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Holiday Grace

May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.

That is what I pray for this time of year - compassion for myself and compassion for others. Over and over. It is actually more of a mantra than a prayer.

This time of year is so tricky for me, and I suspect it is tricky for a lot of other people too. Okay, I know it is tricky. It is so easy to fall prey to expectations - those that come from others and our own - of what we "should" be doing. What we should be planning, cooking, baking, eating, decorating, buying, selling, and how we should be doing it - gracefully, effortlessly, joyfully, gratefully, and with ease. Surrounded by loved ones.

I struggle enough with day to day life when it is not the holiday season. There is a pile of papers on my kitchen counter that is so tall, it could be dangerous. I don't know what to do with it so I move it from one place to another. I'm tempted to throw it all away. It overwhelms me. In the past several months I have missed appointments that I never thought I'd miss and forgotten to respond to a zillion different requests. My voice mailbox is full. I owe people money. My bedroom is a disaster. And, I have no idea what we're having for dinner.

I'm weary. It's only Monday. And, it's GO time. No rest for the weary here. On Thursday we're having Thanksgiving dinner at our house and Pierogi Day on Friday. Two days of crazy, busy, super messy fun.

These are fun days for sure, but they are exhausting days too, and in as much as it makes me happy to spend this time with my family during the holidays, it also makes me sad. When I look around the room at all the faces of those I love most, I am hyper-aware that certain other loved ones are missing. Their absence hits me when I least expect it. One minute I could be helping my husband whip the mashed potatoes and the next minute I am longing to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers because my dad isn't here to play his guitar and sing Amazing Grace before dinner.

You know the woman who just stole your parking spot? She might be grieving.

The man who cut in front of you in line at the grocery store? He might be wondering how he will pay his bill.

The friend who seems to be ignoring you? She might be fighting for her marriage.

That flaky mom from school who won't return your call? She could be waiting… waiting for test results… wondering what the future holds.

We just cannot know what is on another person's heart or mind. We cannot know what keeps her up at night or what keeps her from wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes we wonder, and yet we don't really need to know. Do we? Couldn't we all just drop the inquiry? What if we stopped speculating, comparing, and judging? What if we decided not to take things personally? What if we decided to take responsibility for ourselves, and to trust that others can do the same?

What if we stepped out of our own heads and hearts for just a moment to let love in - to make space for compassion?

What if we just loved each other? I think that would be so amazing.

Because this time of year is so very tricky and our hearts are tender and our minds are over-stressed, maybe we could start with a bit more compassion right now and give it a go through the end of December? Let's just try it. Shall we? What have we got to lose? We have so much to gain. So much.

I'll keep praying… I know you will too.

May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.
May we trust that we are all doing our best.
May we release judgment.
And, may we make way for love.
And so it is. Amen. Aho! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving!

May Mandala Meditation

When I realized it is May 1st today, I started thinking about how quickly 2013 is flying by. I keep telling myself that it's okay if I'm a little scattered because I'm still recovering from the holidays and the start of the New Year. Um. Right. I've had four months! Maybe I'm just eternally scattered, and I need to accept that?

The great thing about today is that it is absolutely gorgeous outside. I think Spring has finally arrived here in Michigan! We had a very long, grayish-white winter so Spring comes as a huge relief to me. Today the sun is shining and the birds are flying about singing their songs. I am so happy for the birds! I am so happy for all of us!

To celebrate the sunshine and birdsong, I am offering a mandala mediation for May. Meditation is one of my favorite ways to be still and listen. I think it may intimidate a lot of people though because nobody wants to do it wrong. This is a short and sweet little meditation that I hope will serve as a breath of fresh air for you. Anyone can do it.

I created the mandala shown above in the spirit of promoting self-compassion and love. I am finding in my scatteredness that it is more important than ever to be gentle with myself. I am human after all. I am flawed. I make mistakes. I forget things... Sometimes I can be really hard on myself. Unforgiving. What I'm learning is that when I let go of my mistakes and forgive myself for making them, I open up a lot of space in my head and my heart to do more meaningful things. Like make mandalas.

So, take a look at the center of this mandala and notice the little hearts I drew there. They represent the LOVE that is at the center of everything.

Click play to listen to the guided meditation.

Close your eyes, and get comfortable in your seat or lying down. Take a deep breath and relax all your muscles, your limbs, and your face. Take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the meditation...

You are sitting alongside a creek on a bright Spring day.
Birds are chirping all around you and you can hear the water moving next to you.
A warm breeze blows over your face.
Imagine that in your hand you hold a small pile of seeds.

Each seed represents something you could release, something that no longer serves you. 
One seed could be regret over disappointing someone you love, or a grudge against yourself for a mistake you made. One seed might be a bad habit you've picked up, or a self-limiting belief that is holding you back. Take a deep breath, and on the exhale, blow your seeds into the creek.
Watch as the seeds fade away into the water, to be recycled into Mother Earth.

Feel the lightness that comes over you. You are no longer weighed down. You are free. Sit still as the new empty space inside you is filled with love. Let the love wash over you. Take a deep breath in slowly, taking in the love. Exhale any residue left behind from the seeds you released.

Take another deep breath. Let it go. You are loved. You are worthy of receiving the love you give so freely to others. Let that love into your heart. Embrace it. Wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze yourself into a warm, loving hug. Take a deep breath. Let it go. Wiggle your fingers, and  your toes. Come back to your body, and get ready to go back out into the world...
What will you do with all that love?

I hope you enjoyed that little treat!
Take care my friend!

p.s. Special thanks to my mom for the beautiful forsythia she brought to my house today, and to Tara Catalano for allowing me to use her gorgeous art in this post!

p.p.s. I've never made a video for a post before! I'm letting myself off the hook for its amateur quality, and I hope you will too! :)