I haven’t had much chance to embrace some of the winter weather traditions my mother passed onto us when my brother and I were kids, since it’s been in the mid-seventies here in Atlanta. But, this time of year makes me nostalgic nonetheless, and for me simple memories are often what bring me serenity. It may not be a Rumi poem, but my heart fills with love and joy and that’s the ultimate sankalpa or ‘purpose’, isn’t it? When you hear some of the most spiritual leaders and teachers speak, they’ll often tell you that spirituality isn’t always a surreal, out-of-body experience. Spirituality is often being at home with your human-ness and embracing the simplest experiences with love.
When we were little, my mom would prepare us for sled riding as if we were headed to base camp at Mt. Everest. Among the 30 minute long ritual that had us feeling restricted and sweaty were wrapping our feet in Wonderbread bags before putting on our boots to keep our tootsies warm and dry. At the time it seemed silly and unnecessary, but we were suited in enough winter armor that we could play for hours without getting frostbite or even chilled.
We would come home kick of our sopping boots and snow suits in the mudroom, and march upstairs with static cling hair and red cheeks where my mother would greet us with hot cocoa or soup. I actually get teary-eyed and my heart swells when I think about those days. So, for me, I catch glimpses of the divine through these memories. Pure, joyful bliss.
There are tons of unique family traditions we still practice today around the holidays like fondue on Christmas Eve, spending time together on boxing day, and playing board games like Scrabble and Scattergories after dessert on Christmas day. And even though we can all get on each other’s nerves (let’s face it, family time can be trying), we do love being together and celebrating the holidays in our ‘old-fashioned’ way. And, to me, THAT is spirituality incarnate.
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Every time I see the cute “Life is Good” shirts and hats, I kinda want to go erase the “good” part off. Not because I’m a pessimist, but because we tend to be attached to labels like “good and bad” often at the expense of our peace and joy. We tend to pass value judgements on ourselves based on perceptions, not reality, which can leave us feeling guilty or anxious. Reality is not perception, reality is not good or bad, it just is what it is.
Seems like a harsh leap right? Bad things happen don’t they?
I’ve dealt with my share of what people may describe as “bad things”, we all have. But, the labels “good” and “bad” limit perspective and are only relative truths.
I believe that this is not the only life we get. It’s a pixel of a grander HD picture. It helps me to come to peace with some of the things that happen throughout this life and accept that life just is.
Does that mean that I don’t ever cry or get upset or feel guilty? No, in fact, I often cry often. I cry at beauty and acts of kindness. I cry when I see suffering. But I try to remain present and accept the emotions and sensations themselves without attributing a thought judgement. I try not to get caught up in the tears or emotions that come with the toxic story the mind can create.
The 12 steps to addiction recovery are poignant and soothing whether you’re an addict or not, particularly steps 1 (Admit Powerlessness) and 3 (Surrender). When you realize (outside of the tasks and responsibilities you have as an inhabitant in the world) that you truly have no control and surrender to it, illusion fades away and peace nestles in.
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