There’s something special about this time.  You can see it in the tender smiles of the kindness that walks the streets.  It drips from the tinsel on the decorated trees and tiptoes from the kitchen as gingerbread men.  You can spot it twinkling through the dark, lighting the way.  A spirit of giving pulses in the once-ordinary air and everything old becomes new again, vibrantly alive as if by magic.  And yet, with all the joy appearing in all its various forms, Christmas time can also be filled with sorrow and sadness, a reminder of loved ones passed on and memories of times gone by.

And then, as if in a blink of an eye, it is gone.  The world returns to its previous form, twinkling disappears, and life goes on as if the last month didn't even exist.  Or does it?  December and all its child-like wonder changes us.  We feel a little more grateful, a little more joyful, and a little more loving.  This time marks the end of another year of our life, one that has been surely filled with a mix of happy and challenging times, as all of life is.  Whatever the last 365 days have held for you, I say, “Well done!”  I'll bet through your various experiences, you've grown and changed, if even just a little.  You are not the same person that you were 12 months ago, and that is how life is meant to be. 

It’s been an amazing year for me.  I found myself on many adventures: a trip to New York City to attend the National Publicity Summit, publishing my first book and doing a series of national radio interviews, watching my oldest go off to college, completing the Advanced Degree in Ministerial Studies at CFIA and serving for these last four months as Interim Minister at Unity of Salem.  I’ve been stretched beyond measure and supported beyond belief.  With the massive influx of so many grand experiences, I have encountered much delight and had the opportunity to work through many fears, doubts, and old insecurities.  I’ve deepened my spiritual practice and solidified that place within where divine joy and peace abide.  Many incredible souls have crossed my path, and I’ve been able to love a little more, a little better.  I’ve learned to savor the ordinary and expect the miraculous.  I am grateful for all of it, for all of you.

As a new month and new year arrive, I encourage you to turn your eyes, not to the future, but to this present moment.  I'm convinced our life is best lived one moment at a time.  Regret, fear and anxiety are the emotions of the past and future.  The heartbeat of aliveness exists right here, right now.  As humans, our length of life comes with no guarantee.  All we truly have is the moment in which we stand now.  So let's savor each one that we get.  If we have the courage to live it with an open heart overflowing with love and gratitude, it's the only moment we'll ever need.

     More and more we are hearing and understanding the value of meditation, that practice of getting still, clearing our mind and entering the sacred presence within.  There is no one right way to meditate.  That still place can be accessed in many ways: a communing with nature, a dedicated yoga practice, listening to music, or sitting in quiet.  However we choose to get there, that sacred space within allows us to remember who we are, to hear divine guidance, and to know that in this now moment, all is well.  Once we’ve spent our 20, 30 or 60 minutes in this sacred time, we reemerge into our daily lives, and oh how quickly the rush and chaos of the world so easily consumes us once again.

     While I definitely do not dispute the value of designated meditation time, I’m going to try another way.  What if I could live my entire life as if it were a meditation?  What if I could navigate each and every moment from a place of perfect peace?  There would be no reason to deliberately set aside time to enter that sacred space, and therefore no time when I then need to reemerge from it.  It is always here.  Perfect peace is a conscious choice, in each moment, to remember that all is well.  My peace is disrupted when I allow my thoughts to pull from the past or wander into the future.  I make the decision to turn my eyes from the calm center as I get caught up in the world swirling outside of me.  In the midst of fear or challenging times if I can find the presence of mind to remember this, I find that everything is always ok right here, right now.  Always and in all ways.  That is the design of meditation, to be in the present moment, to clear my mind and open my heart, to live not from a vision of expectation or assumption, but to see who or what is clearly in front of me now.

     As I drive, I use the beautiful scenery as a visual meditation.  As I converse with a friend or loved one, I stay present to who they are in this moment and what they are saying right now.  As I navigate a world of others, I remember that a smile and gentle eye contact conveys kindness.  As I spend moments alone, I pay attention to what I am feeling and where I am feeling it in my body.  When I stay present to what is, I allow the current of life to flow magnificently through me.  I am open to and allowing of Source.  I am love.

     As humans, we all desire a peaceful world.  It is my strong belief that we will never be able to “make” it that.  And yet, each of us is responsible for a peaceful world, not by raging against everything unlike peace, but by finding and radiating peace from within our own selves.  The world will be peaceful when it is filled with peaceful people.  It all starts within.  Living life as if every moment is a meditation seems like a wonderful place to begin.  “Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Gandhi

Last night I watched, for the second time, the movie "The Fault in our Stars". At first glance it might seem to be a movie about cancer and death, but it really is a movie about life.  In reality, we have all been given a diagnosis of death, a final deadline of sorts.  It's the nature of being human.  Some receive it earlier in life and with a bit of notice, some get to watch it coming gradually after many years, and others get it handed out in only a moment's notice.  Knowing this, I wonder why most of us go through life on auto pilot, numbing ourselves with various addictions and doing everything in our power to try to not feel life?  Life is meant to stir our emotions, and as a line in the movie says "Pain demands to be felt." 

Most of us have had some sort of experience where we awoke one morning thinking it was just another day, but by the end of it, something had happened that had forever altered our life as we had known it.  I've received my wake-up call.  Now I vow to live an inspired life, to engage in the world everyday with a sense of passion, to share the gifts and talents I've been given, to love and be loved, and to treasure each precious breath.  Will you join me?

Donuts.  There’s just something magical about the power of donuts:  the fragrance of fried, glazed sweetness, the melt-in-your-mouth gooey softness, and their ability to numb any sadness, disappointment or suffering.  The problem is that now I know how destructive their magical power is, not only to my physical health, but also to my emotional health.  I have learned that though numbing my feelings in the moment feels, well, like nothing, and that is the point, I’ve also learned that numbing doesn’t actually make those feelings go away.  Instead, they sink to the bottom of my heart, building up, waiting to sabotage all the good in my life.  I become a time bomb with unexpressed and unresolved feelings, just waiting to implode.

Denial is a beautiful thing.  Our vision in the moment can be so skewed that we are able to completely fool ourselves.  Though I suspect I’ve been numbing my emotions for most of my life, I’ve been able to do it in such a way that even I didn’t know I had a problem.  I never let my weight get really out of control nor have I ever binged in the presence of others or to the point of purging.  Sometimes moderate problems are the worst because they can remain hidden for a long time, slowly and gradually eroding away our health and self-esteem.

I remember one incident 12 years ago quite clearly.  I had just become a Mary Kay sales director and I was meeting three others in a nearby city at the home of the senior director.  As it was also a celebration brunch to honor me, we were all asked to bring a small food item to share.  I was feeling so inadequate, insecure, unworthy and late that I forgot to grab something from home.  I stopped by a small convenience store on the way and grabbed, you guessed it, donuts!  A box of mini balls of goodness.  Did I mention I was running late?  Tension started to rise.  Traffic and more tension.  The thought of walking into a door and a circle of women in which I was sure I did not belong created even more tension.  I could not possibly show up to a joyous event radiating anxiety.  I desperately needed to temporarily “fix” the situation.  Perhaps I could open the box carefully, have just one, and no one would notice.  Just one more.  Well maybe just one more.  At some point, I became so distracted with the “just one more” that I had to suddenly slam on my breaks to avoid running a red light.  The box of goodness toppled off the passenger’s seat, spilling its contents all over the floor.  What did I do?  Well of course before that light turned green, I scrambled to reach them all and scoop them back into the box, placing it securely on the seat beside me.  “What have I done” is the thought that seeped into my realization as I glanced at that now half-empty box containing donut holes sprinkled with shoe dirt.  I’m in the neighborhood, just around the corner from where I need to be, and I have a half-empty box of gross donut holes to contribute.  How tacky!  I cannot hand those to the host!  I cannot leave them in the car, because what if someone sees them? So yes, I quickly stuff the rest of the balls of not-so-much-goodness into my mouth.  I don’t even taste them this time.  Some ugly monster has taken over my body, shoving in food I don’t want in order to suppress emotions I can’t allow myself to feel. 

Fast forward and here I sit.  It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, lots of big transitions in my life, and I suddenly smell donuts.  I’m sitting in my living room, but I swear that scent wafting in the air is real.  The bakery in my mind is tempting me, begging me to numb life again.  I acknowledge what is happening, and I resist.  One small victory.  These are the bricks that pave the road to transformation.  One choice at a time.

I know the sadness of these recent changes is building up.  I know it needs to be released.  I know for some reason I am not ready to fully feel it.  I’ve alerted my kids, in case one day they come home and find me crying over dinner, they’ll know it’s not about the food.  Well, at least not that food! If, or more accurately when, I collapse into a puddle of tears, at least now I know I will surely not drown.

The first copy of my book just arrived. Wow! It's exactly how I imagined it. The sense of accomplishment I feel right now is undeniable.

When it arrived I was headed out for lunch so I took it with me. It was on the table beside me. I watched someone pick it up, drawn in by the cover and comment "how beautiful". She turned it over and read every word on the back.  She then opened it up, looked through the initial pages, read the intro, 1st chapter, quickly turned the page, and started the 2nd chapter.  Finally she looked up and said "how can I get a copy?"

This is 106 pages of my most significant moments, the difficult, joyous, and funny. To see someone react in that way.....well....there are just no words......

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