So many people start the New Year with a resolve to change their lives in some form or fashion. And many start out with lots of energy but about now, the allure of being “different” in this new year has waned.
So, I’ve gathered several questions from different sources for your contemplation as invitations throughout the year. They are the type of questions you might write a response in a journal, create a SoulCollage® card, carry in your heart as you walk a labyrinth or just sit with in contemplative silence.
Who am I?
What is my destiny – where am I going?
How do I find out who I am?
What makes my heart full?
What breaks my heart?
When do I experience joy?
When I am still, what arises within me?
When I am in nature, what arises within me?
How do I serve others?
How do I listen to others?
How do I like others to listen to me?
Who is a true companion to me?
How do I companion others?
What makes me feel dead inside?
What is life-giving to me – body and soul?
I invite you to use these questions in whatever way works for you. If you want to explore them with a trusted companion and deep listener, I am here for you. Please email or call me.
I recently had a virtual conversation with a good friend. Even though we live about 2 hours apart, we have refrained from getting together for our usual Mexican food and drinks for almost a year. I haven’t eaten out inside a restaurant for almost as long. I miss conversations with my friend so we decided to catch up via a face to face platform.
We always seem to talk about things of substance and this time was no different. Yet, it seemed the conversation always came back to COVID19, how we were doing, what changes we made, what we missed, how we felt, plans for next year, and so on. No matter what we talked about we always seemed to end up mentioning it in some fashion although we had acknowledged we were tired of talking about it.
COVID19 and its implications seem to pervade every aspect of our lives like the proverbial elephant in the room – always there and present even if we don’t acknowledge it. I told my friend that I missed certainty and stability and mused are we ever truly certain and stable.
In the grand scheme of the Universe are we collectively at a threshold for “something”? Are we at the threshold? In liminal space? Many people much wiser than I seem to think so and point to all kinds of evidence observed in politics, technology, sociology, spirituality and religious institutions. I feel like a Forest Gump “well, I don’t know about that.”
In many respects, I don’t know. I theorize and ruminate on things I see. I bemoan and grieve loss and change. In my best moments I am able to navigate my ship into uncharted waters full of anticipation for the adventure which awaits. I’ll be okay. I’ll manage. All things will be made new and this old world will pass into a new one.
And in those moments when I’m not as aware or mindful, my ship seems to be anchored off shore lacking a spirit filled crew while it’s captain (me) hides alone below deck in the dark grieving for what was. I know I cannot return to the safe harbor because it is not there. I am adrift in a sea of loss and uncertainty without an anchor. Life as I once knew it is forever changed.
Being on a spiritual path does not prevent me from facing uncertainty and insecurity – even darkness – but the spiritual path teaches me how to use those things as tools to grow. I may not always engage in those practices and I have those who love and care about me to remind me to do them!
So, I breathe. I return to the most simple and basic form of prayer and meditation I know. I notice my breath, the feel of it through my nostrils and throat and chest and take it down into the depth of my being. I “breathe” into key energy centers, the chakras, connecting myself to the energy within. Sometimes I feel a need to chant Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” allowing it to flow into and through my body.
It becomes my safe harbor and anchor in the present moment. It is Certainty. It is Present Presence. In the quiet stillness all which is known and needs to be known is the great I Am.
Threshold. Liminal space. Transitions, Change. Movement toward the unknown. Letting go. Free falling. Working without a net. Adrift.
What feelings do these words evoke in you? What are you called to let go of at the end of 2020 in order to embrace 2021?
I invite you to sit comfortably for just 5 minutes and breathe. Notice your breath. Simply breath as you normally would taking the in breath through your nose and down into your lungs. As you exhale, feel the breath flow out of your lungs, past your through and your lips. Whatever thoughts and feelings arise, let them pass by. Often a sacred word or a piece of scripture provides a bit of focus. Yah-whey and ru-ahh are two Hebrew words which I use as breath prayers. Yeshu-ahh, the Hebrew form of Jesus is another.
It’s not possible to change your childhood, especially childhood trauma. But I think it is possible to connect to your authentic self and with the hopes and desires of your youth through patience, gentle perseverance, and Grace.
Through my previous career working with abused and neglected children, I’ve discovered little pieces of wisdom from therapists and child welfare workers and wisdom from Buddhist and Christian authors, self-help gurus and mindfulness practice.
I invite you to look at the list below, and imagine saying these words to that part of you which is your inner child. Quite possibly, these are words you may have really needed to hear during your childhood.
Words are powerful. Words can heal as much or more as they can hurt.
I invite you to sit comfortably and relax into calmness. Slowly inhale three breaths and exhale. On the in breath, breathe in peace and calmness. On the out breaths, breathe out anxiety and uncertainty. When you have settled into to the space fully, read the following words. I invited you to speak them aloud. Pause in between each group. Hear the words. Does an image come to mind which exemplifies or symbolizes the energy of the statement? If not, that is okay.
“I am enough just the way I am.” There will always be people out there – parents, teachers, mentors, peers, enemies, even friends – who will say to you that you need to be prettier, smarter, wealthier, have it all together, etc. But YOU are enough.
“I accept me for who I am.” Accept yourself the way you were when you came to the world and accept each day how you evolve into someone new. You do not have to be anything different for others’ acceptance and compassion.
“I am not afraid of myself.” Determine for yourself what it means to be you. Avoid internalizing others’ opinions of who you should be.
“I am not what others think of me.” Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. You don’t need to seek validation from other people. Your worth is not – and never will be – based on what others think about you. Seek validation from yourself, instead of others.
“I am so proud of you.” You have so many gifts to give the world, and when you are doing your personal best you can be proud of that. Be proud of who you are and what you do.
“I have the right to say no.” You always have the right to voice your boundaries or disapproval, even to those that have more power than you. When something doesn’t feel right, you have the right to say “no”.
“I have the right to say yes.” Learn to overcome your fears and say “yes” to anything that you find meaningful or are truly drawn to. Though saying yes can be surprisingly hard at times, it can be the door to your life’s most powerful moments.
“Just because I made a mistake, doesn’t mean I AM a mistake.” Making a mistake or doing a bad thing does not make you a bad person; failing at something does not make you a failure. Failure is an opportunity for growth. You are still a good and whole – and holy- person. Get up and try again.
“I can do what I dream . . . even if no one is doing it yet.” Our ideas of what we can or cannot do are often shaped by what others are doing. Pursue your dreams unapologetically. You are your own person with unique talents and gifts to offer – and the world will thank you!
“I love what I do.” Keep doing whatever makes you feel joy, even if you aren’t the best at it. Be creative – paint, dance, write, do SoulCollage®, make pottery, garden and love what you do – life is too short to not do something that makes you feel alive.
“God loves you”. However you name the Unnameable – God/Spirit/Universe, I invite you to believe this Higher Power/Spirit/Consciousness loves you. Engaging in spiritual practices and coming to know the Spirit within can be one of the most fulfilling influences in your life. Find whatever practices and beliefs work for YOU and brings you the most joy, compassion, gratitude, and meaning into your life. How you do it and with whom you do it is up to you. Find someone who will companion you on your journey!
“I love you.” Say it again out loud to yourself. Plain and simple, we all need and deserve love and should give it freely to those dearest to us. Love is the highest form of energy and is a powerful way to manifest all that is good in your life and all that you desire.
Remember words are powerful. They can either uplift you, or weigh you down. So choose to uplift yourself – and others – with your words so you can reconnect with and freely reveal the authentic person you are and always have been.
The first snow of early winter arrived this week. Since the weather guy predicted warmer temperatures later in the week, I eagerly headed to the woods for a much needed walk and contemplation amid this first hint of winter.
Have you ever noticed the silence of snow? It’s not the absence of sound actually. It is the sound of the present moment, the sound of stillness in the crisp chilled air. It is Presence.
I walked, hearing the crunch of the remains of fall in the leaves under the snow. The snowfall had only dusted the floor of the woods. A nuthatch danced up a tree, adorned in blue covered with black cape and hat. Quite the fashion statement for this first winter outing!
Camera in hand, I stopped from time to time as an image reached out for acknowledgement and I welcomed it into my view. I made a point to visit the Three Beech Sisters near the back of our property. They’re part of my photographic study of the seasons in the woods. There is another beech tree which has entwined around itself and a maple that twisted as it grew. Both responding to the stress and trauma they encountered in their growing years. They prevailed. They adapted and overcame.
It seems we all have encountered trauma and stress. The present certainly has provided more than it’s fair share. I’ll admit it has been extremely difficult for me in the past month or so. Overwhelmed does not adequately describe it. I’m sure others have felt same or similar emotions. Many wiser and gentler souls before me have used metaphors like desert time, dark night of the soul, desolation, a dry leaf on the ground, the mud of the lotus, a dying to self, and more. Even St. Teresa of Calcutta, known as Mother Teresa, wrote often she felt God had abandoned her! She stayed the course and remained on the path.
St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote that in the beginning stages of spiritual growth and development we often encounter desolation and despair. We often believe we should give up on spiritual practices and leave the spiritual path. Ignatius offers a series of “rules,” or principles, in his spiritual exercises which can help us work through those times of desolation. One of my favorite interpretation of those exercises is Louis Savary’s New Spiritual Exercises, In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00935UXXW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1
I’m reminded of a song from one of my favorite singers, Carrie Newcomer, The Only Way Out is Through. She sings, “the only way out is through, but the only way through is in, again.” Lean in. Go in. Enter the silence, the solitude. It’s the place where the soft soul waits. “Where the soft soul waits and hearts beat and break and the real wars are waged and won.” https://www.carrienewcomer.com/store/the-point-of-arrival-cd The real war of dying to self and ego.
As I walked in the silence of the snow covered woods, these words – and more – echoed in my mind. Soften. Lean in. Cry if you must. Break open. All will be well. Accept what you cannot change. Change what you can . . .
Solitude. Silence. The silence of snow. Alone but not. I inhale a deep cleansing and slightly chilled breath.
Keep breathing. Keep walking. When you find yourself in the middle of a desert, keep walking. The only way out is through and the only way through is in – deep within. All WILL be well.
Be well. Be safe. Be Blessed. – Christy
May you be blessed in abundance during this time of of the receding light and celebrate the return of Light however that celebration might look to you.
I was searching for a specific handout for a workshop I was developing and ran across 5 others on various topics but did not find the handout I was seeking! Murphy’s law? Perhaps.
Among those 5 other handouts, was a collection of poetry for times of loss and grief from an in-service for pastoral care work I participated in several years ago. I glanced through a couple poems but one grabbed my attention because of the title – In Praise of Sadness.
In Praise of Sadness
Fr. Robert Morneau
Is happiness overvalued,
this life of jolly contentment?
And is sadness a disease,
afflicting all who experience loss?
Though the great St. Paul preached rejoicing always,
he knew great sorrow and constant anguish.
Though Abraham Lincoln enjoyed the state,
his melancholy never left him.
Does the happy hour eradicate life’s weariness?
Is there no room for the sad hour,
when one embraces the losses of life?
I pause to praise sadness,
a significant component of the human condition,
a catalyst for change,
a gateway into compassion.
Sadness may even be the cause for greatness
as Lincoln, van Gogh, and Beethoven knew.
It had not occurred to me that sadness should be praised. It should be welcomed as part of our human condition. Pema Chodron wrote years ago in her book “When Things Fall Apart” about leaning in to things. For me, it made me understand that I don’t have to dive in headfirst into sadness in order to solve it or fix it. Tenderly leaning in with compassion and understanding is what is needed.
This poem reminded me of the yin/yang of life. Accepting sorrow, melancholy, uncertainty is yin receptivity while rejoicing and celebrating are more yang in their active nature. Fr. Morneau reminds me that greatness came from the depth of sadness. How different would our lives be without the Gettysburg address, the swirling blue of a starry night or the grandeur of the 9th symphony?
Sadness, melancholy, grief, loss, uncertainty and anxiety may be the fertile ground for creativity and greatness.
Grateful for insight. Grateful for all human emotions. Grateful for All.