Contributed by the Rev. Edward M. Cardoza
Ah yes, the New Year is upon us. Many people will do a year in review. Others will set resolutions. I always like to set an intentional practice around New Year’s Day. I usually like to find some quiet time during the day itself. It may be near my fireplace, or in my favorite comfortable chair or—if the outdoors beckons—along my favorite wooded path. I settle in with some breathing, focus and silence—and I ask myself: what were the things I really enjoyed in 2016. Sometimes these come easily. I suspect this year—it may take a little more focus. As each of those moments comes up—just take a moment to savor them and be thankful for them. You can also write them down on a piece of paper or place them in your journal.
Can you make a resolution to commit to doing some of these things again in 2017?
Next, I like to ask what were the issues or situations that caused the most stress, anxiety or disappointment over the year? Again, it might be good to list them down. As you review the list—allow them to be taken in by you. What was out of your control? What could you have taken more responsibility for within yourself? What remains unresolved? What needs healing?
For those situations out of control—can you let them go and cast them away? For those needing you to take responsibility—can you make a commitment to do that in 2017? For those needing resolution or healing—are you able to commit to that in 2017? Write down an action plan—of things you want to let go of and things you want to do in the New Year.
Breath! Delight! Take a look at your lists—New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t just be wish list of things you know your probably won’t do—they ought to be about repeating places of joy, fulfillment and happiness. And, they ought to also be about letting go of what we can’t control and taking responsibility for things we can do something about.
I find when I do this practice—it leaves me with a commitment to live life more abundantly by committing to do those things that went well and to repair those areas that are disconnected or in need of healing.
Best wishes to you in the New Year!
Contributed by the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
It is during the month of December that we have the shortest days in the year. December also brings about the end of the calendar year, the hibernation of much of life, and the end of our holiday season. In many ways December can be thought of as an ending month. It is as if the light is going out, and in a literal way, it is. That can be sad.
But for Christians December also brings beginnings. It is the beginning of the new liturgical year, it brings the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of days getting longer, and literally the increase of light. It brings many fresh starts. That can be joyous.
There is no ending without a beginning and no beginning without an ending. Which decides for you who you will be: the endings or the beginnings? It is as simple as that. We get to choose.
The choice is not about choosing one set of facts over another. The light does decrease and the light does increase in the month of December. Both statements are true. Our choice is about with which one we will align ourselves. Will we be people of increasing light or decreasing light?
In many ways it is like the Native American story about the two wolves inside each person. One is a wolf of anger and the other is a wolf of peace. Which one will we feed? The one that we decide to feed is the one that we will become. As December unfolds I invite you to make a choice. Choose to be people of light instead of darkness.
Christ was born in the darkest month that the light might shine even more brightly. He asks us to choose. Which side will we be on? I choose light and new beginnings.
Contributed by the Rev. Edward C. Cardoza
Autumn presents us with lots of opportunities to experience the outdoors. Even for those of us for whom getting outside may be a challenge—all we need is proximity to a window and we can have an opportunity to experience a brisk breeze or a tree in full fall splendor. It can also be a particularly ripe time for contemplative practice so I offer the following.
I’d encourage you to find a beautiful perch by a pond, or a comfortable spot along a wooded path or even—as I suggested before—just simply opening up a window close to you.
First step, take a deep breath and, keeping your eyes open, give thanks for creation, wonder and beauty…let the breath out. Notice the first thing that your eyes encounter. Perhaps it is a squirrel climbing a tree or a chipmunk gathering nuts or a red leaf falling from a tree…whatever it is…fix on it. If you can, reach for it…examine it up close. What does it reveal to you? What truth is it expressing? Take another deep breath in and a breath out…and spend some time with that revelation or truth. After a few minutes…give thanks for this experience—and shift spots, change direction or adjust your seat.
Second step, take a deep breath, keeping your eyes closed this time, give thanks for change, for transition and for new seasons…let the breath out. Notice the first thing that touches you. Perhaps it is a cool breeze or the autumnal sun or an acorn hitting your back…whatever it is….fix on it. Let it continue to touch you. What does it say to you? What does it compel you to do? Take another deep breath in and a breath out…and spend some time with that compelling voice. After a few minutes…give thanks for this experience.
This is a nice spiritual practice to do on a crisp, sun-filled, fall day—it will also leave you with some food for thought for your journey. What did creation reveal to you? What new things are you compelled to do or to witness to in this season of change?
Submitted by Board Member, The Rev. Phil Hardwick
Autumn has come in the Northern hemisphere, and the falling leaves offer a lesson in adjusting to change. Each leaf was, in its prime, a majestic thing. More like than unlike its fellow leaves, it still possesses uniqueness, no two being duplicates. It had a vital role to play in the life of its tree, as we remember from long-ago science classes about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Each tree, valuing its leaves as energy collectors, pulsed sap through it to keep it strong and green. Water and sunlight were contributed into the process. But now many leaves are turning different colors and coming loose. We may wish they would stay as they were, but they have another part to play, that of carpeting the ground about the roots against the coming cold. Or they may be raked into piles for children to jump on, or burnt to create an aroma like no other.
Our internal seasons follow no calendar. They happen when they happen, overlapping, even reversing. The autumns of our lives suggest a preparation for deepening and renewal. There will be a spring on the horizon, our hearts tell us, but now it may be a time for a letting go. If all we had were springtimes and summers, we might never learn to trust the invisible to take shape as the visible, and the invisible is the place of constant Source, from which issues beautiful new beginnings.
Can we celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year as the old is released to make room for the new? Every emotion we feel has a profound value to the richness of our experience.