Gratitude for…

Gratitude for...

This physical body that houses my unique spirit.
This life force energy that propels me through the day.
This mind that has thoughts both spacious and focused.
These senses that absorb the world around me.
These hands that work with dexterity.
These feet that feel solid underneath me.
This heart that has felt the spectrum of emotions, from complete desolation to boundless joy.
For this life, I am grateful. I am complete.





A Good Scare

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell

Fear was once our primal survival technique. The good news is that we don’t live in a time where our very existence is threatened on a daily basis. I have two older siblings, and I am pretty certain that they helped introduce me to the idea of fear. I can remember stories about the creepy house on our street. The giant bug waiting to bite me in a certain bush. The secret pathway that might have ghosts. All of it childhood play, but also a starting point to fearing the unknown.

This time of year we often explore what it feels like to be afraid. Halloween has become one of our biggest holidays. I think it’s become so popular because it gives us a way of coping with our inner fears in a safe way. We watch scary movies that have us on the edge of our seats, or in my case, pacing the room. We visit haunted houses to allow others to scare and threaten us in a safe way.

What happens when we are in this frightened state? Heart rate increases, there is a sense of heightened awareness, palms sweat, and every nerve seems to tingle. In some ways, we are never more fully alive than when we are in a state of fear. Maybe that’s why so many teens enjoy a scary movie, novel or haunted house.

Teens love to push the boundaries of what it feels like to be fully alive. As we get older, we often let go of this need. Life itself can often become scary enough. Deep fears can manifest into anxiety and phobias, which can lead to the need for professional help. But for less serious fears it can actually be fun to visit this dark side. To visit that heightened sense, in a safe way, can often give us a boost in confidence once we are on the other side. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ” Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Let Go

“Holding on is believing that there’s only a past, letting go is knowing there’s a future.”
~ Daphne Rise Kingma

This simple phrase is loaded with meaning. I am of a certain age, with an empty nest, and I have done quite a bit of letting go. I have written before about selling most of our household items and moving to an apartment in a new state. I continue to enjoy my minimalist lifestyle, and letting go of those items helps me feel light and unencumbered.

As we get older, I realize how much of life involves letting go. As we watch our daughter’s new family grow, I am reminded of our time as new parents. Infants are completely dependent on their caretakers. Yet with each new milestone, that baby is making his way to independence, and so begins the process of letting them go. The reward is seeing our children become independent adults. Now our role is supporter and cheerleader. We do our best to only offer advice when asked (easier said than done).

I have also been thinking lately about being too emotionally attached to “things.” For example, when we lose someone close to us, it’s obviously heartbreaking. But as the grieving eases, we sometimes find ourselves clinging to items they have left behind. There is true comfort in treasures from a loved one. They can be touchstones in the grieving process. But clinging to them can be unhealthy. I have small remembrances from my great grandmother, my grandparents, my dad, my brother, and my mother. These tokens do not bring back their love for me. That is stored in my heart and never, ever leaves me. Do I need every sweater, every piece of jewelry, every item that reminds me of them? No. I choose to let go instead.

So let’s let go:

  • Let go of the story of your past. Let the present moment define who you are.
  • Let go of material items that no longer serve you. Less clutter, less to dust.
  • Let go of people that are too much work. You will know who they are if they deplete your energy rather than bring you joy.
  • Let go of habits that have become ingrained simply because of repetition, not because they actually make you better.
  • Let go of lingering hurt and hostilities. Holding on to these feelings only causes you harm.
  • Let go of long held grief. Some losses are too big to ever get over, but consider trying to pivot to a place of gratitude for what that person brought to your life.
  • Let go of the idea that you can control your future. Worrying about the future is the root cause of anxiety. When has worry every changed an outcome? Life does not happen in a predictable way. Never has and never will.

The heart yearns to feel light. Let go to make room for whatever is coming next. Most likely it is bigger and better than you can even imagine.

“You can’t reach what’s in from of you until you let go of what’s behind you.” ~Unknown

Speed

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

My dear friend Jen sent me the perfect text the other day. “This has been the weirdest longest shortest year ever.” It’s hard to believe it’s now December, nine months since everything came to a grinding halt. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we were trying to figure out what this virus would mean to all of us. And in other ways, it feels like years ago. Time has actually gone by just as it always has, but it has felt different this year.

Prior to the pandemic we were a society moving at breakneck speed. Our devices are made to work quickly and efficiently so that information, goods and services, and communications are all at our fingertips. That in turn helps our lives do the same. Then we were forced to slow down. For many of us that has been a difficult thing. Moving quickly can be a way of not allowing ourselves time to dig too deep into what is going on around us.

Being forced to slow down can actually be a great gift. I found a quote relating to this by Pico Iyer in Tias Little’s book “The Practice is the Path,” and I think it resonates with that idea.

“In an age of speed…nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Tias’ book has a whole chapter devoted to how speed gets trapped in the body. Our bodies have become addicted to the adrenaline rush of speed. According to Tias, “Speed gets trapped in the diaphragm, fascia, gut, arteries, and nerves.” This speed trap results in exhaustion, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, restlessness and lack of awareness. Tias says: “How do we take our foot off the accelerator? It begins in the body by slowing the heart rate, reducing the sympathetic drive (responsible for the flight-or-flight response), slowing the breath, lowering blood pressure, and sleeping longer and deeper. On the mat, we learn to break out of the “habit body” that is compelled by urgency and motivated by acquisition. We must learn the art of being through ease, stillness, and silence. In yoga this is called satchitananda – the joy of just being.”

It is my hope that, as the winter Solstice approaches and the days slowly become longer, we learn from slowing down. That we notice the passing of an hour, a day, or a week. And feel satchitananda.

Gifts

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

‘Tis the season to be thinking of gifts for those we love. And along with everything else this year, Christmas has a different vibe and we may not get to be with those we love. I have been struggling myself with the idea of meaningful gifts for those I love and ways to spark some holiday cheer. Here are a couple of ideas I came up with:

The gift of a meaningful compliment Do you recall how it feels when someone gives you a compliment that really hits home in your heart? It’s one of the best feelings there is. For many years, I struggled to really hear and take in what people were saying when they paid me a compliment. I did not have the self worth to acknowledge my gifts. Now, I take them in and really feel them. I was given one this week by a dear friend and it brought me to tears at how heartfelt it was. Sincere compliments are the best free gifts there are!

The unexpected gift Is there someone you know that is typically not on your gift list? Why not surprise them with an unexpected gift. My neighbor just recently surprised us with a beautiful cheese board in the shape of a lotus flower. She saw it, thought of me, and it made my day. It’s amazing how it great it feels to receive an unexpected gift.

The pay it forward gift I love the surprise on people’s faces when their coffee or groceries get paid for by the person ahead of them in line. I just saw this week that the longest “pay it forward” chain started on Dec. 3 at a Dairy Queen in Brainerd, MN and lasted 3 full days. The 900 vehicle chain resulted in $10,000 in sales. I sure wouldn’t want to be the person that broke that chain! While we may not be out in public as often these days, the need is real out there. And what a great way to spread some holiday cheer.

Desmond Tutu puts is beautifully in The Book of Joy. “So… our book says that it is in the giving that we receive. So I would hope that people would recognize in themselves that it is when we are closed in on ourselves that we tend to be miserable. It is when we grow in a self-forgetfulness-in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more and more joyful.”