From the monthly archives:

December 2011

2012
Creative Commons License photo credit: wrestlingentropy

This year for me, the holidays were quieter, simpler and less hectic than usual. Maybe it was the lack of travel (a rarity), absence of family visitors, or simply the days of the week on which actual holidays fell, but whatever the reasons I savored the calm spaciousness. As a result I’m relishing this time to thoughtfully reflect on the past year and sincerely contemplate my intentions, visions, and goals for 2012.

This is, to me, a big part of living consciously. Being in the moment and responding to what is, yes – that’s always called for – but conscious living also means having a clear intention and vision for the path ahead.

That’s even more necessary and powerful than it’s ever been before. Considering the shifting times we’re living through, the fact that we can consciously evolve – that we can choose how we want to progress both individually and collectively and remain conscious of it as it’s occurring – is a powerful opportunity not to be squandered or ignored.

For those living a life of utter (religious, service or familial) devotion, complete surrender is the path.  They are content to journey where they are needed most.  For the rest of us with more hybrid lives and their attendant wants, needs, dreams and passions, our journey boils down to two choices: a) consciously create a path or [click to continue…]

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Can you receive the gifts of the season?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Theodore Scott

A Cautionary Tale

First, a little holiday story:

You’d have to be blind not to notice it was the largest present under the tree.  He had wrapped it as best he could, but still the bright paper and gaudy bow made it stand out like a flashy hotel on the Vegas Strip compared to the other gifts.

She couldn’t help but wonder what it could be; wonder or dread, she wasn’t sure which was the more accurate feeling. He hadn’t been much of a gift giver in the past, at least not the recent past.

For a second, she fondly remembered the precious gifts of jewelry he’d given her in the early years of their marriage. Nothing extravagant (they couldn’t afford it), yet the sapphire earrings and matching bracelet had been thoughtfully selected, delicate and tasteful, wrapped in small pretty packages. She also recalled the silver and gold bracelet (a custom creation by one of her favorite artists that she wore almost daily) he’d surprised her with one Valentine’s Day after seeing her covet it in the shop window at Christmas.

It had been years since he’d given her anything like that.

This was clearly not jewelry, judging by the size of the box. She pictured small kitchen appliances that might fit the bill. Maybe it was a toaster oven, a slow-cooker, or an ice cream maker. In any case, ick, ick and ick.

She worried he spent too much money. Maybe after so much time away from gift shopping and giving he was now trying to redeem himself by over-compensating. Hmmm . . . if it was a big-ticket item, she wondered what kind of dent this might put in their vacation budget for the year . . .

Worse yet, it was probably something he thought she’d love but didn’t have the slightest need or desire for. Proof of how little he knew her now, or cared to.

She sighed, thinking this was the year their marriage might finally reach the last straw.  Maybe she should just go ahead and file for divorce  – get t over with and get on with her life before she was stuck for good in what (judging by the mounting evidence) seemed a passionless, lifeless relationship.

***

He watched her, eying his gift, with childlike anticipation.  He couldn’t wait for her to open it, to see he was finally giving her what he’d so often held back but knew she always wanted.

A few months ago, after yet another long-haul business trip to Asia, he realized how withdrawn they’d both become from each other. His frequent travel was usually manageable, but the cumulative effect of so many years of it was now unmistakably taking its toll on not only her, but him.

He was tired of feeling disconnected from – well, practically everything except his job – coming and going and popping in and out of what was supposed to be his life so often that there was now almost zero continuity to his relationships with family and friends. He could see that every time he left, his wife and two boys seemed to get by better and better without him. The boys were big enough to really help around the house now, even mowing the lawn and washing the cars once a week.

So right after Thanksgiving, rather than scouring the Black Friday sales for some luxury handbag she might like or getting her the usual spa gift card he robotically produced every year, he began preparing his new Christmas gift for his wife.  He’d made his decision.  This year, he would give her his whole heart, all his love, without holding back.

He gathered his love into a bright, shiny nebula of brilliance.  He added a significant and steady amount of companionship in the form of long walks on the beach, a vacation without the kids, and weekly dinner dates alone. He blended a healthy dose of passion, sex and romance into the mix, and finally completed his creation with gratitude, appreciation, and respect – all the long-held feelings of his now open heart that he’d been meaning to share but found it so difficult to express.  When he was done, his creation was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen – so beautiful he almost hated to have to box and wrap it.

Just thinking about it again brought tears to his eyes now as he caught her inquisitive gaze, clearly trying to figure out what was in the box.

* * *

To Give is Divine, but It’s Not the Whole Story

What little we know of life’s gifts. How limited we are to receive them. Yet, how much we need them and can flourish from them if only we could be truly open to receiving.

In this holiday season, so focused on giving and gifting, I say it’s high time we learn to receive.

Does that strike you as funny? That we have to [click to continue…]

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Holiday Survival Guide to Staying Spiritually Centered
Creative Commons License photo credit: seantoyer

To say holiday family gatherings can be challenging is a gross understatement.  Take attendant seasonal stress, combine with deeply-ingrained behavior patterns rearing their ugly heads, mix in a few triggering personalities, a smattering of cultural conditioning, and finally toss in forced togetherness with people you might see (and begrudgingly at that) just once a year, and we’ve plenty to deal with right there.

Add a desire to express your spirituality, or moreover, share your enthusiasm over a spiritual awakening into this mix and it can be like throwing gasoline on a burning yuletide flame.

I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture or lapse into dysfunctional family stereotyping (easy as it would be to go there). Of course, not all families are dysfunctional nor geographically and emotionally disconnected. Yet the fact remains that family members estranged by time or distance often come home to roost at the holidays, making for uncommon interactions between people who don’t see one another on a regular basis.  The holidays also involve more socializing than other times of the year do, and much of it happens in contexts that are ripe for confrontation, judgment, and argument.

If you’re newer to spiritual exploration, and especially if you’ve had a sudden and distinct spiritual awakening (as I did) religious holidays like Christmas and Chanukah and their ritual celebrations offer both challenge and opportunity, with more than [click to continue…]

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