November 2010, extra edition

So, the turkey has been served. The pies have been tasted. The china and crystal have been put away. There’s a quiet sense of satisfaction and thankfulness for family, friends, traditions.

And yet – the frantic pace of the season nibbles at the edges of our awareness. Rush, rush. Buy, buy. Don’t forget. The to-do list expands, almost maniacally.

What if…

What if we looked at Thanksgiving, not as the beginning of the countdown or the harbinger of frantic holiday preparation, but as a time of transition?

Signs of this transition are all around us. Mother Nature’s golden autumnal days are giving way to more somber tones. The harvests are complete. The perfect balance of cool nights and warm days have been replaced with longer nights and a persistent chill in the air. The darker months are beginning to descend upon us.

What if we gave thanks for this transition, honoring the natural slowdown of the season?

What if we spent more time with family and friends, just being, together?

What if we concentrated more on relationships than on material goods?

What if we looked at the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as the beginning of a celebration of love – of friends and family, of shared memories, of being in the moment.

What if we spent time reflecting on what our “harvest” is for this year? What have we reaped from what we have sown, both as fact and as metaphor?

So, what has my “harvest” produced? I have become a better photographer as a result of my New Year’s Intention . I have grown my coaching business from a glimmer of an idea into an emerging force of change. I now have a regular yoga and meditation practice, and as a result, more serenity in my life. I have learned to use courage to change the things that I can and have discovered loving detachment along the way. I have learned to be in the moment and to b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

What has your harvest produced?

Here’s to enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

Thanksgiving dinner table

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures and words or phrases from magazines.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, notice that an inner shift will begin to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”

James Baraz

Robin Recommends

Glad No Matter What
Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity
by Sark (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy)

SARK's book blbburb

I firmly believe that the Universe presents us with just what we need, when we need it. I was cruising my favorite bookstore recently, not really looking for a specific title, when this book called to me. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by SARK, but this book’s title intrigued me. And it seemed exactly what I needed considering the swirl that’s going on in my life right now.

She’s constructed the book so that you can choose how you feel, in the  moment, and head to that particular section. My heart, of course, immediately leapt to “Grieving…learning to see in the dark”. Not only does she nail grieving but she manages to show how to find the gifts within the process. That in itself was a gift.

SARK helps the reader transform their view of loss: how to sing through storms, how to say yes to all changes, how to practice self-care, and how to transform losses into gifts, because there are gifts within losses, always. Not only are her words inspirational and thought-provoking, but she has a unique way of illustrating/writing: she uses felt tip markers and includes freehand drawings, creating visually appealing pages that emphasize the major points.

“Everything will be okay
in the end. If it’s not
okay, it’s not the end.”
~ author unknown