One of my favorite strategies for enjoying life is embracing paradox, and this is a wonderful time of year for practicing that! Embracing paradox is all about holding two different things in our minds, things that might seem irreconcilable together, yet which both exist in our lives and in ourselves. The key is to hold them both in our awareness without judgment - either good or bad. This means that we just look at them and say, “Huh, that’s a thing. There it is,” instead of saying, “It has to be this way,” or “I can’t allow that to exist in my world.” Allowing both to be what they are frees our minds from the endless looping battle between two opposites, and then we can see the bigger picture - and better alternatives - emerge naturally from the innate creative wisdom we all possess.
Some examples of embracing paradox for me include honoring both the sensual pleasures and spiritual solemnity of the season. I so love certain shades of red that are just this side of the magenta-leaning tones of the spectrum, the taste of rich home-made hot chocolate with tons of organic cocoa powder and honey from our bees mixed into hot Jersey milk from our neighbor’s cow. I love warming my hands over the blazing wood stove after coming in from chores, and inhaling the bright emanation of freshly- cut evergreen boughs, not to mention the soft warm caress of cashmere. As the song goes … these are a few of my favorite things!
None of these blissful sensations in any way diminish the shivers of awe flowing through me when I hear Chanticleer sing “Ave Maria,” or when I light a candle for gratitude, say a blessing over a shared feast, stop in the field to listen to the profound silence of falling snow, sense Divine Presence in a gathering of loved ones, or feel the healing gift of Reiki flowing through my hands. Sense and Spirit, each complements the other perfectly because my intention to celebrate the deepest meanings of the season - the natural miracles of healing, life, death, and rebirth, the love of family and community, the inextricable intertwining of gratitude and generosity, the sacred kinship of Earth and Spirit - transcend the differences between the holy and the mundane. (Okay, in full disclosure, I will probably also tear up every time I write one of these blog posts because I am sharing what is most near and dear to my heart with you in the most loving hope that it will bless you as well - but that’s one way I feel the immanence of Spirit, so I welcome it.)
Another paradox that is integral to a wonderful holiday season for me is embracing both tradition and innovation. I am a sincere student of history, genealogy, religion and tradition, and I revel in some of the rituals that deepen in their power and pleasure every time they are honored, whether they are part of my everyday practice or just make an appearance once a year. (I’ll be sharing more on these over the next few weeks.)
I also delight in improvising and adjusting as needed and as inspired. This keeps the rhythms of the turning Wheel of the Year from becoming just a repetition of words and symbols on certain calendar squares, instead infusing the whole living pageant with the reflections of our own ongoing evolution. Hence the items on my Checklist that may seem surprizing, bold, or even heretical, like changing the words to songs - and I do mean Christmas carols. I’ll include some of those alternative stanzas in a later post. You’ll see that some are fun and frivolous and some are genuinely devotional. Being flexible is also a way to be inclusive, to learn from others, and to find common ground - so vitally important in today's world.
It's also really common to feel pulled in opposite directions energetically by the call to festive cheer and the instinct to nest and hibernate as days shorten and darkness grows. Again, we can hold both experiences in simple acknowledgment, and allow our best options to arise from that place of stillness. It may be that we need extra sleep or meditation, more support from people who really understand us, more alone time in between family and social obligations. Some of us may want to soak up all the excitement possible in the next few weeks, then retreat in the new year to rest and reflect. Or we may want to limit our emotional exertion now, then energetically launch a new project, direction or practice to start the new year.
It may be time to practice saying Yes or saying No without feeling guilty about it. Other people may give you grief about decisions you make that are really best for your well-being, but you don't need to be yet another voice of criticism within yourself. You can be your own champion, telling yourself that you deserve self-care and good health in all ways, and that this is really a gift to others, showing them that they too can give themselves permission to honor their own needs. This can all be done in a spirit of love and dedication to the greatest good of all, not in opposition to anyone, holding the space in your heart open for others to appreciate you and themselves more, in their own good time.
Sometimes we put on a cheerful demeanor and go out caroling when we'd rather be curled up under a blanket with a book and a cup of tea. Sometimes we can learn to admire the Divine Spirit within our own hearts in peaceful solitude when we'd rather be enjoying the company of a partner, family or friends. It's important to honor the reality of our experience, and this is also what allows us to grow. If we keep denying or judging our feelings we're more likely to keep repeating the same stuck patterns. Take the risk of looking beyond the usual reactions, thought loops and feeling spirals, even if it means stepping out into the unknown for a breath of fresh air, which can seem a little scary even if it's the best thing for us. Trust yourself to grow under your own loving care, into the glorious being naturally evolving within you.
Embrace the darkness as a sacred, safe, soft place of beautiful healing and nurturing, and the light as an open door waiting for you to step through at any time to shine your own magnificent light on the world. We no longer need to see light and darkness as enemies. We no longer need to believe in enemies at all. We are all in this together. This too shall pass. Be the light of the world. We have everything we need. Miracles are real and hope still lives in our hearts. Kindness is never wasted. Isn't that the message of this powerful season, no matter how you celebrate it or what tradition you've learned?
I invite you to embrace peaceful paradox in your own life, as it suits you. And feel free to share your experiences and insights as well in the comments below and in the Calm & Confident Holiday Wellness Facebook Group. I support all your intentions for holiday wellness and joy!
If you would like to engage in a deeper experience of well-being and celebration this holiday season with Reiki healing energy support and personal wellness guidance, you can find out about my Calm & Confident Holiday Wellness Packages here, or contact me at 802-685-7752 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be offering free programs in the Upper Valley in December as well, at Vision of Light Church of Spiritualism & Healing this Sunday, December 3. and at Seven Stars Arts Center on Saturday, December 9.
Wishing you a balance of peace and cheer for the rest of the year!