If peace could be held in the palm of one’s hand, what would it feel like? I sometimes meditate on this question, imagining that I am holding peace in my left hand (because it’s nearest to the heart). This is a stream-of-consciousness exercise focusing on the sensations, images, and words that come to mind, however randomly.

It might go something like this: Peace feels soft. Although peace fills the hand, there’s almost no weight to it. Like a handful of fluffy little cotton balls—or maybe cotton candy. Pink cotton candy, like soft pink clouds at sunrise. Or blue like the sky.

Pink and blue cotton candy.

(photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net)

 
But peace is not sticky like cotton candy. It shapes itself to the hand and stays in place naturally, so there’s no need to keep a tight grasp. Peace won’t run away either. Like a friendly puppy, it wants to cuddle up and stay close—best not to squeeze too tightly!

Peace glows with a happy light, giving a pleasant warmth that travels all through the body and radiates out to the Universe. Peace is for sharing—it doesn’t need to be hoarded because there’s always more where it came from! Sometimes it dances too, just for the joy of existing—like the Snoopy Dance, maybe, with that cheerful piano music playing.

Even after ending the meditation and letting the images fade, peace is still there invisibly, as though it evaporated into the surrounding air while leaving a fresh, natural scent—like a summer afternoon when a gentle, cleansing rain is about to fall.

This post was inspired by the Meditation Mondays series on the blog belovelive, whose author, Liz, says that “regardless of who we are, finding ways to get in touch with our souls, in whatever way works for us individually, is something that can make life much more rich and bring us a deep sense of peace.”

Ever since I started a regular exercise schedule in 2002 and lost some weight, I’ve had a suit hanging in my closet that is one size too big. I bought other new clothes, but because my job does not require me to wear formal business attire, I just thought I’d replace the old suit when I got around to it. After all, it was still wearable even if it didn’t fit perfectly.

Suit with striped jacket and blue skirt and vest.

Of course, after I thought about it, I realized that keeping the old suit for so many years made no sense at all! If I wanted to attend a formal event and didn’t have anything else to wear, I would go out and buy a new suit anyway, rather than dredge through the depths of my closet and show up at the event wearing something that was both the wrong size and out of style. But after all this time, I had gotten so used to seeing it in my closet that I didn’t pay any attention to how totally useless it was!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

After a long string of very dark midwinter days, I’m looking out the window today at brilliant sunshine in a completely cloudless sky. When the sun came up this morning, the bare branches of the trees looked bright and golden—almost as if they were glowing with happiness to greet a long-lost friend.

Bare trees glowing in winter sunrise.

Although the lack of daylight at this time of year often causes people to dwell on gloomy feelings, it doesn’t have to be that way—we can instead choose to see winter as a time for quiet reflection and appreciation. Winter gives us opportunities to feel more gratitude for the little things, such as a lovely sunrise that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

To read all posts in this series from the beginning, click here.

 

Intentionally setting the direction for the rest of one’s life is quite an ambitious task, but that is what’s called for at the twelfth and last step of a recovery program. Moreover, this direction is not simply a general effort toward better habits; it is envisioned as a spiritual journey. Step Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) says: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

How does this powerful statement fit into the context of negativity? When we develop more understanding of the harm done by negative thinking, we’re not just letting go of the particular negative thoughts that caused our problems—we are removing heaps of grungy old mental clutter and freeing up space to invite more beauty, peace, and joy into our lives. Then we are empowered to share our creative energy with others, bringing more kindness and joy to the world in ways we might never have imagined. We go through our days feeling more awake and alive. A spiritual awakening, indeed!

This bold vision is tempered by a reasonable dose of humility, in that it acknowledges not everything is going to work out perfectly. What’s required is to make the effort: “we tried…” I believe there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from unsuccessful efforts, in that they help to make clear what works and what doesn’t, so that more can be accomplished the next time around. That said, when something fails we shouldn’t just give up and say, oh well, we tried. If we start feeling like that, we might do better to look for motivation from Yoda: “Do or do not—there is no try!”

Carrying the message, in AA groups, means setting a good example for others and sponsoring new members. When we’re talking about negativity through online interactions such as blogging, rather than an actual recovery group, I would say it means keeping a positive tone in all the writings we publish, including comments on other people’s blogs and on social media. No personal attacks, no rants, no excessive drama. It also means avoiding pointless online arguments. Sometimes constructive criticism can be useful, both as to individual mistakes and as to cultural problems; but there is rarely anything to be gained from posting comments into the sort of threads where people yell at each other for days.

And finally, what are the principles we should seek to practice in all our affairs? I would put honest self-evaluation at the top, along with cultivating the belief that help will be there when we need it—that we’re not just struggling through life all on our own. Whether that belief is framed as having faith in God or more generally as having trust in the workings of the Universe, it goes a long way toward reducing the anxiety that underlies addictive behavior. And when we accept the discomfort of acknowledging our mistakes and correcting them promptly, we find that it’s not nearly as painful as avoiding our problems.

I hope that these virtual meetings have been helpful and that the upcoming year will be a good one for us all! If something I’ve said in this series of posts resonated with you, please take a few minutes to write a comment, provided you have the time. I would love to know!

It’s holiday fruit basket time! And though the fruit may be yummy, the basket is likely to become clutter when January rolls around. I received a gift of apples, oranges, and other fruit in a nice sturdy metal bowl about ten years ago. After eating the fruit, I wasn’t sure what to do with the bowl; but I kept it because I thought it might be useful for something. I never actually did anything with it, though, and it ended up sitting on a shelf in my laundry room all these years.

Empty metal bowl.

Because I always keep fruit in a glass bowl on the kitchen table (shown in this post), it didn’t seem likely I would have any use for the metal bowl in the future, either. I considered buying more fruit at the supermarket and re-gifting the bowl at Christmas, but decided the best choice was donating it at the thrift store across the street from the supermarket instead. That way, I made sure it got out of the house—otherwise, I might easily have forgotten about the bowl and let it sit around for another ten years!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

As the winter solstice approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s common to feel that we have less energy to get things done on these short, dark days.  Our ancestors in farming villages probably felt the same, but they didn’t worry about it because they already had gathered in the harvest, so their hard work for the year was finished.  They simply acknowledged such feelings by lighting candles to brighten their homes during this season, understanding that it would soon pass.  Now we have fiber-optic Christmas trees and other modern decorations, but the days of winter are just as short and dark as they’ve always been.

Small artificial holiday tree with red flowers and fiber-optic lights.

Unlike the farmers in those long-ago villages, most of us don’t have a natural break in our work this time of year. We may be able to take vacation time in December, but not everyone can do that—many people work in retail or other industries that are busier than usual. And even if we have vacation time scheduled at the end of the month, we’re still busy at work in early December, as well as making our holiday preparations.

So what’s to be done when we feel that we have less energy than usual and need some quiet, restful days? In addition to cheering ourselves up with holiday decorations and other bright and pretty things, I believe it’s important to keep in mind that we are doing enough. Even if we have ideas for projects that we’d like to do, and even if we have tasks that need to get done in the near future, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if we can’t find the energy to do them right away. Like our ancestors, we might just want to light a candle and say, “This too shall pass.”

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Every Thanksgiving when I was a kid, my father made fruit salad.  The ingredients were McIntosh apples cut with the peel still on, big red grapes neatly halved, mini marshmallows, and a half-pint of whipped cream.  I thought it was great and always scarfed down lots of it.

After I grew up and moved away, I made the same fruit salad because I associated it so strongly with the holiday. There was a problem, though. My husband didn’t care for it, and neither did our children. We had Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ house every year, and I would always bring a big bowl of fruit salad, which only a few people would eat.

This year I didn’t make it because my husband said he’d like to bring sugar cookies instead. He went to the supermarket and picked out a bag of easy sugar cookie mix that needed only an egg and a stick of margarine. The cookies got baked very quickly on Thanksgiving afternoon, I didn’t have to do anything, we brought them to dinner on a festive red plastic plate, and everybody ate them happily.

Sugar cookie mix, eggs, and a stick of margarine.

I hadn’t realized until now that when I always made the fruit salad as part of my holiday routine, even though my husband and kids were not interested in it, I was depriving them of the opportunity to create different family traditions they’d enjoy more. If they had baked sugar cookies every year, then we would all have pleasant memories of our sugar cookie tradition.

Routines can be helpful when they genuinely serve our needs, but they only get in the way when we let many years pass without reflecting on whether they fit our current circumstances. Rather than putting things in the category of cherished traditions just because we haven’t changed them, we should take time to consider whether we really cherish them or whether we’re only doing them by rote.

We should also keep in mind that even if we like them, we’re not obligated to do them exactly the same way. If I want to eat fruit salad during the holiday season, I can make it for myself one December weekend. I might find that I enjoy it more, giving myself a bit of comforting holiday cheer to brighten up a dark evening in between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. It’s all about being flexible in how we look at things!

This post is about yellowed old lampshades, not about a faithful dog; but I picked the title because there was some canine involvement in this week’s Clutter Comedy.  My daughter’s puppy went tearing around the house without paying any attention (as puppies do) and knocked over a lamp that was part of a set of three.  The inner ring of the shade, which had gotten brittle over the years, promptly shattered. So we bought three new lampshades and were surprised by how much brighter the room looked without the yellowed old shades—we hadn’t realized how totally worn out they were!

Three old worn-out lampshades on a table.

I’m not sure if replacing lampshades counts as getting rid of clutter, as it doesn’t reduce the amount of stuff in the house. Maybe it belongs in the regular maintenance category instead. But anyway, there is a good lesson here: We often don’t notice when things get worn out because it happens so gradually, our brains get fooled into believing it was always like that. So, whether we’re talking about clutter or about maintenance, it’s important to look around from time to time and ask: Is everything in this room still as useful as when it was new? And if not, should it be repaired, replaced, or discarded?

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

Getting together with family over the holidays reminds us to feel thankful for our many blessings.  It’s a busy time, though, and people often get stressed out by extra chores and disrupted routines.  So, in addition to giving to others, we need to keep in mind the importance of taking good care of ourselves.  Then we can enjoy taking part in the delicious feast without feeling as if we’ve been cooked like the turkey!

Turkey cooked and ready to eat

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Busy crowds and holiday music on store loudspeakers may be okay in small doses, but often they leave us needing to rest and recharge. Meditation, reading, and long walks in nature are ideal for relieving stress and getting into a reflective state of mind. This week I’ve been reading The Way is a River of Stars, in which the author describes walking the pilgrims’ route on the Camino de Santiago. The book is a gentle, peaceful narrative with the cozy feel of a handmade quilt; all the details have been carefully arranged and lovingly stitched together.

Keeping up with regular exercise routines during the holidays is important—not just to maintain weight, but to feel healthier in general. Familiar routines make our lives more predictable and less stressful; and when we don’t let ourselves get too busy for them, we’re sending a powerful message to the subconscious mind that things are under control. Exercise also gets the heart rate up and leaves us feeling invigorated and energetic!

And last but not least: Set aside time each day for personal projects such as crafts and writing, even if it’s only a few minutes. We live in a culture that often dismisses our creative impulses as nothing more than unimportant hobbies, fantasies, and obsessions. But even if we never make any money following our dreams, they are precious anyway because that’s how the authentic self flourishes—by coming out to play!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Do you have particular meditations that you do regularly?  I’ve decided to share one of mine after reading the Meditation Mondays series on the blog belovelive, which is always full of lovely photos and inspiring ideas.  Its author, Liz, says that “regardless of who we are, finding ways to get in touch with our souls, in whatever way works for us individually, is something that can make life much more rich and bring us a deep sense of peace.”

Sometimes when old negative emotions from long-ago events surface, I work through them by doing a meditation that I call “Recycling.” First, I imagine myself walking along a peaceful forest or prairie path, surrounded by nature. The scene changes each time I finish working through one topic and begin another. Recently I’ve been picturing my starting point as the path shown in the photo below, which I used to illustrate one of my blog posts last month.

Path in autumn forest with fallen leaves.

(photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net)
 

The path leads to a riverbank that would be a lovely place if it hadn’t been littered with plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and other trash that needs to be picked up and recycled. Each bottle or other item of trash has stagnant water inside it, so I have to pour that out before taking it away for disposal. The stagnant water looks icky, and sometimes a cold rain starts falling; but I know that I am making at least a little progress toward getting things cleaned up.

While disposing of a piece of imaginary trash, I consider an aspect of the troubling situation. Let’s say that someone involved made an unkind remark. Setting aside my previous judgment that the person was nasty and hateful, I think about other possibilities. Maybe the person felt angry and defensive after having been a target of someone else’s bullying and, as a result, misinterpreted my words. Or maybe I was the one who misunderstood something in the conversation. If the remark was indeed meant to be unkind, the person might recently have lost a job or had a death in the family.

Just reflecting on the fact that there might be other explanations can go a long way toward taking the sting out of the memory; and it also helps to make clear, through this very simple imagery, the burden that results from carrying around old grudges.