“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

~ Carl Jung

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Crackers

As a part of our family’s holiday tradition, we have English crackers at the end of our Christmas dinner.  The crackers come with a crown and a joke inside; and, I add an inspirational quotation and a small trinket of some kind.  At the end of our meal, we pop the crackers, don our crowns, and each person reads his joke and then his quotation aloud.  It is one of my favorite parts of our celebration; and, the perfect end of the day.

In selecting the quotations, I try to identify some theme that relates to what the members of my family have been experiencing over the past year.  This year my first thought was to use quotations related to change;  but, as I thought more about it, I realized that change was the theme last year.  In fact, change is the theme every year. The one constant in our lives is change.   

So, if this is simply a reality of our lives, what is it that helps us to negotiate the changes that we all experience?  I believe the most important factor is connection to loving, supportive family members and friends.    Having others share our joy in response to positive change multiples that joy exponentially.   A willingness to walk with another, as well as, the willingness to allow others to walk with us, through a painful experience is perhaps the greatest gift we can give or receive.  We tend to underestimate the power of our presence, our willingness to just be there in the experience together.

This time of year is filled with ritual and tradition.  Many may seem somewhat trivial – the menu, the trip to ride the Pink Pig, the annual cookie baking.    They are anything but trivial.   They are the very experiences that build our connections, our foundations.  These are the experiences that make our lives rich and worthwhile.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finding Myself at My Center

Recently I attended a workshop.  One of the exercises we participated in went something like this (or at least, this is how I experienced the exercise):

Imagine a beautiful scene in nature.  It might be somewhere you have been before or it might be a beautiful place in your imagination.  As you allow yourself to be in that scene notice that you are feeling peace but at the same time you are feeling excitement.   The scene that comes to mind for me is an actual scene that I am fortunate to experience fairly often.  It is sitting on a boat, floating on a lake in North Georgia.  The sun is beginning to drop behind the mountains surrounding the lake.  The surface of the lake is shimmering with the reflected sunset.  It is truly a magical place and a magical time.  It always stirs those feelings of peace and excitement in me no matter what else may be happening in my life.

That state of peacefulness and excitement that you experience as you imagine your scene is who you are at the center of your being.  It is your true self.  Beneath all the reactionary emotions, under the everyday stress of life, this is you. 

Years ago I did a guided imagery with my therapist.  She led me in some relaxation breathing and then she suggested that I imagine a circular staircase.  As I descend down this staircase, I would sink deeper and deeper into myself, into my center.  What I found that day at the bottom of that staircase was a beautiful meadow.  At the meadow's edge in the shade of a tree was a bench.  As I sat on the bench, I was surrounded by light and I felt connected to something larger than myself.  I felt peaceful, safe, and contented.  That time in my life was not peaceful, so I used that imagery often to find a quiet refuge away from my sometimes intense feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. 

I have gotten pretty good at going to my center.  After much practice, I can pretty much access that place inside me whenever I have the need to do so.  I would encourage you to find that place in yourself.  Practice finding yourself at your center and spend some time getting to know yourself underneath all the stuff of everyday life.  I think and hope that you will find, as I do, that this is a journey worth taking regularly.