Silence is something like an endangered species. Gunilla Norris
I have spent most of my life running from one activity to another, taking little time to experience the quiet of silence. I have finally learned that silence is my tuning fork. When I stop and am still my fragmented parts come together. It is in silence that I renew and reenergize myself, giving me the ability to fully experience life.
I’ve always considered myself to be an extrovert. Now as I age I’m beginning to believe I was a trained extrovert. Coming from a family of extroverts, my way to be seen in my family was to model their behavior. Now as I embrace my need for silence, I find peace in a more contemplative life. Is it age? Or, am I finally coming home to who I am meant to be? Probably a bit of both.
Mary Sharratt, in her recent book A Book of Silence describes two different reasons for moving toward a more contemplative life.
Religious or eremitc silence, not just in the Christian tradition but in Buddhism as well, is about inner emptiness–emptying the mind and the body of desires, being purged and therefore pure: a kind of blank, a tabula rasa, on which the divine can inscribe itself. It is a discipline of self-emptying, or, to use a theological term, of kenosis, self-outpouring. Whereas romanticism uses silence to exactly the opposite ends: to shore up and strengthen the boundaries of the self; to make a person less permeable to the Other; to assert the ego against the construction and expectations of society; to enable an individual to establish autonomous freedom and an authentic voice. Rather than self-emptying, it seeks full-fill-ment.
I see myself in both of these descriptions. My meditative practice is about emptying myself so I can listen to my Divine wisdom. I can also fully relate to the second description. Living a more contemplative life has freed me from other’s expectations. I have been able to hear, more deeply, my authentic voice. When I let go of trying to please the voices and expectations of others, I find a freedom to live my life fully.
For all that has been—-Thanks! For that shall be—-Yes! Dag Hammarskjold
New Year’s is the perfect time to set-up rituals that support you letting go of the past year with grace, and welcoming the new year with hope. I’d like to share the rituals I began about ten years ago to honor the power of this time of year.
The week after Christmas through New Year’s Eve I spend time reflecting on the past year in my journal. Below is an outline of what I reflect upon:
Overall Summary of the past year
I write about the challenges, gifts, and surprises this past year brought. I sometimes use my calendar to jog my memory. I reflect on specific categories of my life. Again I write about the challenges, gifts, and surprises each category brought me. The categories I reflect upon are:
Spirituality Relationships Health
Another ritual I follow is choosing a word that I would like to embody for the coming year. My word for 2018 was Receive. I write about how I opened myself to receive the gifts and challenges brought to me this past year.
New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day I follow the same structure of overall summary, and the categories. I write my hopes and intentions for each for the coming year. I do not write New Year’s resolutions, but rather my intentions of how I want to show-up in each category. I then reflect on the word I choose to embody for 2019—how that word might look in action.
Finally, I keep my journal’s reflection from the past year and read through it to see how I lived my intentions and how I embodied my word.
May you create your own rituals to reflect on the past year and focus on the coming year, and may your New Year be blessed with good health, joy, and peace.
We come to this season from different traditions. All traditions celebrate the miracles of this time of year. I come to this time through the lens of Christianity. Advent is a time of waiting in quiet solitude for the returning light. Winter solstice honors the quiet of the winter months where the ground is cold and dark so the seeds can rest and germinate for the coming spring. It is difficult to follow our bodies yearnings to be still and listen during the busiest time of the year. How do you balance solitude and community? I’d like to reflect on the Christmas story, but with a different look at the gifts of the Magi. I’ve gathered 18 gifts from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance. These gifts/qualities for the journey include:
Unconditional love. Selflessness. Trust. Faith. Forgiveness.
Wholeness. Second Chances. Comfort. Joy. Peace.
Reassurance. Rejoicing. Generosity. Compassion.
Charity. Wonder. Acceptance. Courage.
1. Which ones are challenging for you? Which are fully integrated into your life?
2. How do they play out in your life?
3. Which one would you like to carry with you through this season?
4. Are there any that are easier to give than receive?
May you find time in this busy and miraculous season for the silence to be still and listen. A time to go inward and reflect on your life and the meaning of this time of year. Happy Holidays to all.
Reposted from my Writing Prompts blog available at http://www.listeningtomylife.blog
Perfectionism is the highest form of self-abuse. Anne Wilson Schaef
The holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations of perfection. We want to cook the perfect meal, buy the perfect gift, decorate our homes perfectly. With all this pressure to have the perfect holiday, the season’s meaning disappears as we frantically try to meet everyones needs.
Below is an excerpt from my memoir Listening to My Life sharing my struggle with perfectionism.
Allowing myself to not be perfect has been a hard lesson for me to learn. Doing it right the first time was so ingrained in me. Mistakes are still sometimes abhorrent to me. My head knows that making mistakes is the way we learn, my heart fears being wrong. The message of If you can’t do it right the first time, don’t do it, is like a post-it stuck to my soul.
I have two mantras that help me through my mistakes. I remind myself that I am human and humans are not perfect. I heard somewhere that when you accept your humanity, you experience your divinity. This comforts me and allows me to let go of the need to be perfect. The second mantra that gives me strength in the face of mistakes is “This too shall pass.” All things do pass. My responsibility is to recognize my mistake and take action to rectify it if possible. It is not necessary to hit myself over the head. I have become much more gentle toward my own humanity, giving myself what I’ve given others all these years.
As the holiday season begins please practice extreme self-kindness. Holidays are about connecting with loved ones and celebrating the joy of each other. It is hard to “let go” and enjoy if everything has to be perfect.
May you have a delightful imperfect holiday with loved ones.
Visit my website at http://www.listeningtomylife.blog
Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Think about how you feel when you know you have been heard. Listening offers a deep sense of being seen. The healing power of listening is immense. When I am heard I don’t have to try and prove my point. Nor do I have to prove the other wrong. Listening uses many practices: attention, being present, openness. Quaker writer Douglas Steere says, “Holy listening–to ‘listen’ another’s soul into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Deep listening is being willing to hear a different point of view and try to understand where that person is coming from. Listening does not mean you agree with what the person says, listening is telling that person you want to hear his/her point of view. It is not about changing their mind, it is about developing understanding. It is probably one of the hardest things to do–to listen without judging or trying to argue. Listening is a necessary ingredient if we are to begin to find common ground and rebuild our country on its founding principles. People calling on us with louder and louder voices are asking us to listen. Today there are a lot of loud voices and very little listening.
The Compassionate Listening Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict and strengthen cultures of peace. Their sole tool is deep listening to another’s story. Once a year they take a group of people to the Middle East to be a part of bringing Isralis and Palestinians together to hear each others stories. As the two groups sit in circle together and listen to each other, a shift takes place. By the end of the two days there are tears and hugs and a commitment to return to their homes and begin to bring people together. Has this stopped the conflict in this area, no. It has begun to build bridges of understanding, one person at a time, that ripples through each community.
May we all take time to deeply listen to those in our lives, and to those with a different point of view. As hard as it is sometimes, I believe listening can help build bridges of understanding and not walls.