This month, please join me in reflecting on the challenges and productive responses when we navigate the seasonal Darkness.
Unlike our cousins in the Southern Hemisphere, we Northerners are facing into a time of shortened daylight hours. When it appears, the light of the sun, can have an anemic sheen. Probably like many others who dwell here in America’s Midwest, I gird myself for these gloomy days. The darkness, the cold, the sense of isolation, and seasonal sadness can suddenly envelop my normal optimism in grief. I search high and low to find any positive and life-affirming responses.
This time of year is when I miss my parents most. Moms and daughters strolling the grocery aisles together shopping for their holiday meals fixins’ can bring me to tears. Certain songs of the season can cause a similar eye-leaking. Everywhere, I’m bombarded with images of commercial holiday hype—scenes of happy families, á la Parenthood, gathering together. Friends, I confess my reality seldom resembles those images!
A (false) sense of Scarcity of time, energy, financial resources can overshadow gratitude for life’s Abundance. Very few women can exempt themselves from the notion they must single-handedly squeeze mile-long checklists into insufficient moments just in time to get those mythical holiday gatherings all set up. (How come men don’t stress this way? Maybe when the bills pour in?)
I admit I struggle mightily to be the NICE (not naughty), HAPPY (not crabby) Wife, Mother, Grandmother, and Friend this season expects!
Yet, all the Angels on high respond when I call out for help in snapping out of the doldrums.
I’m helped to drop down into my authentic SoulEssence. Hark, a Light shines forth!
I’m helped to remember that I am part of Life, not apart from Life. Grace tiptoes in.
I’m helped to let go of ego expectations, able to soften the rough edges of my own personality. My loving heart blossoms.
I’m helped to discover the blessings hidden in the darkness of winter. Beauty abounds.
Seven simple practices
My pleas for help over the years have brought me some simple practices that bring forth a semblance of balance, wholeheartedness, and good cheer. When the holiday season and the harsher winter climate descends, I need not stay imprisoned by a stocking full of difficult emotional thoughts.
I hope these seven suggestions useful as you navigate a path to more Joy and Ease this season. Please try them on, knowing they are not meant to add more to your checklists!
1.) Find refuge in Stillness, Friendship, and the expression of your Spiritual values.
It is paramount to remember that your humanity is nourished by simplicity, calmness and slowness, not more frenzied doing.
Guard your quietude. Protect yourself from the noise and chaos around you. Beware the illusion of the “too busy to meditate or pray today” thought. Slow down to the pace of Nature.
Show your love and appreciation to the “without whom” people in your life. Don’t make your partner/loved ones read your mind. Communicate your genuine appreciation in their preferred Love Language.
Take one simple action of generosity or lovingkindness today.
2.) Relate your Local Story to the Larger Story.
How does your “unique” situation relate to the Whole, to all other sentient beings? How are you part of the Human Family’s Story?
Here’s a story of how I recovered the essential joy of the season. Season of Innocence Reborn
Reclaim the Larger Story of Welcoming the Stranger. The New Testament story of the Holy Family seeking shelter reminds us of all the families in our midst today who are desperate to find a safe place for their children. Here are some reflections on the sweetness of Home. How might you reach out and become a welcoming, safe presence to the unwanted strangers of today’s world?
“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…”
3.) Cultivate your intuition.
Delight in the guidance found below the surface of life. Rely on the wise childlike sensitivity that informed you so reliably before it was shamed out of your adult soul.
Use your intuition today, December 7, 2018, when the New Moon is in Sagittarius. Jupiter rules the sign of Sagittarius. It is a benefic symbol of expansiveness, generosity, humor and laughter. Jupiter’s shadow is too muchness, overindulgence, and possible unhealthy increase of bad habits, weight or illness. Become curious in a friendly way about how Jupiter’s symbolism might inform your life right now.
Study and learn the language of the Symbols that are continually flowing all around you. Pay attention to the animals, people, events, places, things, dreams, colors, etc.
What messages do they bring?
Record your observations and watch for patterns.
The other night we saw a huge skunk and a jackrabbit romping around our backyard! Not exactly playing together but definitely co-existing. So I consulted Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small to find out what messages these two creatures were bringing.
4.) Surrender to the darkness.
Pay attention to how animals do this. More naps, right?
Find ways to get outside in the fresh air. Get more rest! Keep hydrated; drink and eat moderately.
Distribute the Light all around your home! Bring out the candles and enjoy how intensely their Light shines, thanks to the Darkness.
5.) Guard your good cheer.
Ingest happy, uplifting images via your eyes and ears. Let go of your cynicism and enjoy the sappiness so many holiday movies offer. A little corniness, romance and sentimentality won’t kill you!
Turn off the multiple unrelenting sources of bad news via social media, television or radio. If it’s urgent, you’ll find out soon enough!
Stop amplifying the emotionality of social media by repeating all the negative tweets and posts and/or your outrage over them!
6.) Count your blessings.
Start a Solstice Gratitude List. This never fails to snap me out of my pity party! Make a game of listing 100 items you consider blessings. Enlist ideas from the little ones. To help you track your blessings, here’s my gift for you.
Each day observe what you’ve been given. Consider how you might share your abundance and/or pay it forward.
Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Be like the anonymous folks who put gold coins in the Salvation Army kettles.
o How about keeping some $5 gift cards, sweets, or hand warmers in your pocket to share?
o How about bringing that Salvation Army Bell-ringer a cup of coffee and a snack?
o How about letting someone go ahead of you in line?
o How about calling a loved one simply to say, “Thank you for YOU!” ?
7.) Be Here Now while envisioning the New Year to come.
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Who really needs more stuff?
Donate to charity.
Shop in your closet.
Re-gift. Pass on sentimental and symbolic items.
Reflect and then create a ritual that allows you to name what to take into the New Year and what needs to be released.
This is the 14th essay in the “Contemplating the Beauty of…” series. Thanks to each of you who’ve read and shared them, commented or written to me personally. Your Light inspires me to continue writing.
My heartfelt gratitude to these special Light Bearers in my life:
Harry Hitzeman Jr. without whom this essay/website and thousands of other moments of Joy wouldn’t exist. Thank you to Alia Christine Moore, Anne Marie Bennett, Catherine Anderson, Marie Drennan, and Marianne Cirone for their abiding encouragement and support as I evolve as a writer and teacher. Thank you to Seena B. Frost whose twinkling smile and perceptive spirit imbues these essays with so much wisdom. Thank you to Swami Pranananda and our Kriya Yoga lineage without whom my inner peace, wisdom, and inspiration to serve would not exist. Okagesamade, beloved ones!
Thanks to each of you, dear friends, for being part of my Beloved Community.
May ALL your days be merry and bright as you share your exquisite Light with those who need it so badly at this time…
May you walk in Beauty today and every day of your life,