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. 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?
Contributed by board member, The Rev. Philip Hardwick
Every breath is a resurrection.
—Gregory Orr (excerpt from poem “Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved”)
In the Benedictine tradition there is a monastic practice called statio, which is the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another. Imagine, instead of rushing from one appointment to the next, that between each one you pause, you breathe just five long slow breaths. Imagine how this might transform your movement from one activity to another. Or even if you move from one room to another, to allow a brief pause on the threshold between spaces. God lives inside our breath and so every breath can become a resurrection.
For the Celtic monks, thresholds were sacred places. The space or the moment between – whether physical places or experiences – is a place of possibility. Rather than waiting being a nuisance, or a sense that you are wasting time, it is an invitation to breathe into the now and receive its gifts.
Each moment of the breath is a threshold – the movement from inhale to fullness to exhale to emptiness. The breath can help us stay present to all of the moments of transition in our lives, when we feel tempted to rush breathlessly to the next thing. Instead, what happens in our bodies and hearts when we intentionally pause? When we honor this threshold as sacred? When we breathe deeply and slowly for even a single minute?
Statio calls us to a sense of reverence for slowness and mindfulness. We can open up a space within for God to work. We can become fully conscious of what we are about to do rather than mindlessly starting and completing another task. We call upon the breath as an ancient soul friend to help us to witness our lives unfolding, rather than being carried along until we aren’t sure where our lives are going. We can return again and again to our bodies and their endless wisdom and listen at every threshold.
We often think of these in between times as wasted moments and inconveniences, rather than opportunities to return again and again to the expansiveness of the present moment and the body’s opening to us right now, to awaken to the gifts right here, not the ones we imagine waiting for us beyond the next door.