Where do we look for the exit from this spinning hamster wheel of survival fear? There must be a way we can we make 2021 different, more positive than 2020.
As individuals we may not be able to do much about the world events swirling about our lives, but we can look to our inner environment. That’s where we can create a 2021 that feels and lives on a different, more positive level than we may have in 2020. We can hop off this hamster wheel, open the door to the cage and step out into the fresh air, one appreciative moment at a time.
The other day I was enjoying our backyard. It is bordered by trees, standing like sentinels at the edge of a grassy field. The tallest are the black locust, their bare black-brown branches reaching high into the sky. In front of them stand the junipers, dusty green and full. As I gazed at the treetops high above, branches outlined against the sky, I saw two squirrels chase each other up the trunk of a black locust, all the way out onto the twiggy ends of the uppermost branches that just barely supported their weight. Then they leapt into the air, one after another. The grey forms seemed to hang suspended in midair, their agile bodies curved like commas in a sentence, heads, tails, and paws reaching for the juniper branches below. Then the juniper caught them like a loving parent, in branches that bent and swayed beneath the aerialists, breaking their fall. The squirrel chase continued on down into the thick foliage of the juniper and I saw no more of them.
The image of that leap stayed with me. Later that day, this quote from Abraham-Hicks showed up in my email inbox. I had to laugh. The message was clear.
“By thinking and speaking more of how you really want your life to be, you allow what you are currently living to be the jumping-off place for so much more. But if you speak predominantly of what-is, then you still jump off —but you jump off into more of the same.”
2020 was our jumping off place, the twiggy ends just barely supporting us as we leapt off into 2021. The question is what are we jumping off into? Will it be more of the same?
As I type, a fire crackles in the woodstove beside where I sit, embraced by our once white, leather barrel chair. The chair is marked and speckled with years of laughing, spinning grandchildren and territorial felines. Golden flames dance above the dark shadow of wood in the hearth and the fire warms me as I turn to look out the wood-framed bay window of our living room. A wintry mix of rain, snow and sleet is decorating the branches of the crabapple which shelters the front of our home. Frozen droplets of rain hang like twinkle lights strung along every branch. Tiny, burgundy red crabapples dangle below, each one encased in ice. A slate sky hangs above, contributing an increasing supply of much-needed moisture to branch, berry and ground. The usual community of birds who frequent the crabapple are nowhere to be seen. No doubt they are hunkered down within the sheltering branches of the junipers.
It feels good to hunker down myself, safe, warm and dry, and consider this transition time in which we now find ourselves.
The biggest lesson for me from this passing year is that of letting go of how I think things should be and appreciating what is. Throughout the year, unexpected and unwelcome events kept piling up and it became clear that I couldn’t anticipate what the next month or even the next week would look like. I had to let go of my ideas of what was, and allow what is and what could be. Most of all, I had to learn to take pleasure in the positive parts of my life that I might have taken for granted, but do no longer.
I learned at a whole new level, how to enjoy the little things, spread over the branches of my life, like berries from a tree, waiting for me to savor and appreciate. A warm fire, a good roof over my head, the beauty of nature just outside the window, the antics of my grandchildren as posted on Facebook with riotous subtitles by their Dad, the love and health of family and friends, my own health, learning how to use Zoom, my small yellow-lab, dancing and twirling on the end of her leash, hip-checking the neighbor’s huge, young golden, plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, and food to eat. And did I mention toilet paper? I have a whole new appreciation for that humble roll of white. Everyday life, so easy to take for granted just because it is always there.
Until it’s not.
We are lucky here in the Midwest. The shortages of supplies have been short-lived. The pandemic has been survivable for most. The political situation hasn’t affected our everyday lives too, too much. Yet, as each thing threatened from the outer world, the little everyday things we depend on became that much more precious.
I look out the window once again and a single robin, harbinger of hope, alights in the crabapple and helps herself to the frozen crabapple banquet spread before her. 2021 stands before us, a banquet of tiny, delicious moments awaiting us. May we be as the robin, hope-filled, braving the storm, and appreciative of each moment of happiness and enjoyment spread before us in 2021. May we be as the squirrels, leaping off into a new year that supports and holds us in loving embrace.
Happy New Year to you, dear friends.
What does it feel like physically when your heart is full? For me it feels expansive in my chest, in the area around my heart and lungs. I want to breathe deeper and deeper, like I want to take in ever more of what feels so good. Sometimes I’ll experience the sharp, warm sensation of the blood vessels in the skin over my heart suddenly expanding and more blood pouring through.
It happened like that recently…
I invoked heart coherence first thing in the morning right after waking. I lay still in my bed, hands over my heart and just breathed, visualizing the breath going in and out of my heart. Inwardly I chanted, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” After a few minutes, even though I woke feeling a bit grumpy, I felt a shift, and a sense of gratitude welled up from within. My breaths got deeper and I felt appreciation for the new day.
Then, I was up and out of bed, tossing on a bathrobe and wandering out to the kitchen to make some cocoa. Because the weather was beautiful, I took my cocoa out to sit on the patio in my back yard. Holding the steaming cup in my hands, sipping frothy, cinnamon topped, cocoa deliciousness, I gazed out over the bright blanket of grass and the multi-hued greens of the surrounding canopy of leafy oaks and cedars. The sky hovered overhead, turquoise blue. The hummingbirds buzzed back and forth at the feeder just to my right. The cardinals and their offspring alighted on the ground beneath the suet feeder, plucking up a seed and flitting off into the branches of the juniper tree, to consume their breakfast. A noisy family of blue jays chased each other around the spreading branches of the oak tree before me, and a single bright yellow gold finch sang a lilting melody.
My heart filled with appreciation almost sharp in sensation, and I felt such gratitude for the perfection of the moment. My heart felt full.
Sometimes it happens like that, a perfect moment. It might be triggered by something as simple as seeing someone you love, or hearing a child’s delighted laughter. Often though, it is something that must be intended, the way you intend to fill your stomach with a nourishing meal.
Our bodies hunger for food and we feel it in our grumbling bellies. Our hearts hunger for nourishment as well. Only what nourishes our hearts is love and all its attendant feelings.
One of the gifts of nourishing your heart by intending appreciation and gratitude, is that the moments that might seem less than perfect can transform and become perfect even in their imperfection.
Children are often our best teachers, and my grandchildren are no exception. I find it is the chaotic moments, the times when I haven’t slept well the night before and my patience level is not what I might wish. The times when the house is a mess, toys scattered everywhere, when the kitchen is filled with the detritus of multiple meals and snacks. The times when the children pick up on my emotional state and the boys play wildly, crashing and throwing toys around. The times when their sister is caught in a loop of worry over something and refuses to be distracted. Those are the times my thoughts may spiral into my own loop of negativity.
Perhaps then, it is with divine intervention or maybe just plain desperation that I will realize that I have a choice. I can take a deep breath, and then another. I can choose to focus on all that I am grateful for, grateful for these beautiful children, doing what kids do. I can invoke a feeling of appreciation as I focus on all that is right in this present moment. There is so much to feel grateful for. Then my heart expands, filling with the love I feel for my precious gran’s. The moment transforms. It is perfect, even in all its chaos.
It seems that chaos is a regular part of all our lives right now. With so much chaos going on, and worry over what the future holds for our country and the world, it is more important than ever to remember to nourish our hearts. Nourish our hearts by focusing our thoughts on all that we appreciate in our daily lives. There is so much to feel grateful for if we will just shift our attention.
We can feed our hearts with nourishing feelings even as we feed our bodies with nourishing foods. You don’t have to wait for that perfect moment to allow your heart to feel full. You can intend it any time you like. Most people eat a good meal once, twice, three or more times a day. Our hearts need daily feeding too. The reward is a heart that’s filled with perfect moments, even those that didn’t start out that way.
The sweet peace is surprised by the loud, hooting call of a Barred Owl, and answering call from the yard next door. It is long past their bedtime. Do you suppose it is an illicit treat for them to call, questioning to each other from their beds like disobedient children? “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” The first caller dares leave its bed and fly on silent wings, off to visit its partner in crime no doubt. They keep quiet now, probably whispering clandestine owl secrets to each other in the morning light.
This is a precious moment, timeless and fleeting. Soon, the day will begin in earnest. There is work to be done after all, appointments to be kept, preparations to make. Life to be pursued with the single-minded devotion that believing in the gravity of our individual lives inspires.
Yet the breeze still carries its message, waving from treetop to treetop, rustling through the branches. “Stay with us,” it whispers, “stay.” Then all is quiet and my thoughts return to my lists and the clock, email and texts. A hummingbird appears, hovering, magic on wings, dipping into the petunias in my planters on the porch steps. Flitting from flower to flower, never landing, never lighting, an iridescent fairy creature in plain sight.
What is this magic that calls me to stay? Persuading me to allow the wonder, convincing me with the touch of a breeze softly brushing my arm. It sways me to listen for the swishing, rustling, chirping, twittering, hooting, seeming quiet of the morning, the ever-changing green surrounding me and the wings that flutter from tree to feeder and back again. It fills me with the sweetness of the rain-washed air, and I stay. For it is love made manifest, magic indeed.
My home is in a between time too. No longer is it as I knew it. The breaking down phase of noisy machines, ripped up baseboards, flooring, and torn out wall boards is finally over. Now the skeleton of the basement awaits the builders who will create something new out of the destruction. I feel the potential of what will be, not just replicating what was before, but creating something new. I feel an appreciation for the best of what was, and what is to come.
It is like this time we live in. Right now, is a between time.
No longer is it the world as we knew it; that world has been torn apart. Our belief in our government, our newscasters, our scientists, our health, our safety, has been shaken to the core. The old, patriarchal, top-down structure of government taking care of us like a responsible and knowledgable parent has crumbled before our eyes. The foundations of our belief ripped out.
Still, we can appreciate and feel grateful for what right in our world during this time of potential. We have the opportunity to rebuild from the bottom up, from the foundational level of our highest beliefs, creating more of what is right in our world.
It has begun. Even with social distancing restrictions, business, store and school closings, people are reaching out, sharing their creativity, offering classes, making connections, enjoying being together digitally if not physically. People are coming together in loving community, sharing appreciation and gratitude for what is most meaningful in their lives.
I feel hopeful, like the in-between time just before the full awakening of the new day; like the time awaiting the builders who will reconstruct my home. I feel hopeful for the potential of this, our world, that we as the builders are creating anew.
Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.