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A meditation for the end of January…

This week so many of those I interacted with spoke to the frenetic pace and heaviness of this month. Here is a meditation from our vespers service to lighten your spirits:

O world of small cares and large heartbreaks, endless lists and unreachable goals let me stop and hold a moment for the chiming voice of the sacred. Let me listen to its tones and let them call me back to my deepest loves and my clearest aspirations. And then let me touch that wholeness from whence all things holy spring. O teeming life with all its resurrections and tiny deaths, with its true threats and meaningless diversions, help me to be present to the small winged creatures of joy and the constellations of beauty that can frame the most ordinary of days and give them angelic voice. O day of limited hours and infinite duties, help me be present to you and all that you give and in doing so, let me be present to my own heart.

Pray for the power to notice and the discipline to pay attention. Exalt the power of every day and the comfort of the routine. Praise what makes you more yourself and give it a name secret to your own heart. In this place, in the quiet of these holding dark nights, know your own power for connection and healing. All that you need is in your own self and in the connections among us all.

Of Intention and Attention

As this new year and decade dawn, I find myself in a more contemplative place than usual. This is a place and a time in which it seems both especially important to have a renewal of intentions and also a time in which it seems important to set realistic expectations. The truth is every day and every hour we have the chance to make decisions, though we may not be the ones setting the overall frame. Somethings we CAN change and some we cannot and yet what we can control is how we approach the lot we are given in life.

So, yes, intentions matter—and so does attention. Attention to the small beauties which abound in this life. On the first day of this year, while I was walking with one of my four-leggeds, I noticed this flower on the sidewalk. Down the street was a bush from whence it probably came. I was struck by the beauty it revealed, there on the plainness of the sidewalk and all the possibility it masked. Was the flower plucked in a moment of fancy as a gift to another or perhaps as a gift to self in a moment when some uplift was needed? Was this bloom particularly beautiful or did it just seem so against the drabness of the concrete? And how was my life made just a little better because my eyes caught sight of this little gift? For me these are the questions of this new year and this new decade: how can we see what is before us and find the beauty within it and how can we allow our spirits to be renewed by the beauty that is there.

May this new year be one in which you offer best intentions—and best attention—and may your life be richer as a result.

Gifts of the Spirit

When we had our Breath and Spirit retreat last weekend, we had a table of objects commonly seen in the season. The idea was that if someone was feeling some sadness or loss this the season, the sight of that object would help us remember that we are cared for, loved and part of something larger than ourselves.

On that table were several angels. When they were given to me, I probably did not value them as much as I do now. The giver was a woman of little financial means but of great life experience and she made a point of making some simple ornament every year. Now they are one of the “Christmas things” that my children and I look forward to seeing every year.

So many of us have had someone give a gift we weren’t sure we wanted. Perhaps it is a homemade something or something a little too garish for you to ever use. Perhaps the style is too cute or too somber. Perhaps it displays a sentiment you don’t think bears repeating. This is a common experience—most of us more than a few years old have had it.

What is interesting to me is how the mores around this of changed. With our emphasis on direct speaking and being clear with one another, we now feel free to tell someone that we do not want their gifts. And many more just ignore its giving. In this age when the market for things needed is saturated, we are increasingly sold the idea that we need to have everything we want and in the specific way we want them. The odd or quirky, homemade or homely gift becomes even more distasteful with this ethic. And maybe to our detriment.

So much is wrapped up in gift-giving in this season when people will come bearing gifts. Even if it is not a gift we appreciate at first, maybe we should take some time to think about the motivations and locations of the gift giver and to rest for a while in that experience. Or to talk to someone we know who might be having that experience because we might just be able to coach another on how to receive seemingly unwanted gifts. We cannot always know what will be of use to us in the future we cannot always know what will bring us joy in days that we cannot imagine. Let us enter into this season ready to receive with gratitude whatever gifts are given, be they physical ones are gifts of the spirit. May the angels of possibility visit you and yours.

How do we embrace the mystery and miracle of this season?

Here is a meditation for these days:

How do we embrace the mystery and miracle of this season?

Listen to the voice which speaks to you of things less known. Harken to the impulse which causes you to notice what you might pass by. Imbibe the heartbeat of a timeless rhythm that reminds us that the seasons transcend the small doings of humanity. Behold loose laughter as it echoes across a darkened hall. Receive the miraculous when we are given more than we expect. Take the small gifts and watch how they expand in the embrace of our intention. Move across the busy back of this season to see the landscape of mystery and miracle. Rejoice.

These closing days of the year are guests who bring their baggage. Welcome them with firm and gentle grace and show them the place where those vessels can be stored. If you wish to unpack them or see their contents, you will know the strength you need. If you want only in this year to sip warm comfort with familiar guests, you have the power to make this choice as well. You will welcome what you wish and you will also create the tableau for hospitality. You are stronger than your memories and an actor in your own story.

The Evolution of A Holiday

Few occasions bear the mark of the times the way that Thanksgiving does. For the most part, gone are the myths of a peaceable feast among generous indigenous and noble settlers. As that story has been debunked, we have been left to find our own meeting in this time of gathering, which came to be a national holiday during the Civil War, when it was thought that such a time would bring a weary, war-torn nation together. As the Atlantic Magazine has noted in a series of articles, it is hard to remain ignorant of the ominous roots of this occasion.

For some, now, the day has become more about gathering with family, blood or chosen—or simply with good company. Friendsgiving is a new way many chose to brand it. Gathering, though, in good company is of increasing importance and customs and fancy cooking less and less so for many. And gratitude has become another focus.

What is it that you would wish to pass on from your legacy on this day? Perhaps it is a treasurer recipe or a family story or a game that is always watched or played. Perhaps it is just the continuity of relationship, passing from generation to generation. In these very busy times when people have less and less time to gather and relax, perhaps the beauty in this day is in its pace and flow, different from that of other days. Perhaps the time to savor and appreciate is what is of value. In a time with so much change, it is hard sometimes to conceive of what will have staying power. I wonder as I prepare the stuffing which I will use very early tomorrow morning, as I mash the sweet potatoes, whether this holiday will be around in a few generations and if so, what it will have evolved into being.

The loss of myths grounded in a dangerous lack of reality is good. And yet so is family, gathering, friendship, and shared food.

May you find your own peace and meaning in this day.

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