FINDING PEACE IN CHAOS ~ 12-1-17

As we move into the holiday season, once again I’ve decided rather than dread the darkness of winter I will invite it into my life as I would an old friend. While this time of year can feel heavy and dank, I have noticed that it is also embedded with tremendous opportunity. The most wonderous thing about it, especially these weeks leading up to the Solstice, is that the veil between worlds is thin. In my imagination I see it as a beautiful silvery mist that undulates between us and what lies beyond. If I listen deeply I can hear the voices of the ancestors and the spirits of those across the mist, and I’m often given precious guidance and always receive great love during these moments.

I love giving gifts and this season is laden with the opportunity to express love and appreciation in this way. I spend a lot of energy planning gift-giving. Last year I made many of them in the kitchen. It was messy but fun, and I was able to infuse love into each concoction. My gift-giving is always purposeful, so I’ve spent a lot of time making a list and checking it twice – three times – changing it – checking again and so forth.  I’ve loved the whole online shopping thing, though I can see how easily one can become “drunk with power” with a laptop, a keyboard and a credit card!  As a Leo that’s my kind of fun. A little scary, but a tons ‘o fun.

The impulse to slow down, be silent, and go within is probably running even with the gift-giving opportunity. I have a busy life, juggling many different pursuits. And while the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years have been frenetic in the past, I finally realize that I don’t thrive in “frantic” and have adjusted my pace to reflect that truth. As an empath and a highly-sensitive person (HSP) this means that all the noise, lights, and pumped up energy can be detrimental to my sense of well-being. I’ve learned to manage my exposure by making conscious choices, like shopping online rather than hitting the mall with a gazillion shoppers and listening to the same Christmas songs blaring in my ears for hours and hours. (Don’t you feel sorry for the sales people?) I love stillness and the winter months have asked me to be still. So, I get still. I wrap myself in my cozy blanket and sip a warm drink or eat some fresh hearty soup. I may draw or paint, meditate or doze, read or watch a great movie. And maybe I’ll just sit and be still, watching rain or snow, stroking Sophie and allowing my mind to be the wandering fool that it is. Allowing these winter stillness moments gives me energy for my winter days activities.  It also allows me space and time to dream and contemplate. My thoughts often go to the people in my life and the blessings they bring. My primary spiritual practice is gratitude, and in the winter I find that practice enhanced. Perhaps it’s the extra space allotted for stillness.

I am also finding myself awakening earlier and earlier. Perhaps it’s the desire for more light, except I’m often out of bed before the sun. The early morning hours are my favorite. In these hours I feel closest to my parents. In these hours I also hear the heartbeat of the planet and can feel into the essence of what I call God. During this time I find I can open my heart and mind more fully to hear what the Universe wants me to know. And while I feel that every moment of every hour is holy, these hours feel infused with “extra”. I find peace.

As you move through the days ahead my prayer is that you find time to nurture yourself, to go within, to find your way to stillness and peace.

Until next time.

STRETCH:  As you move through the holiday season, consciously schedule time – even if it’s only five minutes or whatever is realistic in your life – to stop, breathe, be still and release. Allow yourself to relax the muscles in your face, the ones that become tense as you focus on all you need to do.  Notice where tension resides in your body and with each breath consciously release it, even if only for these moments. Allow your mouth to curl up into a gentle smile. This gesture relaxes the muscles of the face – and a smile is always better than a frown.  Do this as often as you can.   It will make a difference.

 

WEEKLY STRETCH – 6-26-17 ~ The Gift of Sabbath Time

The following was written on Saturday night, just before heading up to bed.

It’s been one of those rare days. No obligations. No plans. No appointments. No urgency to get anything done. A perfect June day of sunshine, low humidity, and gentle breezes. I can’t remember the last time I felt this sort of spaciousness for an entire day. Early this morning we had a wild and crazy storm that seems to have cleared away an array of toxins in the environment and left us with this beautiful clear day to stand in Creation and enjoy it.

My husband and I spent the early part of the day running a few errands after dropping Sophie at the groomer. We lollygagged (is that a real word) around the neighborhood getting a few odds and ends done and came home to decide how we would spend the rest of the gift of the day ahead. We desperately needed this sort of day. Bob loves his job, but it is mentally and physically taxing and his days are exhausting. After the winter we had, with my health problems and Bob caring for me, and the active life we lead, we desperately needed some time to just be home, doing what we do, without running hither and yon. Today was the day and the Universe provided us a doozy.

Don’t get me wrong – we love our life. We have great jobs, a multitude of interests, spectacular friends and family, and so many wonderful ways to spend our free time. Today, though, we had the spaciousness to be still. We did things we rarely do. Bob wanted to go to our pool. In the two and a half years we’ve lived here we’ve visited our pool exactly twice. I wanted to stay back, sit on our deck, read and nap. Another very rare occurrence. So that’s exactly what we did. After reading my book and snoozing awhile, I created a wonderful summer dinner for us. Bob came home from his pool time and as the sun hung low in the sky we sat on our deck, sipped our wine and ate our yummy summer dinner. We talked and dreamed and planned. We listened to our favorite music – Pat Matheny, Earth Wind and Fire, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne and rehearsal recordings from the bands Bob’s been playing music with the last few years. We relaxed. We celebrated. It was Sabbath.

Wayne Muller is one of the authors whose wisdom has informed much of our lives since we began our ministry sixteen years ago. In his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Muller says, “Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.” Today we gave ourselves the gift of Sabbath Rest. In Judaism we wish each other, “Shabbat Shalom”, which translates as “Sabbath Peace”. Sabbath is considered Judaism’s most sacred day. It’s the one day we can put down all our work, our responsibilities, our concerns – and just rest. It’s not an easy practice to maintain in our busy lives. But it is a wonderful concept to consider and great gift to give ourselves. Today I was reminded how much I love Sabbath time and how important it is to integrate into our week. Sabbath time can be as simple as a designated time to share a meal with loved ones each week, or a weekly walk in the woods or along the beach. It can be designated time to sit in contemplation or time set aside for self-care. The key to taking Sabbath time is to make it habit and take the time to rest and replenish our stores of physical and spiritual energy. It is a time to make space for peace.

I am so grateful for the blessing of today’s Sabbath. It’s been a day of rest and renewal after what seems like a very, very long stretch of time. I am mindful of how much this time is needed in our lives and will make it a point to bring it back as a true weekly ritual in whatever way works for us.
I leave you with another quote from Muller’s book.

“If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us.”

STRETCH: Sabbath is gift you give yourself. Create Sabbath time in your week. It can be a morning, a few hours, an evening or a whole day. Give yourself the gift of Sabbath. You deserve it.

Postcript: I had a perfectly wonderful, restful, restorative night of sleep for the first time in weeks. Sabbath time works on many levels.