The garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.
Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.
Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key.
As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.
A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, findingReese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign. Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.
Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.
Mixed Nuts What do you think about when you think about squirrels? Ravaged bird feeders? Acrobatic acts? Rabies? The park? Nuts? Well, yes, nuts. That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.
Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors. It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?
Filling Up More than Stockings Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways. You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially. Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.
Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now? If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
Are your actions obligatory or from the heart? Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible? Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?
Do your actions make sense? Do they seem a little nuts to you? Be honest.
Enlist Creativity If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders. Be as innovative.
If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing. Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten. Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.
Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”
Trudging through Tradition Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me. Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit. (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties. But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)
A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards! Three hundred cards? Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed? But, was it really necessary? It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.
All in a Nutshell Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories. Don’t worry or fret. Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress. 🙂
By now, you know my feelings about the overuse and addictive characteristics of social media, particularly as it hampers one’s interest in human to human communication and experiencing the natural environment. I offer Christina Farr’s article in the hopes it will help those of you trying to detox and return to a more serene, content and manageable life. As a society, we do have the ability to take back our lives. Have you noticed a recent wave of people saying, “Enough is enough” and unplugging to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, chaos and confusion that social media has introduced into their lives?
While Christina offers her personal experience of attending a formal camp to unplug, you can reduce stress and create a more rich and satisfying life by asking yourself a few introspective questions like:
What is truly important to me? Personal time with friends and loved ones, or how many likes I’ve received?
If I had one day left on this planet, what would I do — would I post on social media or respond to that inner nudge to do something I always wanted to do like mountain climb or learn to play a musical instrument? What have I always wanted to do but spent my hours on social media instead?
How do I feel inside when taking a walk in nature, looking at someone in the eye and seeing their smile versus hearing constant pings on my device?
Is my time better spent helping someone through volunteer work or trying to impress and compete with the virtual lives of others?
What makes me feel content? What makes me feel anxious or depressed?
Make a list if you need to. Let it look you squarely in the eye and you’ll know what you need to do to truly live a meaningful life. Here’s how Christina handled her social media addiction:
Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook
Christina Farr used to spend 5 hours a week posting and interacting with friends on Instagram. She quit cold this summer, and her life changed dramatically for the better.
Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting.
I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands. The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.
Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other. Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior. This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.
It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it. I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest. I use to fear death as a finality of life. But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise. This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing. Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.
Can you see the number 11 as an upwards arrow pointing to ascension and light, as perhaps global leaders have throughout the years? Any idea why the major hostilities of World War I were first ended in 1918 at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, or why Israel and Egypt signed the first Israel and Arab agreement for peace in 24 years — on 11–11 in 1973? What is the significance of the number 11? Just coincidence you say? Numerology begs to differ.
In numerology, the esteemed master number 11 symbolizes immense physical and mental power. According to Numerology.com, 11 has the potential of “pushing the limitations of the human experience into the stratosphere of the highest spiritual perception; it is the link between darkness and light, ignorance and enlightenment.”
Eleven is associated with calmly handling complex situations, steadiness, adaptability, a sense of order, mature thinking, understanding others and their problems, and doing everything possible to create a feeling of goodness. Other qualities associated with the number 11 are:
Higher spiritual insight
Loving and seeking freedom
Immense ability to see others more deeply
Can you envision the number 11 as two candles — the first one showing the brighter side of life and helping others, the second candle as the receiver of light?