Tag Archives: Christmas

Year of self-compassion #51 #repeat

Usually by this time in the year I have started to discern what the next year’s blog theme will be and others have noticed this as well and are providing advice and suggestions. This phenomena is letting me know that I have readers, that it is OK to offer me advice, that I might be open to suggestions, that perhaps I don’t yet know what to decide – all of these are true. In the listening I am noticing a theme around making another year of self-compassion might be useful. I am also noticing that others are reflecting on the ways they may or may not be kind to themselves and how some of my words might evoke a response or a memory or perhaps a pondering into the future as well. This is quite fascinating to me. I only really write for myself and part of my accountability is to put my posts into the world and in doing so join my humanity with others. The experience of being human may resonate with others of my species.

And so it came to pass that as the summer solstice arrived, I found myself at the Waging Peace exhibition at MOD (Museum of Design) in Adelaide this week. I was given a quick personal tour by the Director and now must go back and soak it all in. It is the perfect exhibition for this season where we make room for a peacemaker to arrive in our hearts, in the back shed where the animals rest, take shelter and feed, where we travel to ancestral lands and reconnect with our heritage, where we gather under stars and look to the heavens for signs of hope and instruction on how to live, where we subject ourselves to border crossings and arrive pregnant with possibilities. This day is also known as “founders day” in my family, the day my parents married in a little town on the edge of the Gulf, saltwater people both, young and full of promise and who within the year would be welcoming me into the fold. Travelling under a wandering star as the song from Paint Your Wagon goes, became part of the family narrative as well and when I saw my own brood scattered across the planet, it should come as no surprise to me. While none of them will be getting on donkeys or planes to come home this year, there will be the aid of technology and satellites and magi created moments to connect us with voice and vision.

Within 36 hours of the last of the Christmas Day cherries being swallowed and slurped, I will be jettisoning off to the other side of the world for a short trip to connect into my non-biological family. One has called to me with an irresistible invitation to come and see snow falling on a vertical city to be with her while we watch the lights twinkle and see the sun set early while the sun rises on my home. This generosity comes from the heart, from recognising the hole in my heart, and from the shared stories of joy, grief, movement and being still. It will be a chance to reconnect with our common story. I have sent word to stock up on tissues and champagne, to find places for me to be still and to be distracted. The getting there will have its own pilgrimage of border crossings, although no donkeys will be with me, there will be a backpack, as I can’t seem to leave home without one of those. The stars will offer up a map to me, a guide and perhaps signs for in this other hemisphere there are different celestial stories in the sky.

Arriving as I will a week or so after the days are getting shorter here and longer there, this may well be an aid to reminding me that the planet tilts and it orbits around the sun. My life revolves and is bathed in light across the course of a year with various amounts of intensity depending on how far I am from the source of that light. My life is seasonal and I have learnt a lot this year of what it means to be thrown off the axis into a different kind of orbit, it has been my ecological and molecular experience of personal climate change – tsunamis, wild winds, floods and droughts.

I am going to be looking for signs in the skies, to be surrounded by angels singing to me in celestial harmony, to be welcomed by an inn-keeper who has found a place for me to lay my weary head, to find a way to come home to myself in a strange land and to wage peace on myself.

I am no closer to arriving at a decision on what this blog will focus on in the coming year, but as the axis seems to be coming to some kind of stillness, maybe inviting me to revolve around self-compassion again? Maybe it is time for me to wage peace? Another instruction that came my way this week was the information that it was fifty years ago that we saw the Earth rise from Apollo 8 catching a glimpse of what it might mean, for us to rise and fall, and for us, to rotate and tilt.

Next year could not be like this one, and perhaps with a bit of light and intentionality of holding to a steady rotation to go around the sun again, I will discover “… fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains will repeat the sounding joy” our beautiful planet delivers to me in the people and places this pilgrim encounters.

Year of Self-Compassion #50 #Christmas

Heading into the week of Christmas used to be full of making – garlands for the tree, sweet treats as gifts, special food requests, home crafted goodies for family and friends, cards from every possible bib and bob. This year there is no tinsel, no treats and most notably no music making an appearance. It has a long held tradition that my favourite Christmas Carol tape (yes so old that a tape recorder had to be maintained to enable it to be played each year) would be hidden so I would have to go hunting for it. But this year hasn’t been recovered from the archives to be played and there is no cat and mouse game for the music to be played. Although this is the second Christmas, for the first one I was still in shock and yet I did manage tinsel and even a few cards, this one is different, it is unencumbered by the shock and just has the sadness in its place. No one to cook for here and only one of the brood actually even in the same state this year. It feels like I am visiting a foreign land – I can see all the lights and hear all the songs, I recognise the greetings and know what they mean – yet I am a visitor. It is not where I live. I live in another land, a place where Christmas is absent, probably on holidays and it will come back one day but just not making an appearance this year.

I am working out how to be a visitor in this land and I do have a pass to get in because I once lived there. This land is familiar, but I am a voyeur not a participant; I can look in but I can’t stay.

Looking through the windows and seeing silhouettes of parents wrapping parcels, I remember the joy of Christmas Eve and each gift, even down to each battery, was wrapped individually with love and hilarity under the cover of darkness while the little ones slept. The ache of children not getting up early, such was their confidence of a future world of gifts, they didn’t have anxiety about what may or may not be left under a tree. This was an annoying disappointment for their father who couldn’t wait to see their faces. Turkey cooking would start in the very early hours and I loved the quiet to potter in the kitchen to get all the trimmings together and over the years perfected the bird and it was welcomed with whoops by the non-vegetarians. Over the years I also learnt how to devise a menu fit for vegans, lactose intolerant, gluten free diners as well. The table was a feature and everyone enjoyed the bad jokes of the crackers and usually the elder challenged everyone to a Catholic Quiz – an exercise designed to separate heathens from holy and generally divided the generations. There was regularly a Christmas concert that had variations of well known carols and games – usually hilarious. One of my personal favourites was my grandfather with some serious disabilities acting out the 12 days of Christmas with his son and my two brothers – and only one of those four is still here today so there is no likelihood of a repeat performance – lost in time and saved in memory. Another favourite was a re-enactment of the nativity which melded together current social issues and although this happened about twenty years ago is still current – refugees being turned away and the inn-keeper on this occasion with resplendent in a giant Mexican sombrero. I also remember the first Christmas with a new generation and the joy of a child being born under the star of Bethlehem, inviting me in again to the wonder of new life and the eternal experience of being gathered around a child. The Christ Child is said to have really been born in July and all the evidence from astronomy points to probably the star appearing on July 4 which ironically was the day my first grandchild was born. I wrote this poem at the time:

Blessed be the child who is born under the star of Bethlehem.

May he be at one with the Universe

Skipping his way through life

On the energy of the Sun

And in the light of the moon.

May he be at one with his species

Understanding all the while he is the only one of his kind.

May he grow in the knowledge he is loved;

And with all that love comes responsibility to love others.

May he be like Micah:

And live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly.

For the past few years I have written a Christmas blessing, here is the one I did in 2017, knowing full well I was going to be exiled from Christmas for a while.

May you find joy in perfect and imperfect harmonies.
May angels witness your silence between sounds.
And may you look to the heavens for a star to guide you to a home full of love and promise.

And one I did last year for the summer solstice too.

May the longest of days

Bring your labours to the labyrinth

May the shortest of nights

Begin new dreams and visions

May the harvest of summer fruits

Yield sweetness and stickiness

May the cool sea waters

Soothe the sears of sun soaked skin

May the quickening of grain and grape ripening

Confirm the successful completion of a season.

So much prophecy in each of these for what the following 12 months brought and I have so much more to unwrap in the gifts I have received this year, even though I don’t yet see them under my invisible seasonal tree.

My act of self-compassion is to give thanks to my past self for seeing into the future, and knowing that today will one day be the past self I can also thank for remembering, count my blessings. hold the space for sadness and not be in a rush to move on. I know one day in the future I will no longer be a visitor to the land of Christmas and it will be waiting for me when I get there as a citizen again.

Remains of the Year

Dear Sor Juana

The season of Christmas is upon us and the remains of turkey and pudding will be tempting to find their way to my mouth over the next couple of days. Masquerading as left overs they will still be centre stage. Crumbs, wrapping paper, ribbons – all get recycled sooner or later. The festival and feasting linger before the new year begins.

So often I think our church, Sor Juana, is a remnant, where we are hanging on to the few remaining unraveling threads, and then Christmas comes and churches are full of hope and promise, families reunited, carols filling once empty cavities and a little person, like all little people divine and complete in their goodness, untouched by the world and the temptations to come. Unblemished by fear, greed, pride, envy and all the other sin that eat away at simplicity, humility, hope, joy: the little one is there, amongst us, being adored as all children should be.

In the convent Sor Juana this would have been a time of prayer and feasting too! Perhaps you treated your Sisters to poems and songs, perhaps you gave yourself a treat and gazed at the stars for longer than usual, connecting your night sky to that of Bethlehem’s.

In our sky, we had a full moon for Christmas Day, the first time in 38 years, and although cloud cover early in the evening concealed her from view, once the clouds released their load of rain, she was able to be seen and we were refreshed. When we are carrying a load, our true selves can’t always be seen either and often it takes the tears to be shed before we too are refreshed and renewed.

The remains of this year will be echoed in the years to come.

This is my last letter to you and it is time to say good bye Sor Juana. Thank you for travelling with this pilgrim in 2015. You have been a faithful companion and have drawn me to places where you found comfort and joy – words, the sky, community and prayer, silence and service. In looking over my letters to you I see those elements of your life entwined in the thoughts I’ve shared. Left overs from your table and your story have found their way to me across the ages and pockets of souvenirs from your worlds, benefactors and visitors, have found their way into my words. Your oft quoted line: I did not study to learn more, but to ignore less, is a solid foundation and will remain with me.

Your ability to speak up and then to choose silence as your final word has been instructive. And this is where I will leave our conversation, investing in understanding for that is where there is wealth and in the silence knowing a blank page speaks as well as one full of words.











Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Dear Sor Juana,

The year is coming to a close and in our hemisphere the summer days collide with Christmas. It is a juxtaposition of openings and closings. Closure is a forecast to an opening, a new beginning. Out of office notices start to appear, conversations turn to sand, sea and surf reports, an eye is kept on bushfire alerts as the mercury rises, sausages sizzle on de-cobwebbed BBQs ready for family and friends to drop by.

Packing up the year and reflecting on what has been, is an invitation to what lies ahead as well. What can be packed up, what will go on rinse and repeat, what will never happen again? Don’t leave the lessons learnt from the year behind, they maybe useful companions in the year ahead.

Accumulating wisdom is one way I like to think of the visitors from the East in the nativity story. They brought their wisdom to the foot of a child in a donkey’s trough. Imagine receiving gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold a transition metal the subject of alchemy, perhaps it is an alchemist bearing the product of his chemistry (after all chemistry means magic). Frankincense bankrupted a civilization when it was currency. This amazing oil full of healing properties to relieve chronic stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, boosting immunity. The carrier in our nativity tale perhaps someone who knew the essence of life and how to build resilience. Essential oils require distillation, what a grand metaphor to bring to the crib – to distil the essence of life. And then the myrrh, derived from a thorny bush, a predictor of things to come, intoxicating perfume that can only be harvested from its source through repeatedly wounding the tree to bleed and release its sap. What a message here of the gifts of pain, release and prophecy for lies ahead for all of us as we enter fully into our own journey and story. The opening and closing of the child in Bethlehem has myrrh as book ends for his life and death.

What are the gifts we bring to this season that will last our whole life through?  Who are the ones who bring you gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Looking for the alchemy, the essence and release will be part of how I spend reflecting on this year and what I need to keep an eye out for in what is ahead.