Dear Still Water Friends,
This is our last Thursday sitting before Christmas. Many people will take time off work to spend it with family, regardless of whether they observe the religious holiday. As we spend time with our family, biological or chosen, or spend it alone, there are so many things that come up. Sharing wonderful memories and creating new ones; triggering of old hurts and the potential for new misunderstandings; and many other emotional highs and lows.
I’d like to prepare for this holiday and the new year by exploring how we can be more real not only during this season, but moving forward. By "being real," I mean living each moment fully, in our bodies, in touch with what is actually happening instead of listening to those voices and narratives in our heads. Can we look at our sister across the table and see who she is today, instead of remembering the girl we knew yesterday? Can we embrace our loneliness and find happiness in accepting it fully, connected with our breath, knowing our true nature is to love and connect? Can we see our parents as children themselves instead of repeating to ourselves the unskillfulness they sometimes showed in our childhood?
At a recent retreat, Anh-Huong Nguyen likened the way many of us live our lives to being like a plastic flower. She noted we spend much time on appearances and striving to avoid pain and sorrow. As a result, we fail to embrace our pain and suffering, and we miss what makes us real. "Suffering makes us real," she said, suggesting that it is in our very struggles and mistakes, pain and sorrow, that our joy and happiness, connection and aliveness are born. Thay always reminds us that if there is no mud, there is no lotus. This season, we have a choice whether to keep up appearances and fail to ground ourselves in the here and now, or to actually live our lives. Will we make of our lives the plastic Christmas tree that seems perfect or will we enjoy the fragrance and messiness of a real tree, as we watch it both grow and die?
So at this time of year when the sun is at its lowest point and we prepare for the rest of winter and a new year, we will talk about how we can be real, what holds us back, and what strategies or plans we have for this season and the new year in our mindfulness practice. A poem by Mary Oliver is below.
I hope you can join us, and either way, happiest of holidays.
Registration is now open for three upcoming Still Water events:
And you are invited to participate in or attend a region-wide Transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings Ceremony, Saturday, January 4, 2014, in Oakton, Va.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.