As I find myself approaching another new year, I'm hearing and reading a lot less about "new year's resolutions" than usual. Instead, I'm sensing a deeper yearning for transformational planetary change -- the kind of change we can't accomplish with SMART goals. This year the questions "When did things go so wrong?" and "How did we become so divided?" are on the minds of so many people.
To offer a vague answer, we have always been divided and we have always had an underbelly of hatred, greed, pride, and other such vices, which are just symptoms of separation. We've chosen to live in separation -- from our Divine natures, from each other, and from God -- and we allow it to define all aspects of our lives. But, separation is a choice and in every conscious moment we have the opportunity to make a different decision.
And so we can decide to shift our focus toward living in the spirit of unity. While we can't make this decision for others, each of us can make an individual choice to do so. Personal unity is always within our reach. Each person who makes this decision raises his or her vibration, which positively impacts the planet's vibration.
I have also heard - and been guilty of saying myself - that 2016's end can't come soon enough. As if 2017 will be a fresh slate without the problems of 2016. It is easy to make 2016 out to be one of the worst years in recorded history. It is equally easy to make 2016 one of the best. If you list only the negative things that happened, this will be your experience. But then, if you list only positive things, this will be your experience. In this light, the year 2016 becomes something entirely different: a matter of perspective.
I don't mean to wash away the unsavory aspects of our world and the real problems that we face. Our spiritual work is cut out for us as a new political leader transitions into power in the US. Many wonder how we can maintain progress with social justice and continue to encourage more compassionate living. As Charles Fillmore, founder of the Unity Church, said, "Look for the good in every person -- and you will find it."
As we move forward into 2017, let us be guided by Fillmore's words. Finding the good in everyone may seem a difficult (if not impossible) task until we consider this: we may choose to fill our hearts with hate or with compassion. A hateful heart will eat one alive, doing far more damage to the one choosing to feel hate and anger than to any others. However, a heart of compassion will lift one's vibration and will positively affect those around them. Compassion is the better choice.
I’ve read lots of articles and “pinned” lots of Pinterest pins about “reducing” holiday stress. Some of the common suggestions include: have a potluck, draw names for gift giving, have a homemade gift holiday, shop early, and/or eat lots of comfort food.
It’s clear that a lot of people are searching for something to make the holidays less stressful - or in some cases - bearable. In the past, I’ve heard friends and coworkers lament, “Why do we make such a big deal over this time of year?”
It’s a good question. The common answer, and the one I was taught in Sunday School as a child, is “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” I agree that’s one reason. I think another reason is that, despite the stress and the crazy families and the holiday sales, we all want deeper connection with the people we care about. I think that this burning desire for connection drives our need to continue the celebrations year after year.
I don’t think the answer lies in Pinterest pins or in comfort food. The answer is simple: we must find inner peace no matter what our circumstances. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to develop inner peace and hectic holidays are a great time to practice. Mindfulness means staying present in the moment: not depressed about the past, not anxious about the future.
You can work on being mindful with silent reflection or meditation. In the midst of crazy times, you can clear your mind by "taking a moment.” Take a deep breath and say silently, “This moment is all that I have.” Truly feel it. Feel how “completely gone” yesterday really is: like a candle flame snuffed out. Feel how intangible tomorrow actually is: like a beautiful painting not yet painted. This moment is all we ever have.
Affirmation: The present moment is all I have.
We talk a lot about peace in this season. “World peace,” and “peace on earth,” are two common themes. I think (I hope) that despite our differences (and we have many), most of us just want everyone to get along. That’s why we’re so drawn to songs calling for a more peaceful, loving world.
Isaiah 9:6 called the coming Messiah the “Prince of Peace.” In John 14:27, Jesus teaches us to be peaceful and to live light-hearted and without fear. Jesus is speaking here about personal peace.
It is much easier to wish for world peace than to find peace within ourselves. Hoping for world peace takes the “burden" off our shoulders and places it squarely on the heads of world leaders and humanitarian organizations. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking along these lines: “it would be nice of someone would restore that 'world peace.’” (As if “world peace” is controlled by a switch just waiting to be flipped.)
Peace is personal. Peace begins with each and every one of us first making peace with ourselves. Whatever we’ve done - or not done - we must forgive ourselves and we must know that despite our imperfections, we are Divine Perfection in God’s eyes. After we find peace within, we ease into ‘being’ peace with other people - no matter how alike or different from us they may be.