This is the perfect time of year to reflect on all that happened in your life in 2015. When you stop and think about all you accomplished and how strong you were to face and overcome the challenges you had, it will give you a good perspective on how much you’ve grown. And you can identify areas where you can grow into an even more balanced and loving person in 2016.
I do not have a list of New Year’s resolutions. For too many years I set myself up declaring all the things I was going to change about myself, yet did not stick with long enough to actually achieve the change I wanted. Then I would spend the next eleven and a half months beating myself up for not keeping the resolutions I made.
This year join me in breaking the habit of making a long list of resolutions. Let’s identify one thing to concentrate on, to make a consistent part of our new 2016 life-style. For example, let’s focus on cleaning up and maintaining clean spaces within our homes and outer environment. Barbara and I do this often and feel a sense of peace and comfort in our home. We highly encourage you to make decluttering your 2016 New Year’s resolution and suggest you get started by going from room to room.
Chose one room and pick up every object. Ask yourself how you are impacted by it. Does an item store unpleasant memories? If so doesn’t keeping it around make you feel uncomfortable? Taking an emotional inventory of your possessions shifts something inside you. Releasing many of your things will cause change in some long-held patterns about what really matters and makes you content.
Part of loving ourselves is caring about how our environment feels and looks. There is a deep sense of balance derived from taking time to organize and clean out closets, drawers, bookshelves, tabletops, the garage, storage unit and cabinets. We determine whether the items in our home have a purpose and a place. We give away, donate, recycle, or sell any excess. Through the effort of cleaning up our home, office, and car, we can dramatically lessen distractions and improve our sense of well-being, balance and inner peace.
Another advantage of cleaning up our homes is greater inner awareness and respect for our shared outdoor space. While we may have a home with a yard that we own or rent, the entire planet is our home and residence to billions of other people, animals and plant life. It is a heart-responsibility to care about how our actions impact the planet and delicate balance within the natural world.
Assessing and purging applies not only to our personal property but to the beautiful planet we call home. Take inventory of how you can properly dispose of paints, chemicals, printer cartridges, batteries, cell phones, computers, plastic bags and other things in your everyday life that can negatively impact the natural world. Let’s make our 2016 resolution to maintain clean spaces for everyone on the planet and all life that calls Earth home. The small actions you and I take create win-wins for us all.
It took much soul searching for me to forgive my early religious experience. Born gay and raised in a fundamentalist Christian church in the southern part of the United States was a nightmare. The treatment I received was anything but Christ-like. Today I still witness many people who call themselves Christian behaving in ways that are opposite of what the man Jesus asked from those who desire to follow in his footsteps.
My partner Barbara began feeling bad late one Friday afternoon. Saturday she was worse. By Sunday she was unable to swallow or talk without horrible pain. Monday morning she went to the doctor. He immediately sent her to a specialist who had to perform an emergency procedure that was excruciatingly painful. Neither doctor had a clue why Barbara’s tonsil became abscessed. But it did, and almost overnight.
She was in such pain. It is so hard to watch the people we love suffer. And, for me who threw up while having my ears pierced, I am not the strongest around blood and other things that happen to our bodies when we get sick or injured.
I am happy to say I was there for her. It’s like some magical power took over and I was not fearful, I stayed calm and I did not faint or throw up. No, I was a rock, even when I listened to each and every detail of what she had to go through so she could cry and let it go.
It is amazing what we can do when we have to. Love gives us super powers to rise to the occasion so we are there for those we care for. Yes, love is constant and has incredible powers to endure whatever it is called to do. Love does show up for the good as well as the bad.
Our thoughts create our behavior. Our behavior creates our life. We create the loving and fulfilling life we want by teaching ourselves to remain connected to what we think and why we think it. We, the heart soul of who we are, become the gatekeeper of our thoughts by teaching ourselves to master a mind with a mind of its own.
I love the multicolored twinkling lights that adorn homes and offices. I adore the aroma of warm cookies and sweet treats baking. I get teary-eyed at the sounds of carolers as I am taken back to pleasant childhood memories of doing the same with my friends. I cherish the tinkling of the Salvation Army bell that reminds us of those less fortunate.
I like the confused look on my little dog’s face when I snap a photo of her in reindeer antlers. I love spending a week writing holiday cards, reinforcing my connection to treasured people in my life. I appreciate the Jewish tradition of lighting the Hanukkah Menorah for the Festival of Lights and the heart-based motivation behind the Christmas tradition of God-consciousness being birthed in the form of the man Jesus.
Yes, I love the reverence for spiritual enlightenment, festivities, fun, food and gatherings for the holidays. And I hate the consumerism that is so pervasive this time of year.
It used to be well past Thanksgiving before holiday ads started to appear. Now I am still roaming around in my Halloween vampire costume when the relentless assault begins. The twinkling lights, tinkling bells, and carolers are a mere whisper among the roar of ads for the countless “things” we should wrap up for our loved ones to show that we care.
When did what we buy become more important than standing by? When did presents become more important than presence? When did “things” become the most important things?
I had to honestly ask myself these questions because there was a time when I had forgotten the reasons for the season and had almost drowned in debt. For too many years, I gave too many presents that were too big for my budget.
From an early age, I felt as if I was molded into being a holiday purchasing machine. I was constantly bombarded by product ads promising to make me and other people happy. I spent much of my life surrounding myself and others with things. So, I got used to whipping out the credit card, without caring how I was going to pay when the bill arrived. Nor did I stop to question if giving and receiving “things” was actually the way to joy or peace. Then one holiday season I had a life-changing “aha” while reading Charles Dickens’s classic novel A Christmas Carol.
When I first encountered Ebenezer Scrooge, I thought he was a despicable individual. He was rich and stingy, angry and miserable, seemingly without heart. He cared nothing for anyone except himself. Despising the poor and hungry, he was a cruel boss who forced poor Bob Cratchit, his ever-loyal employee, to work long hours in horrible conditions, paying him almost nothing.
Scrooge was a dastardly man, yet by the end of the tale he had become my hero. His complete transformation, from mean and miserly to kind and generous, left a deep and lasting impression on me.
The old Scrooge showed me that money, things, and power over others are not the source of joy and satisfaction. The enlightened Scrooge taught me that it is the heart connection we make with our fellow human beings and all life that creates joy and contentment in our lives. Scrooge helped me realize that to “keep up with the Joneses” or blindly follow the “gift giving” standard set for me by a global sales force was a shallow and irresponsible endeavor; one that did not align with the real reasons for the season.
Yes, the holidays are a time when we give and receive. And it pays to remember that the most precious gifts are those that cannot be purchased but come from our heart.
This holiday season, let’s make the conscious decision to make presence more important than presents. Let’s place greater value on standing by, than what we buy, those we love. Let’s make our relationships the most important thing.
Let’s refuse to equate consumerism with love. Let’s remember that the true motivation behind the holidays is to extend kindness, patience, peace and generosity to friends, family, and our fellow human beings. Let’s remember those whose need is greater than our own. These are the real reasons for the season.
Yes, we need things to live. But, as our consumeristic society grows ever more focused on the latest and greatest gadgets, it is important for us to keep in mind things do not bring lasting or genuine happiness. Things cannot buy love and because love is the reason for the season, this is the perfect time of year to remind our children and ourselves of what is truly important in life.
I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian church in Texas. I was taught God is angry, vengeful and male. As a small child, God was scary and something to fear. But that did not make sense to my soul. So I decided to do my own research, because to me leaving limiting beliefs about the Divine unexamined is really limiting God.
Regardless of what other people wanted me to believe, it made sense if a supreme awareness initiated the events resulting in the creation of everything, then a part of that consciousness must reside in all human beings and in all that is alive. This means, by design the original creative consciousness bestowed a spark of itself equally in both men and women. Judaism teaches every person (Jewish and non-Jewish) was created b’tzelem Elohim, which is Hebrew for “in God’s image.” For this reason, every person is equally important and has an infinite potential to do good in the world.
One indication a supreme consciousness was placed into male form by male authors and translators of the Christian Bible is found in the meaning of the word Jesus Christ used originally to address the Divine in the Lord’s Prayer. According to the monk Michael Green,
When Jesus lived he spoke Aramaic, an archaic language that frames matters of the Spirit more softly, and perhaps more appropriately, than the truncated Latin, German or English translations of the gospel that are now so much a part of our heritage. Biblical scholars inform us now that when the Son of Mary addressed the mystery of Godhead, the actual word Jesus used is ABWOOM, a term that has always been rendered for us as Our Father, but would be more properly understood as Our Mother-Father-All-in-All.
I hold a deep faith within my heart an infinite loving power exists. To me, it is one who gives birth to all, or our divine parent, or Radiance who shines through all that is. I believe it has no specific gender, race, or ethnicity. It does not exclusively endorse any one person, group of people, or particular set of religious beliefs.
These all-inclusive, positive, life-affirming values allow me to honor the divine spark of it equally in each human being regardless of gender, race, social status, position within society, or spiritual practice. Inclusive acceptance also fosters a deep appreciation for, and obligation to honor and protect, all animals and the natural world.
When we change our view to include the Divine in all life, we can see God in one another and in ourselves. I believe accepting the Divine cannot be boxed into one form is the surrender necessary for ego to fall away and heart to take the lead. Only heart/soul, the home to our Divine spark, can foster an intimate relationship with the Divine, with ourselves and with all life.
Satisfaction and joy come from the relationships we form with other people and other living things. Not just the relationships we have with family and close friends, but all encounters we have in life are relationships. When we begin to move through life seeing each encounter as a relationship, it changes us in profound ways.
One of the truths I hold dear is this quote by Lord Acton. He wrote these famous words in opposition to the Catholic Church’s doctrine of papal infallibility. Acton did not believe the pope was infallible and issued a caution that anyone in a position of such power can easily be corrupted. In his experience, and mine, power does corrupt. And, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We live in a time when we are surrounded by corruption. Holding personal integrity in high esteem has succumbed to a profit driven, winner take all, who cares about the consequences of my actions attitude that leaves a social, environmental, relationship and spiritual chaos in its wake. We cannot create our best life by behaving in ways that are illegal and morally corrupt. The energy we put out eventually returns to us. So, if we want good, peaceful relationships and to raise our children in a responsible and caring world, we must make being people of integrity most important. We must take a personal stand against corruption, negativity and injustice. It starts by weeding out the negative and unjust in our own lives.
We work hard to stay positive and loving in our interactions with family, friends and the strangers we meet. We set boundaries against unacceptable behavior and also teach our children to say no to the illegal and unethical. We carefully monitor what we allow into our heart and mind as entertainment. We educate ourselves on issues rather than accept gossip and opinion as truth. We make a positive contribution to cleaning up the planet and we focus on teaching compassion, respect and kindness for all life. We stand up against injustice, racism, oppression, bullying, abuse and xenophobia (fear of foreigners). We refuse to support anyone, any person or organization (governmental, religious, social, community, business, entertainment, news, etc.) that propagates hate, fear, divisiveness, inequality, genderism, homophobia, war and negative behaviors that keep us divided or justify abusing others.
The world will not change until we change it. We can correct what is wrong in our individual and collective lives. We accept another powerful truth – all positive change we want to see begins with you and me.