Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Shedding Baggage like Snakes Shed Skin

Study the past if you would divine the future. ~Confucious

Each year I take an opportunity to prepare myself for leaving a year behind and starting one anew. Many are ready to get on with it, giving little to no thought to the past year and its good, bad and ugly, while others, like myself, reflect.

A year is a mile in the journey of life we travel. Wallowing in one's past with regrets is not recommended, but honestly “revisiting” the past year's experiences is a helpful study of the landscape for the last “mile” traveled this life. Reflective attitude of willingness to acknowledge one's mistakes, less than stellar moments and choices, coupled with a resolve to own responsibility and consciously commit to change one's ways are keys towards creating a better new year. Holding/Living in regret, anger, guilt, resentment, vindictiveness and wishful thinking invites the Human Ego (and its pride) to further nurture grudges, deepen resentment, and fester in blame. Law of Attraction states: what you put out in the Universe boomerangs back to you more of the same in your life.

I choose a journey free of excess baggage. “Reliving” and “stewing in” past experiences is unproductive. The new year offers an opportunity for reflection, contemplation, and re-evaluation, ideally done with compassion for self and others while objectively observing one's personal choices and actions as if watching a movie. My favorite approach involves visualizing myself sitting in a movie theater, watching the movie that has been my life in 2011. From this vantage point, and in a prayerful meditative state to hear God's guidance, we detach from the events' emotional plug-ins to witness what transpired and how we “performed” within them. Feelings may be felt, but in the observer position, their energetic grasp loosens within a reflective state of mind. This review requires purposeful willingness to be truthful with ourselves from a spiritual/God-centered place, which invites Divine wisdom and insight into the review. This approach facilitates shifting of our Ego-focused and -driven emotional obsession around past events into recognition of our responsibilities within them; it creates an openness to become more forgiving, of our self and others, and thus, the process of healing which opens the door to inner peace and harmony; and it opens a greater awareness of how to move forward more productively into the next year. We also realize the positives we experienced, accomplishments we achieved, and successes we enjoyed. We must celebrate it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

For me, 2011 involved a great deal of decluttering my life of unproductive people, patterns, and habits. Just as a snake sheds its skin, I needed to physically and energetically shed a great deal, things once comforting to me but no longer serving my highest and best good. I resisted this shedding process. Upon review of the difficult and heartbreaking events of the year, I recognized my pattern to negotiate and compromise my values in the name of keeping peace. I tried to carry “baggage” that weighed me down, both vibrationally and emotionally, when it no longer offered anything of value in my life. Lesson #1 for 2011: If a situation, a career, a relationship (family, friend, romantic), a habit, a practice or a pattern fails to create, offer or facilitate peace, joy, harmony, and love in my experience, it doesn't belong in my life. Some situations and people that I hung on to, clung to out of hope and fear, dragged me down; I held on in the hope things would get better, improve or change. My efforts compromised my authenticity and sense of self as I avoided making heartbreaking and difficult choices to change or redefine circumstances, relationships, habits, and patterns in my life. Lesson #2 for 2011: I can only control who I am, how I show up through my words, thoughts, choices, and actions, and recognize I can't control how others show up, think, choose or act.

I faced some stormy weather in 2011 that led to hard decisions and major changes in my life: unexpected financial hits, disenchantment in a career path I spent 2010 blazing, loss of a beloved pet, draining relationships and their heartbreaking end, family transitions, unemployment, and foggy confusion as I struggled to regain clarity of who I am and my purpose in this life. I worked jobs I didn't want until I secured the one reflecting my passion for serving and empowering others. I grieved the loss of business and personal connections, developed new relationships, and strengthen existing ones while eliminating those that drained me. I held “Come to Jesus” meetings with myself about my health, dating life, spiritual practices, and my purpose in life. I reclaimed a drama-free zone, realigned myself with my value system, and faced my personal challenges with humility. I dug deeper in my personal power to stand against disrespect, bullying, and verbal abuse, as well as to ask for what I want and deserve. I cried, laughed, and forgave. I eliminated anything that threatens my experience of peace, joy, love and harmony in my life. I regained a foothold of centered strength in my spiritual truth, authenticity, values and guiding principles in the face of overwhelm, hopelessness, vindictiveness, disappointments. I reclaimed my life. I reclaimed me.

My reclamation is a process continuing into 2012. 2011 revealed I compromised my principles, my values, and my higher consciousness over the last two years. It was a year to deepened my faith that God's got my back, guiding me, providing for me, and supporting me through dark times along the journey. For the first time since my mom died, I'm actually excited about Life, and about my life and the opportunities available to me. No doubt there will be bumps, detours and roadblocks attempting to deter me, distract me and even derail me along this next mile of my journey. But I am prepared to assertively move through them, to circumvent them, and if necessary, eliminate them from my path.

Thank you 2011 and everyone who facilitated my personal growth last year! Hello, 2012, let's roll! Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Five of the Seven Deadly Sins Practiced in Christmas

The madness of Black Friday kicks off our holiday season as shoppers ring in the season with pepper spray and knives, shoves and pushes. Frenzied traffic as holiday shoppers forget their manners and their Christian principles blocking intersections and cutting people off as they scramble to fulfill the societal obligation of Christmas duties. Insane holiday party schedules disconnect us from the reason of the season. Like Cindy Lou Who, I wonder where Christmas is. I see hypocrisy, greed, glutton and the pursuit for the perfect Christmas holiday. I use to be one of these people, especially when I was married: the perfect menu that wows; the prettiest wrapped packages; the spirited decorations in every room of the house; a list of 100 for holiday cards; the most festive Christmas outfit. The older I've gotten, the less I enjoy Christmas when I see how our country, a society participates within it.

Many believe and preach the true reason for the season is Jesus Christ, and I agree; but I hold little confidence in the majority's belief when I witness such gluttony, and hypocrisy, practiced by the pious faith of Christianity. Somehow, I can't imagine Jesus would be okay with his followers behaving, both individually and towards others, in the spectacle of celebrating his birth through gluttony (excessive gifting, food, celebration), greed (perpetuation through gluttony), wrath (anger/rage in traffic, Black Friday), envy (wanting for Christmas what they don't have), and even pride (being more attractive or better through decorating, gift giving). Aren't these a few of the seven deadly sins? I grew up Catholic and understand the significance of Christ's birth; yet, despite the high-tech praise and glory power of Christmas services around the country, I see Christianity, never mind our society as a whole, losing sight of the meaning of Christmas. If Jesus really is the reason for the season, why do so many participate in this holiday madness? The Wise Men gave only three gifts, fine gifts, but they were in honor of Jesus, not to “wow,” impress, meet expectation, or earn favor. This season is about giving from one's heart, in honor and celebration of the person to whom we give, not because its “what we do” or expected of us.

Let the children enjoy Santa, but within reason. Do they really need all the latest and greatest of every trendy toy, electronic, fashion or gadget that's out there? What are we teaching children if not gluttony, avarice, and pride? Are we buying gifts because its expected and pressured of us? Do we endow so many gifts upon our loved ones to prove our love, materialisticly demonstrate how we value them, or worse, to absolve guilt, or win love and favor? Children should enjoy the experience of Santa's visit; it's part of tradition, and if I had children, I'd do the same thing, but within reason. A high school friend recently shared a story of a mutual classmate who purchased goats, chickens and cows for the poor in other countries through Heifer International in honor of her kids. Her kids will get a few small things to open on Christmas day but Mom decided they really didn't need anything since they are well provided for all year long. What a beautiful gift she's giving to her children: lessons about sharing abundance; global awareness; and the lesson of unconditional giving!

I've chosen to practice the true to the meaning of Christmas this year. I don't need or want anything, and have told my family so. I have a warm bed to sleep in, a home sheltering me, food, a good job, and friends. And my family doesn't need anything either. I decided to give the spirit of Christmas to my family instead: gifts given to those who are in need. I adopted two senior citizens with little income and no family, and given food to the food bank so those who are struggling can have a family meal. I also donated money to a local charity serving those who face an uphill battle to do the simplest things in life. I've also spent hours doing something I express creatively through my heart – baking. I've gifted those who've given me so much this year in my life with these sweet goodies.

The meaning of Christmas is about giving from our heart. As we were gifted by God an incredible teacher named Jesus Christ, the giving was simple without decorative fanfare and exorbitant extravagance. The Wise Men humbly gave small, simple, symbolic gifts without expectation of something in return. Their gift was of honor and appreciation for the presence of God's gift to the world. The gift of the Heart touches another's Heart, symbolic of God's Light and Love.

The Season of Giving is about quality, not quantity. God's gift was simple but powerful: a baby born in a manger, given to teach us of the power of Love, Peace, Joy and Forgiveness. While our Christian society, both those “year-round” and “once a year” participants talk a good talk of putting “Christ” back into the reason for the season, I invite us all to really contemplate our holiday practices and actions, and how they are overshadowing the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Life is a See-Saw

Remember the see-saw? A child would sit on each end of a “plank” that was centered over a “sawhorse”. We'd take turns going up and down, the goal doing so smoothly, evenly, with balance. Sometimes your see-saw partner would decide to hit the monkey bars and off he or she'd go, leaving the see-saw partner crashing to the ground with a hard thud. That feeling of the bottom dropping out from under us as the see-saw responds to gravity's pull leaves us caught off guard, shaken.

Life is like a see-saw. Our goal is to live life in balance, not in one extreme or another. Imbalance occurs in the most positive as well as negative experiences. The start of a wonderful romantic connection can create imbalance in one's life as it's arrival creates disorientation and distraction. The loss of a loved one, expected or unexpected, creates imbalance in one's life, creating overwhelm and a feeling of dangling upside down. Regardless the see-saw experience, it leaves us feeling topsy-turvy, out of control, dazed and confused.

I use to believe the goal in life was to maintain balance at all times; I'm learning keeping life in balance all the time is impossible. The true goal is to know the balance within me, my Center, so that as life around me shifts, (and life is ever shifting) I can move through the shifts Centered and balanced within. I can't balance Life. Life is a force of its own.

Change happens. A new love interest happens. A new career position happens. A death of a loved one happens. Illness happens. And these expected or unexpected changes can leave us feeling like the child on a see-saw left hanging in mid-air before crashing with a thud to the ground. Everything we knew, trusted and managed in our routine called life is disrupted. If we know balance within our Center, our anchor in God, we can stand in the midst of the chaos of change, and therefore, move through the ripples of life's waves with greater grace and ease.

To know our Center is to regularly commune with God. Our Center is God, the inner beacon of Light that emanates our divinity. It connects us in the Oneness of Life expressed all around us. To connect with God, we pray, meditate, breathe deeply, sit quietly and listen. We take time out from the chaos of life, no matter the circumstances, to connect and feel God's presence in whatever way is meaningful to us: church, reading spiritual material, journal, nature walks, music, creativity. To know our Center, to firmly connect with this anchor, we must commune regularly when feeling balance on the see-saw of Life, and most definitely when circumstances leave us feeling imbalanced in the chaos of change. To center, we focus on being present, focused in each and every moment, the vantage point from which to best manage each and every ripple of change we are experiencing.

Yes, we will be left on the ground after the “thud” wondering, “what the hell happened?” In the movie Eat Pray Love, Ketut tells Liz we must lose balance in love to find balance in life. I've seen this movie over a dozen times, and always wondered what this meant. Now I get it.

Love. Health. Family. Death. We must lose balance in order to find balance in life. We often avoid changes in our lives because the upheaval of said change creates imbalance within them. We avoid changes when they would be better for us and others, or offer something greater than we already have or know. We fight changes when they are imposed upon us by others, or Life. If we seek love in our life, we must lose balance in what we know in order to incorporate a different and more fulfilling type of balance. If we seek a new career with greater opportunity, we must lose balance in order to learn a new and improved balancing act of being. If we lose a relationship, or a loved one in death, we must experience the imbalance in order to create an openness to new possibilities and growth for a different kind of balance.

Our Center, God, is our see-saw partner. If we are unfamiliar with this Center, we become sorely aware of its absence in the imbalance of life. When anchored in our Center, we can better manage, if not ease the “thuds” of change as we maintain or recalibrate a new balance on the teeter-totter of life.