Advent has begun and we are deep into the darkness of the season. Even darker with the tumultuous climate we find ourselves in. The fall has been filled with natural disasters, growing violence and hatred, pandora’s box of sexual scandal filling the news, topped off with a government unhinged and seemingly uncaring of the people they represent. It’s too easy to sink into fear, angst, and hopelessness.
I am attempting to become comfortable in the darkness as I consider ways to bring light into the season. I sit outside in the dark, I meditate in the dark, and I am writing into the darkness. I have candles burning around my house at night and in the early morning — these fill the darkness with a comforting light. I wish to believe that the light will come and, with it, hope.
This year, I have no interest in shopping. I am intensely affected by others — there is more stress in the faces of people I see at work, in shopping stores, and on the highways. Instead, I wish to be present this holiday season in a different way, in the most positive and purposeful way I can. I am turning to practices that I regularly do for myself. I need to nurture hope.
The practices I am committing to are:
1. Find and declare the good. What is going well? I can look for benefit and live into that.
2. Simple giving without spending more than I have. A smile, something handmade, a service, or a heartfelt card with a note handwritten to the person.
3. Kindness is such an easy practice and needed now more than ever. Hold the door for someone, pause to extend sincere greetings (even if I don’t know them), make a meal for someone, or take the time to listen when a story needs to be told.
4. Gratitude, my daily practice, is one I can recommit to with even greater awareness. I make gratitude lists at the end of every day. I will write letters of gratitude to those I love and those I know. There is so much to be grateful for, even in darkness.
5. Mindfulness. Consider my actions toward others (also my thoughts), be aware of my own needs (for food, rest, and exercise), and notice beauty when there seems to be little of it. I was invited to a seven day black and white photo practice on Instagram — I am finding such joy in looking for contrasts and, as a result, beauty in the simplest of images.
6. Planning resolutions? I am reframing my intentions for 2018 as my success path. Resolutions can be so boring and, too often, are left by the wayside by the middle of January. Reframing my intentions as my path to success is refreshing and positive. Keep them simple. Go for Kaizen changes — baby steps of change vs. the lofty resolutions I know I won’t keep.
7. Play music that lifts me up. I played music through my Thanksgiving retreat (I hadn’t played music for a long time) and I noticed that it helped me stay focused, invited me to get up and move throughout the day and even sing along. The result? I felt more joyful and could feel my happiness chemicals flowing — oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Music is a wonderful happiness booster.
8. Daily meditation practice. Simply sitting in silence with my breath as my guide. Some days it may be only minutes while other times it can be as long as an hour. Meditation calms my nervous system, quiets my mind, eases the stress I feel, and reminds me that I am a part of something wondrously and benevolently bigger.
These are all practices I do and have written about. I like to recommit to them so they stay fresh. It’s too easy to allow our practices to become automatic — losing their shine of new. Recommitment is a way to dust off the automatic and bring the practice into my current awareness. Through recommitting to being positive and purposeful I can bring the light into my heart and then share it with others I pass on the way.