a tree, hop on the back of the traveling herd... But it's entirely possible, even though we resolve to stand up against it, that we may not be able to. It is a stampede after all. We could get flattened, or seriously injured. And what horror either way to be amongst the crush of hooves and galloping! But we could step out of the way. We could feel the distant vibration in the earth and get ourselves to high ground. And from there, we could watch with fascination and relief.
Just so, we have a choice whether to participate in emotional stampedes with our families and friends and the people who populate our worlds; and to participate in our own mental stampedes of worry and fear. We can move to high ground. We can watch and wait and be curious. From high ground we can see when the danger has passed and it's safe again to move around.
I am willing to be an observer of life's drama, and my own. I can step back and watch and wait. I don't have to be in the middle of it all pushing against the fray.
"Yes, but" are slippery words. We agree to something with reservations. If there is a "but" clause, perhaps we had just better say "no" instead. We want to have it both ways by saying yes with conditions, but that's not entirely straight up. Yes is a complete sentence and a complete thought. So is no. If our "yes" or our "no" is actually a "maybe," we need to say so.
The "but" caveat is our allowance to whine, to complain, to make sure it's known that we are willing to do something but we are not happy about it. There's a "poor me" echo in "yes, but." It's dishonest in a way. It's not a real yes.
The world is confusing because we are all so frequently unclear about our meaning. We tell people what we think they want to hear instead of telling them the truth. Let's bring awareness and care to what we are saying. Let's say "yes" when we mean "yes," and "no" when we mean "no." It sounds simple but it's not. We confuse the two all the time, and end up bitter and resentful. We feel used and misunderstood, but the error is in us. We have to be careful not to send mixed messages.
I avoid saying "yes, but." I say "yes" instead, or "no," or "maybe." I bring awareness to the words I use and I say what I mean.
I used to hate Christmas. There were always things about it that I enjoyed, but they were trumped by the incredible pressure I felt over so much to do. I have twins that were born December 28th, so when they were young I felt the need to do Gala Birthday parties in addition to Christmas, and to send cards to practically everyone I'd ever known, and bake cookies and decorate them meticulously, and hand-make presents, and orchestrate enormous and complicated surprises for everyone on my list. By the time I got to New Years I was a shell of myself- pushed beyond every reasonable limit- fat, exhausted, and utterly sick of celebrating. I used to gripe about the commercialism and the crowds, the music and decorations coming too entirely early, and I felt irritated by all kinds of things to do with Christmas. I took on a kind of poor-me martyr role over all of my self-imposed have-tos.
I always wanted to simplify things, but I never knew how. I didn't want to disappoint anyone so I overdid on every front. But as my children have grown, and I have grown up a bit myself, I am learning to welcome the soft beauty of Christmas, and feel the festivity of the music, and lights, and decorations, without any of the old pressure.
If I slow down enough to feel and appreciate it, this is a magical time of year. And what we are celebrating after all is the birth of love and forgiveness in our world. What joy in that! And I truly enjoy all of the Christmas songs and age-old hymns, the lights, the pretty wrappings and ribbons, the colors of Christmas and the good food and traditions. It's a sensational feast every day of the month. Christmas is not just a day, it's a season. Let's be joyful and playful and patient and appreciative for the whole thing! Let's not miss any of it with pressure or angst. Let's go with the flow and enjoy every bit of the ride.
I feel the spirit of Christmas within me, and carry it there every day of the season. I am filled up with love!
Some mornings I pop out of bed full of energy and ready for the adventure of the day. Other mornings come less easily. It is an effort to get up and get moving. I'm like a fire that has gone a bit too far into the ember stage overnight, and requires extra twigs and billowing to re-ignite. And like the fire, there is a bit of smokiness at first, and stubborn refusal to burst forth. But eventually, the flame rises and the smoke receeds and I am off and running yet again.
When motivation is lacking, the only approach I know is to keep on moving, to go through the go through, to do the next right thing, and then the next, the best I can, even if my brain is murky, even if my muscles ache. And inevitably, the spirit engages, and energy rises within, and I warm into the day in stages, until I feel fully alive and happy yet again.
If the day comes at me hard, I just go through the motions, and trust the momentum of my movement to carry the spirit, until the spirit can take over and carry the day.
The routine of days carries us onward like leaves floating down a creek-flow. We end up down-river and wonder how we got there so soon. I worry sometimes about running out of time. I want to live consciously, and with care, savoring every moment, but there is so much I want to do. Between my work and my wants I can end up over-full of life. There's such a vast path of possibility.
It's a real challenge to learn how to determine what matters most and then to properly prioritize my hours. And to focus on the task at hand without feeling frazzled about the tasks awaiting; and making time for relaxation and laughter and good eating and exercise and intellectual stimulation and walks in the outdoors.
The limits of time make me choose my priorities everyday, and I must properly balance between choosing to do for others, and choosing to do for myself. I need to be supportive and loving, but I cannot allow myself to be sucked dry. In giving of myself, I need to recognize what is enough, and what is too much. I'm good at "too much." It's always been my forte. I am an over-achiever from way back. I'm not so good at "just enough." I can get easily depleted if I am not careful.
Understanding that I have to prioritize taking good care of myself has been a long time coming, but I am starting to appreciate why. If I am a disaster, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or physically, then I am spilling disastrous energy into the world. But if I am properly fed and rested and steady in the knowledge that I can trust myself to care for myself, then I am spreading steady and trustworthy energy. And that's what I prefer to do.
An important part of my self-care is not rushing, and not worrying, and believing absolutely that there is time. There is time for others and time for myself, and time for work, and time for play; for dreams and achievement and lounging and sleep, for books and movies and conversation and the news; for changing moods and singing for joy, for hugs and travel and tears and faith. There is time enough for everything that matters.
I relax about having enough time for the things I want to do and the things I need to do, and for doing nothing. I enjoy the flow of days and seasons.
It's ok to change our minds. Judgments are subjective so they are meant to be dynamic, and fluid. What appears at first to be idyllic and beautiful can turn sour, and what appears sour can become beautiful. Very few things and people end up being the way they initially appear to us.
Our error may be in trying to hold fast to old judgments that no longer apply. The world is ever-changing and so are we and so are others. But we seem to resist that fact, and insist upon our certainties. We insist upon our beliefs. We make assumptions that the present situation will be the same way something similar was in the past, and affect us the same way. But it doesn't, even though we might react as if it does. And we assume people will be the same way they were in the past as well, but people can change too, and soften over time.... or harden. Perhaps life cycles around in the way it does in order to show us exactly how we have changed, for the better or the worse, if we are aware enough to even notice. Everything is variable, and relative. Everything. So there's no glory or percentage in being stubborn and unbending, hard-headed and closed-minded. Strength without flexibility is breakable, and not really worth so much in the end.
I make room in my life for changing points-of-view and allow for major shifts in my judgment from one day to the next.
We live in a world populated by all kinds of sayings, and it's a mystery where some of them originated. I am thinking particularly of the expression, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." There's great wisdom in it, but who goes around these days skinning cats?
It's true though, no matter about the cats. There's more than one way to do anything. We get so caught up thinking our way is the "right way," but it's not necessarily. It may be the right way for us. But we have to allow others their creativity and particular way of seeing things, and allow for the very real possibility that they may have a fresh perspective on the situation that could be beneficial all the way around.
It's not infrequently that I find myself shutting down someone else's idea or suggestion before it has even been fully expressed. If I have a fixed picture of something in my mind, and have made a decision about the way it's going to be, I find myself closed to additional information. I want to be done with it, done with having to think about it. I have a checklist in my brain, and once I've checked something off, I don't like to revisit it. But often there is a better way than my way, and if I am open to it, I could save a lot of trouble.
It's important for me to remember that there's more than one way to skin a cat, and that being open to all possibilities and being willing to live my life in a certain state of flux allows for the best way forward. I wonder why I am always so quick to push and struggle and force things to happen without taking additional options into consideration. I seem so anxious to form my opinion, to get things done, and to shut the door. What's my big rush?
My way is not the only way, but it's the only way that I can see. I am willing to keep an open mind, and consider input from others before making a final decision. I am willing to slow down.
If there is something to do with myself, or my past, that I am unwilling to share with others, that I feel the need to keep secret, then chances are that I have feelings of shame surrounding it, whatever it is. While I need to be appropriate and it is certainly not my place to pour my historical drama and woundings all over people, in the right setting and format, if I want to experience freedom from guilt and shame, I must be willing to own who I am and what I've done and experienced- the good, the bad, and the ugly, straight-up. If I have made peace with my past, then there is no lingering emotional weight, but if I have secret, hesitating doubts, I may have some work to do.
Why do we want others to perceive us as "pure," as untainted and all-knowing, ever-stalwart and steady? We've all made bad decisions and mistakes. We've trusted the wrong people and behaved in ways that were reprehensible, sometimes towards ourselves, and sometimes towards others. We've embarrassed ourselves, spoken when we should have remained quiet, thrown our energy in all the wrong places, been jealous, resentful, unsure, and riddled with doubt. These are the things that make us human. If we admit to them, we relate easily to others, and others to us. We can laugh at our own riduculousness. But if we keep our foibles locked up secretly inside of us, shamefully, and make the assumption that everyone else is white as snow and we alone are wrong and bad and fallible, we isolate ourselves un-necessarily.
Let's be honest about ourselves as whole people, and be ok with ouselves as we are, with all of our imperfections and limitations, and all of our past wrong-doings and crazy thoughts. Let's accept ourselves and stand square on the earth, as we are, with no guilt and no shame. Let's unburden ourselves of secrets from the past, and live free and clear and in the light of right here and right now.
Keeping secrets makes me feel shameful and sick. I have the courage to share my whole self with others. My being honest gives them permission to be honest too. We all make mistakes. That's what we are supposed to do. It's how we learn.