My last blog of 2017! Where to start?
For me as for many, New Year’s is a time to reflect on the closing year, evaluate what I could have done differently, release what no longer serves me, and commit to practices that help me on my path. What lessons have I learned this past year? Where should I focus in the year ahead?
It’s been a wonderful year for life-lessons, maybe because I’ve just started to pay more attention! I have been lucky enough this year to have life hand me again and again the lessons below, until they are just thumped into my head and I wake up to the fact they are true and important. So, let me use my year-end blog to pass them on to you in the hope you’ll find them useful as well.
Point One (and there’s a reason it’s One!) – Develop a daily practice, and do it, well, every day.
I joke that the only spiritual practice so many of us have is raising our eyes weekly and thanking God we found a parking space. I don’t think that counts. Meditation, contemplative prayer, sitting in the silence, music – pick something that speaks to you and do it. Every day. Why? The reasons are really too numerous to list, and include the spiritual, the medical, and the neurological, to name a few. Why do I do it? Because it makes me easier in my own skin, giving me more resilience, patience, equanimity, and the ability to take the long view. A regular meditation practice awakens me to a more compassionate and loving view of myself, and then opens my heart toward greater compassion and love toward others. Can you sit with yourself, just yourself, for 15 or 20 minutes a day, or longer? Start a practice, and stay with it. Check back in 6 months and see how you feel.
Point Two – Expect to be surprised.
Brother David Steindl-Rast once said that he starts every day by asking “what will surprise me today?” He tries to look at the detail of his days with fresh eyes, knowing that if he does the wonder around him will simply jump out. We are surrounded by so much we just miss, because we assume that we know what’s out there. We are short-changing ourselves!
Here’s a small example. I had a friend over to my house to show her the new bookcases I’d put in my office. As she approached the door to my office, she said “Wow! That’s a really nice Peace sign you put up over the door.” In thinking about this, I realized that the peace placard had been there for over two years, but she had never noticed it before. Why did she notice it today? Because she was expecting to see something new, and so she looked at the entire scene with fresh eyes. She saw it differently. Don’t go through your days assuming you’ll just experience the same old stuff – prepare to be amazed and life won’t let you down.
Point Three – Connect with others, in person.
Relationships give us meaning, purpose and hope. This year has brought this message home for me nearly every day. Our country and our world have been beset by natural disaster, war, deprivation and violence, and in each instance people have gotten through it by reaching out and supporting each other. We have found strength and comfort in our relationships, old and new. We find, over and over, how important our relationships are.
Our technology helps us connect with others, and that has an important place. However, online connections don’t replace face to face human interaction and, until our wiring is profoundly changed, never will. In our age of digital interconnectedness, our loneliness is on the rise.
This year, treasure and nurture your relationships, and go out and make new ones. Get together with friends for coffee or a meal. Spend more time with your family doing things you all enjoy, or find new activities you love. Let your actions show the people in your life how important they are to you.
Point Four – If you can’t think of big steps, take small ones.
We read the news and need is everywhere. Hunger, the environment, war, displacement of millions around the globe, inequality here at home. Where do we start? For many, the problems are so overwhelming that we just do nothing.
The fact is that none of us can fix it all, or even most of it. However, we can all do something. Start where you are, and do what you can. Spend a couple of hours a month volunteering in an area that speaks to you – kids, the elderly, animals, the environment. Find a charity to support that you believe in. This is the way change happens – we all do what we can, and we don’t give up.
Point Five (the last one) – spend ten minutes a day reading something inspirational.
Ten minutes isn’t much and you can probably find the time. What, you ask, can happen in ten minutes? An amazing amount. Take six months and give it a try. Take ten minutes to sit and read something that inspires you, uplifts you, and broadens your horizons. Give yourself that lift every day to feed your dreams, your vision, and your spirit. We all have ten minutes for that.
Happy New Year, and may it be blessed!
Author: Rev. Melanie Eyre, Interfaith Minister
Spiritual Leader of One World Spiritual Center
Founder of North Fulton Interfaith Alliance