Life is made up of as many bumps in the road and flies at the picnic as it is sweet, easy, sunny days. While it doesn't make the hard times any more fun, it is possible – with tears, sarcasm, humor, profanity, or whatever else you need - to shift your focus from the current mess to the preciousness and wildness of this one life of yours.
I believe that little worldly happenings are one way that God reaches out to let us know that we are not alone, we do not have to shoulder it all, and we are always being cared for. I recently found a little angel made of construction paper, Elmer's glue and glitter in my attic that I made when I was a little girl. Her reappearance in my life has me thinking about all the angels and tiny miracles that have shown up in my life exactly when I needed them. Keep an eye out as you zip around your own life. Miracles are all around us - especially when we are looking for them!
I've written a little fairy tale based on story told to me by a friend. Its moral is that to trust in life is not naive. Spiritual traditions around the world teach that we are part of a continuous, endless, cosmic celebration of life and love. Even in times of pain and struggle, we can join in the celebration. We may not be dancing wildly. We may not be laughing uproariously. But we can allow life and love to brush over us softly with its compassionate, healing touch. All we have to do is say - sometimes quite quietly - "YES."
'Tis the season of traditions. Some I love and some make me feel incredibly rebellious. Some give me the urge to dig in my heels or push back against expectations. In my mind, this is exactly what sets apart traditions that add to a holiday experience from traditions that feel onerous, burdensome, and just “extra.” They feel like expectations – expectations that add effort without the payoff of meaning. These are not traditions I want to hold on to. I’d rather invest my energy in things - old and new - that bring my family together and make us happy.
As I caught up with one of my cousins, he said, "My goodness, that is a full plate." And my plate (and probably yours, too) is full. Choosing a Thanksgiving state of mind is a choice to focus on all that is OK right now. This state of mind does not pretend that everything is OK. In fact, facing and accepting the struggles, burdens, challenges, and pains that life is delivering makes each moment that we take a thankful pause vastly more meaningful. Will you join me in spending the next week refocusing (again and again and again) on all that is OK right now? If we do, together we can have a very happy Thanksgiving indeed. And if we keep it up, Thanksgiving could become more than a holiday. It could be a way of life.
Can you imagine spending a little time every day in the same position as this cute kitten? Well, take it from a recovering workaholic, we should do just this. It takes real strength in this world of ours to hit the pause button and take a rest. And we don’t need to hit that pause button only when we’re weary to the bone. Wisdom is learning to hit it even when we don’t feel like we need a rest. While it's easy to fall prey to workaholism, we thrive with regular infusions of rest.
One of my sweetest memories is a weekday afternoon when we should have been doing a dozen other things, but instead my kids and I decided to watch Christmas movies. Was this “the best of times?” I also have a niggling memory of how we wound up in that chair – total exhausted collapse from days of nagging, reminding, and hounding them to practice the piano, do their homework, clean their rooms, and brush their teeth. I am so glad that I am longer the drill sergeant that motherhood required me to be for almost two decades. So, was this also “the worst of times?” I am left wondering if it is possible that what makes "the best of times" is, in part, the way we handle "the worst of times."
Being sick is a lesson in letting go of control. KABLAM! Your body has taken over. It - rather than your plans - is going to be in charge for a little while. I don’t know about you, but this can be really hard me to accept. I resist, I push, I chafe in mostly futile efforts to keep going, to stick to the plan, to stay on schedule. Which only makes me feel worse – physically and mentally. What makes me feel better – perhaps the only thing that makes me feel better – is letting go and surrendering to reality: I’m sick and I need to act like it. I need to let my body lead the way, even if where it is leading me is straight back to bed on a blue-sky day.
Creativity focuses the mind and also releases feel-good hormones, leaving you feeling more centered and less anxious. You don't need to buy an easel or sign up for pottery classes. There are a million surprising ways that you can be creative every day - even when doing the most basic chores. Whether your practice is yoga, meditation, or something else, once you get a taste for mindfulness, a part of you – even subconsciously – will seize little opportunities all day long to recreate that stillness, silence, and spaciousness.