Monday, December 13, 2010

Desperately seeking stillness

This time of year is always hardest to find stillness. And that seems so counter to what the season is supposed to be: remembrance, gratitude, humility, compassion and reflection to name a few.

I feel winter is MY season; partly because I was born in January, partly because I like to hunker down, be indoors, snug and introspective and also because the briskness clears my eyes, mind and soul. I layer up to go out and yet my cheeks tingle with the rouge of cold, my hair sparkles, my eyes twinkle and seem capable of holding more. I feel very bodily alive.

But the madness of invitations, obligations, inordinate gift-giving, incessant distraction and over expectation rear their ugly heads. I am learning not to give into the cultural flow. For me, it's a matter of survival and not getting swallowed up in the stream of tradition racheted up and whacked out.

I do participate, but in a reduced manner. I have embraced the Quaker idea that every day is sacred, so one day, such as Christmas or Easter, should be no more sacred than another. Christmas is merely a date on the calendar someone, sometime declared as a Holy Day, a holiday. There aren't actual, historical ties to the date. In fact, I read the organized church chose December to celebrate Jesus' birth because there were already so many solstice celebrations and it seemed an easy entree´ into those traditions.

My feelings about this time of year were reflected back to me yesterday in my Quaker meeting's (church) business session, which is called worship with attention to business. Once again, we were discussing how our committee structure was draining the congregation. Some groups are functioning well, but half are not, although energy has swelled informally around certain areas where needs are being met. One suggestion was to exchange the layers of committees that require clerks, reporting and regular meetings for informal task forces. The word task really spoke to me of obligation, expectation and legacy, although I know that is not what its proponents meant. Then the idea surfaced (the ways solutions do when a group is worshipfully conducting business and concepts arise that could not in any other way, with Spirit guiding and those present prayerfully listening and discerning) that the struggling committees take a brief hiatus and we see where the energy arises.

That so reminds me of the insight I was provided a little over a year ago during a retreat on spiritual restlessness: "If you can't do it with love, then don't do it."

For me, that's also applicable this time of year. When I cave into the wave of shoulds, my hearts shrinks to Grinch size. When I hold my own and do what I am called to out of love, it expands. One way of encouraging that expansion is to find regular stillness anytime of year. The simplest is just to follow the breath. When we get worked up and in lockdown mode, we breath so shallowly. Deep, expanding breaths are bodily and spiritually cleansing. Adding a simple prayer (thank you or help) to that breath nudges us deeper, connecting us, grounding us, reminding us who we really are.

What on my to-do list can I eliminate?
• What am I called to this time of year out of love?
• How do I respond to the seasonal change and do I recognize my body and spirit's natural rhythm?
• What reminder can I create to expand, not contract, my heart?
• In what ways do I pay attention to my breath?

breathe deep
forcing the air
into the abdomen,
down toward
the toes

and slowly
let go 

of the breath and
anything else

that's draining,

and not me

repeat until
I know who I am

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