“Most often out of darkness, we do go on to find our strength and faith rekindled. Go slow if you can. Slower…. Perhaps you just might hear the miracle of your own true name and rise again.” ~Jean Richardson
It is so easy, in late November and December, to put your inner resources on overdrive. Checking my email just now, there was a pulse of incoming mail running up my finger as it rested on my delete button, while I read what I wanted of the many, many emails coming in on CyberTuesday.
I get persuaded, at least 20 times a day, that what I currently have is not enough…
(stencils, inner calm, places to donatedonatedonate, holiday vegan, paleo, green, raw, classic, or pet treats, meditation recordings to make it through the holidays.) I want to raise my painty hand and suggest that you already have everything you need to navigate this month.
In whatever way you celebrate, December is the perfect time to remember this:
You are enough.
You have enough.
You do enough.
You give enough.
You are enough.
Yes, even now, when the way is unclear, when the world is folding origami style in on itself, when the leadership of my nation is in a state of grave question, still, now, here, on this day, you are enough.
You can only be a light for the world if you know yourself as light. And to know light, you must also know dark. Try this experiment. Read this sentence, then close your eyes for 30 seconds and listen to your breath.
I feel my pulse settle. Sitting in the dark of closed eyes, breathing, I begin to remember, I am enough, right here. I can let go of that doing muscle that drives me so harshly, especially in December.
My daily practice changes in this season.
I dig in to black paper and paint. There is plenty of that on my table, because hardly anyone uses black paint or gesso in my studio. Even I don’t use it most of the year. But once Advent rolls in, once the Salvation Army starts swinging hand bells, I reach for the black paper.
I have several other Advent habits that make this month more pleasure than panic. One is, I up my self-care. This week, I have a bottle of lavender oil by my bed. I rub my feet with it before I go to sleep. I say things like, “thank you for taking me on a walk today.” The scent eases me to sleep and the treat for my feet reverberates in to the next day.
I take walks in the woods. Maybe you don’t have woods nearby, but you have a street and maybe there are trees? “When I am among the trees,” writes Mary Oliver, “…they give off such hints of gladness.”
They do, they really do, even in December. Every day, I walk.
Preparing for the arrival of the Beloved
My friend Jill Rogers teaches in her Seven Sacred Steps, about “preparing for the arrival of the Beloved.” I extrapolate on her idea to prepare for what is ahead by spending an hour a day doing something that will make my days easier in the coming week. I clean an area that has gotten clogged with piles and an accumulation of dust. I make one small meaningful move of housework or garden work or business work that I have put off for a while.
Yesterday, I fixed up a freebie shelf that Janet helped me haul home on Sunday. I resettled a toppling stack of studio supplies, which now frees up the space around my chair where I teach. It was not a monumental task. All told, I was an hour clearing the space, dusting, vacuuming. As a bonus, I sorted a box of Catherine’s craft supplies that have sat in the corner of the guest room for, well I will be honest, at least 10 years. She is 19. I don’t think she has built a kaleidoscope since she was 8. I pilfered some tiny drawings of hers for my journal, tossed out a collection of seeds and rocks in to the garden, and sorted a collection of black beads and spangles that I will use in my Advent journal. What makes this clean up hour different from clean up at any other time of year?
I did it.
Just this is enough
I beat off the dogs of doubt that keep me from beginning a bit of studio overhaul and housework, the dogs that bleat “You don’t have time for that! Leave that dusty box of beeswax figures, clumped up balls of wool and a long forgotten scarf, and do something more important!”
I simply did it.
These small deeds accumulate joy.
I use black paint in my Advent journal and collect quotes, phrases, and images that become my own oracle.
I take really good care of my physical needs because I am only as generous with others as I am generous with myself.
I get outside and take in the hints of gladness, even on gray wet days.
I prepare for my own arrival and for the arrival of the holiday season, of Solstice, of guests, of Light, of the New Year, of new ideas, of new projects, by taking reasonable and inspired care of the space I am in. I cannot take more in to my life if I am only adding to mounted neglect.
In my journal I ask myself, what am I making room for? Use the image of “the inn” from the Bible story or your bare garden that waits for spring-what is long-expected, about to be new, that you can prepare for now?
I turn away from offers to look outside myself for solutions. Every time an email or flyer or invitation comes in, I stop and ask myself, what do I already know that can serve me in this way? I remember, and have to remind myself over and over, that I am my own best resource.
Lastly, I pick up my handwork. This year, I have been very busy. Busy. Busy, too busy to knit. So, on the first day of Advent I cast on a hat, for myself. I cannot multi-task while knitting. Knitting is knitting.
Does this sound selfish to you?
Slip back to my 30 seconds of your eyes closed and breathe. While you quietly breathe, ask yourself what would feel really good for you right now–browsing past another offer to up your holiday game by enrolling in a program or sinking in to your own bathtub, maybe some bath salts mixed in, to read the book you have wanted to read all year? Just hold those two things in your mind as you breath. Or how does a trip to the mall sound? What if you set a cup of hot tea and a clementine on the back porch and wander your own garden for 30 minutes, sipping and seeing what there is to see?
For me, the choice is made. My body signals ease when I linger on a thought of doing something that fuels me.
“My body is my compass, it does not lie.”
Terry Tempest Williams
My posts this month will be about my walk in to Advent, in to Solstice and the 12 Holy Days and the coming New Year. More writing about my Armenia project will intermingle, as I digest and take stock of New Illuminations and my next steps there.
But none of this is possible without my daily practice, which shifts in to a conscious turning inward, embracing long,dark December nights with an open heart, looking first within myself for what I think I need from the world.
You are enough. And so am I.
With great love,
“The body is our precious Consort. Allowing us to go forward in all conditions. Take good care of her. Take good care of him. Strong body, strong mind. No matter what else.”