Spiritual Practices – End of the Year Reflection (part two)

brown tree with snow

The end of the year is a good time for reflection. If you’re a Christian, Advent will help guide you into reflection. The advent story features a harried and oppressed people, under the boot of an unjust government, finding hope in a radical new call to a life of love and action. Isn’t that what we all need this year?

In my last blog, we talked about reflecting on what we might need to savor, grieve, let go of, and learn from. This can open up a time of dreaming and goal planning for the new year. We looked at the categories of Body, Mind, and Spirit; today we will reflect on our Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity.

Set aside some time before the month ends to journal some thoughts on the last year/decade, and what you want to see in the next!

Emotions: For me, when someone asks how I’m feeling I honestly have to stop and think, even though in the language of Meyers Briggs Temperament Indicator, I’m a Feeler. I’m often out of touch with how I feel. Looking back at 2019, however, I see a glaring period of depression. A job I loved ended the previous July, but my grief was postponed by the anticipation of our planned trip to Denmark, Scotland, and Ireland in October. That was fantastic!

The problem started when we returned. First, we had an endless winter Seriously, for a town that generally has over 250 days of sunlight, we were overcast for months on end. That, combined with the job I thought I was coming home to vanishing, and then the job I eventually got taking months to materialize, led to some dark times. I am not unfamiliar with depression, but I must say it always surprises me with its lethargy and lack of energy. I’ve learned not to fight it, but to go easy on myself during those times and lower my expectations. I generally re-watch the Harry Potter movies to help lift my spirits. Healing came with the summer sun, and from about June on I was back in better spirits, ready to enjoy some family fun. I learned that seasonal affective disorder is real and that I tend to tie my identity to what I am able to produce.

person wearing red hoodie sitting in front of body of water

How were your emotions this last year? What can you learn from them?

Work: My work this year transitioned from my beloved hospice to a part-time private counseling practice. The first few months, as I mentioned, were extremely slow and frustrating, with new computer charting to learn, and rather rusty counseling skills. But now my days are full and I’m enjoying the work. Apparently, I’m becoming a sought-after trauma therapist and am training in EMDR to enhance that work. I learned it’s never too late to learn new things and that age does bring wisdom!

How was work for you this year? Are you happy? Do you need to make a change?

Relationships: Relationships have always been important to me, but when I look closely, I have many people that I love and just a few I spend time with regularly. I cherish my husband, my kids, and grands, and I marvel that friendships shift with new ones moving up in importance and others moving to less frequent interactions. I made two new friends this year and I’m so grateful for both. Good friends are a surprise and a joy.

Have you made or lost friends this year? Who are you thankful for? Are there relationships you need to grieve?

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Fun/Creativity – I put those two together but they might be separate for you. For me, I have the most fun when I’m creating. Although my writing has been slow this year (see the section on depression), I’ve published all of my eleven books over the decade! But now I’m slowing down, taking my time, not afraid to rest. Looking back, the most fun I had this year was attending two writing conferences with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — one in Las Vegas and the other in Los Angeles. I felt truly encouraged at those not to give up. Our world often seems dark and our creativity can bring much needed light. The writing itself has been a bit of a slog and I’m grateful for a critique group to hold me accountable.

I’m also happy anytime my husband and I can take a road trip. We had fun this year going to meet the biggest Sequoias, exploring caves, and traveling to southern California to see family. We did a tad of camping and got to watch the grandkids frolic in the water in several locations.

Did you remember to have fun this year? Did you spend any time creating? If not, it might be important to add some in for next year.

Thanks for taking a look back with me on your Body, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity. Next time we’ll look forward into the new year/decade and set some goals and dreams for what is next!

I’d love to hear how your end of the year reflection is going.

 

 

Winter scene Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com
Person sitting alone Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com
 Cairn Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: End of the Year Reflection

silhouette photo of person standing in cave

I love December for many reasons: the winter weather, Christmas lights, festive parties; but I also love it as it brings the end to one year and the promise of something new in January. This year is especially fun as it brings a close to a whole decade and opens up a new beginning in 2020.

At the end of each year, I enjoy reflecting back, to see what I might need to savor, grieve, let go of, and learn from. This can open up a time of dreaming and goal planning for the new year (which we can do in a later blog).

Today we will look at the categories: Body, Mind, and Spirit, and next time we’ll tackle Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity.

Body: Thinking back on 2019, how did you feel about your body? I don’t mean, were you thin or fit enough, I mean, were you at peace with it? Do you try to be an integrated person who honors, loves, and accepts your body? If so, how did you do it? Where did you fall short?

This year I grew in loving my body. As a post-menopausal woman, this has been a challenge. My stomach, which has always been a small part of my body, has become distended and refuses to regain its shape. I work with a personal trainer twice a week and have been enjoying getting stronger. But I believe that yoga has done the most to help me love and accept my body the way it is. The practice of yoga, breathing and stretching together, works to reestablish balance in our parasympathetic nervous systems. These systems get out of balance with stress, and yoga helps us realign. When I’m practicing yoga, I often find myself grateful for my body and sending it love.

How about you? How is your relationship with your body?

Mind: For me, reading is always the best way to improve my mind. I also listen to podcasts, attend lectures and enjoy interesting conversations. Looking back on the year, I’d like to share two books that have been stretching my thinking.

the body keeps the score

First, the book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. has helped me understand how Trauma affects the body. I’ve been working with trauma personally, and in my counseling practice for decades, and this book synthesis all the things I’ve learned into one helpful package. I’ve signed up to become an EMDR practitioner just so I can learn to help the traumatized even more. I highly recommend this book if you or someone you know has experienced trauma. Caution: It can be triggering, so it’s best to read and discuss with a trusted friend or counselor.

the great spiritual migration

The second book that is giving words to my experience is called, “The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian.” By Brian D. McLaren.

I’ve felt that old ways of thinking of my faith aren’t working for me anymore but not sure what that means for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I still love God and Jesus and my faith is stronger than ever, but it’s different. The old forms don’t fit. McLaren gets that and he has vision, hope, and direction for renewing or reinventing our faith “for the common good,” as it was originally meant to be.

How have you grown your mind this year? What helps you stretch your thinking?

How about your spirit? This year my spirit has been happiest in helping others grow spiritually. I’ve been leading a spiritual formation class where we try different spiritual formation contemplative practices together, such as Lectio Divina or praying a labyrinth. That has been a blast! But personally, I feel a bit restless or maybe lethargic in my spiritual self. I feel weary. I’m still taking my monthly retreats of silence and meeting with my spiritual director, but I have a hard time just being quiet, settling in. That is something for me to reflect on for the new year/decade. What do I need to unplug from so I can settle? Maybe I need less time on my phone and more time in the trees.

How about your spirit? How are you nurturing that part of you that needs time in nature, time in silence, time in fellowship?

Thanks for joining me in part one of reflecting on the year. Tune in next time for part two where we will reflect on Emotions, Work, Relationships, and Fun/Creativity. Then get ready to create some dreams and hope for the new year. Let me know how you best sort through a year and plan for the next.

 

Photo Credit: Snow cave: Photo by Maël BALLAND on Pexels.com

 

 

Spiritual Practice: Metabolizing Change

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Remember: Starting the first Tuesday in January, my next twelve blogs will look at twelve archetypes using as my guide the book: Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics by Christine Valters Paintner. If you’d like to get the book and read along that would be fabulous. I think it will be a really fun read.

Now…on to metabolizing change.

If you’ve been with me a while, you know that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I choose a word, phrase, or picture to try and live into for the next year. Today I listened to an interview my friend Debra Trappen (business coach extraordinaire) did with Tara-Nicholle Nelson (the woman behind My Fitness Pal). I love the six questions Tara uses to prepare for the new year and I’m going to start journaling them to prepare myself for 2019. I’ll attach that interview below plus a free webinar Tara is offering this Friday for making 2019 intentions. You can hear the whole chat and possibly get the webinar too but they said I could share the questions.

Tara says the idea of Metabolizing came from Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward.

When we want to make a transition from one year to another, or one job to another, or any kind of transition, it is helpful to think about how your body metabolizes food. Our body keeps what is lean and nourishing and gets rid of the rest. As we look back on the year, or job, or relationship that is ending, we can metabolize it — decide what is good, what we want to keep, and what we want to let go of.

This idea helped Tara create a Transition Doc on her computer for the new year. I did this for the last job I left. I wrote down all the important things I wanted the person coming in behind me to know. 

We can do this as we review and metabolize the last year. It’s like asking your 2018 self what you want your 2019 self to know.

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Tara uses these six sets of questions to help prepare her for the new year.

  1. What do you appreciate and what really worked for you this year? Just brainstorm this out on paper without worrying about making it pretty or grammatically correct. There will be good things you want to celebrate and there will be some of the hard things that turned out to be useful — hard things that lead to your growth and development. Write it all down.
  2. What questions did I answer this year? What new clarity or inspiration did I receive this year? What things which were confusing became clear? I love this set of questions. I always want to be growing and learning new things!
  3. What became part of my identity? How did “who I am” shift this year? This is important. Sometimes we think, “This is who I am,” as if it is a static construct when actually we are always evolving and changing. A better sentence might be, “This is who I am today.”
  4. What am I ready to release? These may be things we feel didn’t go as we wanted or things we just need to let go of because they don’t serve us well anymore. As Debra Trappen always says, “Shame off you,” let it all go, opening your hands to let it go prepares you to be able to receive new things!
  5. What do I want? What verbs do I want to do? What do I want to create? How do I want to feel? Verbalizing these feelings and desires can take them to the forefront of your attention where you are able to access and move toward them more quickly.
  6. What questions do I need answers to and who might be able to point me in the right direction? Brainstorming this might give you an impulse to reach out to someone; do it right away! That still small voice inside you is Divine wisdom and as you move toward that nudge, life-changing things can happen.

Okay, I’m ready to think through these questions. Let me know if you want to join me and how it goes for you.

debra11  You can find this interview here.

tara nicoleSign up for Tara’s webinar here.

 

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Writing Poto

Life, When You Get Better At It Thoughts on the New Year

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I was meeting with my peer supervision group of spiritual directors, a group of wise women whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. And I was trying to describe my life at the moment.

Being an extrovert, I often don’t know how I’m doing or what I’m thinking until I start to process out loud. My description went something like this:  “I feel like I’m ping-ponging through life. I’m just bouncing from one event to the next, without really preparing. Like this talk I have to give on death and dying at the seminary on Thursday, I haven’t even prepared for it, but I’m not worried about it. This is just not like me!”

One of the wise women asked, “How was your life different in the past?”

“I would have written an outline, and every word of the talk, and have memorized it. I’m used to planning my life, not just bouncing through it. But, strangely, I don’t feel guilty; it’s actually kind of freeing. I’m enjoying my quiet time in the morning and my yoga, and each day, I ask: ‘Lord, what’s most important for me to do today? Give me your eyes to see. Show me how to love well.’ It feels different. It feels like life — when you get better at it.”

All the wise women stopped me there and made me write that last phrase down, “Life, when you get better at it.”

clearness committee

Maybe I’m growing up. Maybe I’m finally learning what’s important. I don’t need to spend so much time stressing, preparing, outlining and rehearsing my life. I just need to be attentive to the spirit of the divine and keep my eyes open.

This month I was invited to a healing party. If you’ve never heard of one you’re in good company. I think my friend just made it up. She is one of the wise women mentioned above. She sent out actual invitations, and of the eight of us that came, most had physical healing needs. She had a liturgy printed out, along with an order of service. Each person shared and was prayed for in turn. My friend had even made some special essential oils so we could be anointed.  It was short, sweet and amazingly lovely. I don’t know what all the outcomes were. I know I felt loved and received a word about “gentleness,” which I am pondering.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I pick a word, or phrase, to pray into for the New Year. This year I’m picking the word “Gentleness.” I want to be kind and gentle to myself. I want to be kind and gentle to others. I want to live life – like when you get better at it.

The world does not need more strident, yelling, shiny, evangelicals. The world needs gentler, loving, kind Christians. As Dr. Patrick Fung said at a recent Urbana convention, “God is not looking for spiritual giants, but rather for those willing to carry spiritual lamps that shine for Him.”

In 2016 may my spiritual lamp shine with gentleness, hope, and love.  I want to do life like I’m getting better at it.

What is your hope, phrase or special word for the new year? If you share it, we can pray for each other this year.