I enjoy the holidays and the fond memories they bring to mind. I am one of those women who likes to be organized for the holidays, well prepared before they arrive. In years past, I’d have a goal for myself to have the gift shopping done by Thanksgiving. This way I could enjoy the month of December; play with my kids, bake, gather with friends, and savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season— without succumbing to the hustle and bustle of it all.
And yet, there is a whisper inside of me that cautions me not to place so much attention on finding the perfect holiday gift for everyone. Most recently, I find myself thinking, instead, about intangible, “boxless” presents we could exchange with one another. Considering, what things mean the most to us? What would we like to receive from someone else? I know what I’d like to receive from the loved ones in my life. I’d like to be given the gift of their time. In my view, there is no better gift than being able to spend time with the people I love.
Moving through life at the pace we are, it's our free time that becomes a precious commodity. Might it be possible this year to ditch the "To-Do" List and create a “To Be” list for ourselves—a roster of all the ways we can be with the important people in our lives—giving the holiday gift of our presence instead?
What might be on your “To Be” list? Perhaps a leisurely walk with someone who needs a listening ear; reading a book with a grandchild; reliving old memories perusing photo albums with an aging parent or grandparent; a phone call to a childhood friend (or someone with whom you’ve lost touch). These are the things that mean the most: the gifts of listening, caring, and presence. They are things that cannot be wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the Christmas tree. They are entities of enduring value. They are also memories in the making, gifts that will last and last.
Time moves quickly. Life is short. When all is said and done and we look back upon our lives, what we’ll remember most are the people with whom we spent our days and nights. We will recall the warm hugs of friends, children, and grandchildren; hearty conversations at the dinner table; the late nights we shared comforting one another through the ups and downs of life.
It’s interesting isn’t it, the similarity in these two words: “presents” and “presence”? Which would you prefer to receive? If gift giving is at the top of your priority list, my hope for you this holiday season is that you will dig deeper than your pocketbook and creatively design some quality time--the gift of presence—for the important people in your life. And that you will receive some in return, as well.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Savor the Days with Me
The "Season of Light" is upon us. Are you feeling busy and overwhelmed? Stop, breath, take 5 minutes with me each day to enjoy a period of ritual and prayerfulness "bearing the Light."
12 days with 12 short, candle-lighting rituals with meaningful prayers for keeping "what matters most" front and center. Begin today and rededicate yourself to cultivating presence in this holiest of seasons.
Do you have a space in your home to call your own? According to author Virginia Woolf, every woman needs two things: her own money and her own room. There are tremendous benefits to carving out a space of your own. I am sure we would all love our own rooms, filled to the brim with the hues, scents and items we truly love. This would be an ideal situation: to create a space you can go to when the voice of solitude or self-indulgence calls. Orchestrate it so that the moment you enter, peaceful thoughts greet you. It would be the “perfect” place, not unlike a little Eden, where your whole self is surrounded by beauty.
However, in real life, most of us share spaces with partners, children, grandchildren or friends. Our spaces are full of other people's stuff, which when given a choice, we personally wouldn't have there at all.
We have to be realistic in creating a personal space for ourselves amidst the clutter of busy households. I’ve met many women who have carved out their own niche in a household that bustles with activity. One friend moved into a new house and selected a small extra bedroom for herself that she dubbed her "angel room." (Some of us have done this, but elected to call it an "office" instead.) She painted it her favorite color, filled it with her most loved books and music, endearing photos, motivational prints and fragrant candles. She goes there to renew focus or to get away from it all.
Without the luxury of an entire room, we can claim a corner or section of a room as "ours." I don't have the luxury of a room of my own, so I tend to create cozy corners for myself all through my house. For one such corner, I purchased a lovely oversized wicker chair with tapestry cushion and a reading lamp. They sit in a corner by a built-in bookshelf. I removed all of the books and started from scratch, replacing them with my personal favorites—some I’ve read, others I’ve not—books whose words give me sustenance. On top of the book-shelf, I placed scented candles, a piece of native American pottery I bought in Arizona, a carved stone that says, "Strength," and a miniature watercolor of an empowered woman by one my favorite Michigan artists. I removed the knick-knack shelf that had been there for seven years and hung a new motivational print I found in a gallery. A basketful of my favorite magazines sits by the chair. It's MY corner and I love to sit or read there. Surrounded by “chosen” things, relaxation comes more quickly. My body feels safe; I feel at home in myself and in my space.
If you do not have the luxury of a "room of your own," Virginia Woolf style, and you desire a personal haven, I would offer this suggestion:
A dresser or desktop can serve the same purpose. A small nightstand by your bed, carefully arranged with your favorite things, is good option. Even a space as small as that sends messages of self-importance and worth to you, and to those around you. Place in your space only those things that evoke positive, mood enhancing feelings or memories. Special photographs, intimate gifts and handmade items are all good choices. Keep it clean, tidy, updated—sacred.
Feel free to change and alter your personal space at your whim. Always remember that it's your personal space, created to support your spiritual well-being and no one else's. By creating personal sacred space, we are sending messages to our self that we are worthy of time, expense and attention. In doing so, we also affirm that we are sacred beings, creatures of inner peace, beauty and goodness.
©2014, Janice Lynne Lundy. All Rights Reserved. www.JanLundy.com
Join me on on Wed. April 2 for a "Spiritual Health In-Venture,"Creating Sacred Space in Your Home and in Your Heart."
It's a one-of-a-kind tele-seminar to help you reclaim the Sacred in your physical space and within yourself. Every woman needs the blessing of a living environment that feels welcoming and beautiful. As women, we also need sacred space WITHIN us; an inner landscape that welcomes in the Holy. Join me for an enlivening and practical evening where we'll tend to all aspects of your "Home" so that sacred energy infuses you AND your surroundings each and every day. I hope you will join me!
My heart is filled with gratitude these days. And to log-in all this gratitude, making it a forever memory, I am recoding them in the pages of an engagement calendar.
I like this format—simple and clear. A small space, 1 1/2 inches wide by 7 inches long, one for each day, to list 5 things I am grateful for. I'm currently using the "Inner Reflections" engagement book, produced by the Self-Realization Fellowship featuring the thoughts of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Every other page features a beautiful photograph, one of which is above. Oh, so inspiring, especially if you are lover of nature like me.
My "gratitudes" range from simple things like hearing the trill of a cardinal, taking day trip with my husband and stopping for a sandwich along the way, to having a clear enough mind to think and write.
I began the practice just over a week ago and am delighting in how light-hearted I feel. Recording gratitudes is not new to me. I have done this often throughout the years when I am feeling a bit snarky or whiny; when I forget my many blessings when life gets difficult.
Gratitude itself is a virtue of the spirit and has an exceptionally high "vibration." It naturally elevates one's mood, making a shift in perspective that may be much needed. It faithfully works for me.
Sometimes we make a very big deal out of the spiritual life. We feel that we must have extraordinary, other-worldly experiences to "be spiritual" or to demonstrate our spiritual prowess. While I have been blessed to have had many of those over the years, in time, their luster fades. What lasts are the simple, modest, daily practices—like gratitude—that keep us in touch with our true self, what is most important in life, and with the Sacred as we understand it.
It's amazing how a simple "Thank you" can shift your day and how a string of them, heartfully and consistently offered, can shape your life.
If you're interested in a very special gratitude practice you can do with your family, you might enjoy my article, "The Gratitude Bowl." With spring (Easter and Passover) celebrations near, this could be a lovely addition to your meal. Enjoy and may you be doubly blessed!
It's a great question, isn't it? What does the soul love?
If we knew the answer, wouldn't we give our soul what it loved all of the time? Of course, if we were aware and in touch with our soul's urgings we wouldn't hesitate.
What I know about soul conversation is this. When the ego gets really loud we can't hear the voice of our soul.
I find myself in this murky place often on a Monday morning. Especially this Monday after spending four days at a silent retreat in northern Michigan. I was not attending the retreat, but "working" it as a spiritual director. I met with six people each day. I sat and listened, received their sacred tale, and got my small self out of the way as much as possible so I could clearly hear the movement of the Spirit in their lives. And to help them hear it too.
It was a remarkable weekend. Because the Spirit was so very present in the silence, we could easily hear and honor our soul's voices. For me, this began with a ritual of intention: lighting a candle in the chapel to welcome in and dedicate myself to this soulful process of deep listening. And to listen deeply one must, of course, be fully present, so that was one of my prayerful intentions too: to really be HERE, in heart and thought.
Lighting a candle is one of my daily rituals. To me, it is a representation of Spirit. Churches, synagogues and temples throughout the world continuously keep candles lit for this very purpose. I light a candle before I begin my daily work, at dinner time, before any important occasion, and more.
This light reminds me of my soul connection too. A flickering flame invites me to remember that I am a soul being in my essence. Yes, fully human, but also a wondrous expression of the One, with boundless potential and an eternal life path. We are made of both Spirit and stardust ...
So as return home from retreat, from four blissful days in, what is my soul calling for? It calls for self-expression. Though that lovely message was difficult to hear this morning because the voice of the ego was loud. "There is so much work to do!" "Now, you are way behind." My ego likes to speak in the language of productivity. Do more! is generally the gist.
The ego also loves to mute the message of the soul with word/emotions that dim the flame within us. It sends us messages of morning sadness, boredom, or dissatisfaction with our lives. It takes a mighty intention, passion, perseverance so say "No, thank you, not this morning!" and do what you need to do to set the soul free and to flourish.
A simple ritual such as lighting a candle in the morning can help me make the shift from sad to glad. It opens up a space for the soul to be heard. Then, with clarity and wisdom, we can proceed through our day attuned to the soul's urgings and desires for us.
This morning when I asked the question, 'What does my soul love and what would it love for me to do in this very moment?' the answer came with ease: let your creativity flow.
With a deeper pause and some relaxing breaths, I asked for clarity about this and the answer came, 'Just write.'
On retreat, I'd honored a deep soul longing--to write freely (no expectations, no deadlines) whenever my heart desired. I'd packed a beautiful new journal and my favorite writing pens. Whenever my soul invited me to sit and write (again, easy to hear and do when you are in a monastery immersed in silence, even during meals!), I did. It was a wonderful experience, hour upon hour, to honor what my soul loved—full expression through the power of words placed upon a page.
What you're reading here is an expression of my soul's calling this morning— to write some more, instead of heading down the thorny path of ego. I did not write to create something, though it ended up in this blog post, but to hear my self speak, my true self, the voice of my soul as it comes to me through words and images. Words that help me remember who I really am.
The same can be true for any of us. It simply takes a well-grounded intention and a deep desire to do what your soul urges.
I wonder, what does your soul love and what does it whisper to you to do, to be, in this very moment? If we honor this eternal voice within us it always takes us where we need to go.
Even if it's simply to sit on the couch to put pen to paper. No saving the world today, just saving a precious self by realigning her with soul.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.