Leading Our Lives

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I confess I’ve crossed the floor to open the door to 2017 with a wariness not experienced during my short span on earth, stepping with more of a reluctant trudge than airy leap, but still standing. Last year’s events did not portend a new year I’ve longed to meet. It has not signaled its desirability as a traveling companion for 2 days, let alone 365.

The knock has come and here is the new year, on my porch, waiting on my greeting. My impulse is to love it, as I always have, expecting the best, demanding nothing in return, pushing through my doubts and embracing it, trusting that this will flood me with tingling, joyful hormones and a happy ending. But this year, I’m hesitant, thinking about the fine line between a wise woman and a fool.

I cannot help but feel we’re circling each other, this new year and I, and I note the sadness welling in my heart’s response. I’ve always embraced my new years so genuinely; this inability to feel or sustain a sense of happy welcome makes me wonder what has been lost and how I might retrieve it. Or if I should. Sometimes, sadness needs remedy, but I think it can also signal a change that’s needed and grieved because we’ve had to release an “easier” way of being for the hard work of behaving more maturely. Wisdom is earned, not given.

So, how to proceed? And then a question occurs: Am I truly leading my life? Have I ever?

I think I’ve given my trust and adjusted the depth of my needs too readily, inviting others, including people and chance, to lead my life, because I feared abandonment, or a loss of friendship and companionship. Or I thought I’d become cynical, or develop a hardened heart and closed worldview. Now, I realize these aren’t necessarily the only options to taking back the leadership of my own life. Intelligent centering, and a kind of gentle seriousness call me to marshal my energy and disperse it more deliberately, and to intentionally ponder my choices.

 I’ve too rarely met the new with pronounced expectation or demands. I’m quite certain previous New Year’s Days have considered me a dim and slobbering puppy. “Hi! Wanna play? Oh, you wanna run over there? Sure! Let’s go!”   

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And so we would travel through the next 12 months, the year leading and I following, wagging my tail and slobbering.

But last year, things happened that changed me, personally, politically, globally, and eternally. Or last year, the lessons of a lifetime finally began to coalesce into practices I choose to acknowledge and follow. I am more centered and balanced. And ready to lead my life.

Now, I am an abbess and this life is my monastery, and I am unwilling to allow the year’s foolishness or misery to dictate the path my life will follow.

So I open the door and gesture the new year to sit at my table. I seat myself across from it and fold my hands upon the tabletop and look directly into its eyes and ask what it will expect of me and tell it exactly what I expect of it. It may slide out of its chair and shapeshift, but I will call it back, over and over, for 365 days, and meet it and demand, as many times as I need to, that it behave decently, that it treat those in need kindly, that it allow my monastery (which is everything I love, which is everything) to feel safe, blessed, joyful, and hopeful. Able to create what is new and necessary. I am older and wiser than this year.

We will be equal partners in the dance, this year and I, for I’ve learned how to organize, and to lead my life, and to control my precious time (and that I must, if it’s to accrue to a day and then a month, and then a year that I value). I have many gifts to offer, but they’re mine to give, if and when and how I choose. I am the gatekeeper now; this has not always been the case. Last year granted me an advanced degree of consciousness. I earned it. I claim it. I will put it to use. I will hold myself accountable.

Perhaps this new year will surprise me in wonderful ways. But it will not fool me. My heart will be open. But so will my eyes. My intuition has never been keener, my gullibility so restrained, my words more direct, or my needs so little.

I will even retain belief in the possibility that the year and I will part as friends, but that won’t be determined for 365 days. I am leading this life.

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A Blessing for the New Year

This blessing comes with the New Year

To remind you of your power

To say yes,

To say no,

To give,

To receive,

To begin,

To conclude,

To resolve,

To surrender to mystery.

May we be present to wonder

And equally to loss.

May we be beacons of hope

And harbors of healing.

May we be open to surprise,

Abundantly delighted,

And measured in judgement.

May we defend the weak,

And speak truth to power.

And when we are weary,

May Love guide us home

And send us forth renewed,

Scattering joy

And sharing gentle peace.

May we be the leaders

Of our lives.

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Slow Life and the Spirit

When Phillip and I made a conscious decision to pursue a “slow life” together, we were led by others who have made the same decision to ground their choices and days in deliberate and focused sustainability and community connections.

 For us, a slow life is guided by a philosophical stance which believes that the spirit is deeply and truly fed only by intimate communion. To put it another way: living, relating, and buying locally allows us to be more fully present both to ourselves and to those who contribute to our well-being, as we contribute to theirs. This is not to promote an isolationist orientation or a denial of global connection and need, but to lessen the exhaustion and depletion of finite resources, to become mindful about right relationship with our neighbors, to redefine what constitutes “healthy living,” and to be earnest in clarifying the difference between desire and need.

 Far from feeling rigidly controlled, we’ve learned pursuing a slow life is exciting, creative, spacious, and fun.

 Savoring, noticing, attending, reflecting, listening, and being present are all practices that feed a slow life, and all are nourished by gratitude and balance. We commit to simplify in order to go deeper, and to more authentically value the common ground and the unique distinctions that define our days, relationships, seasons, community, and spirits. We deliberately honor the gifts that all of these create and offer for our enrichment.

Pierre Teilhard famously stated we’re spiritual beings having a physical, human experience. While we’re here on earth, this means our basic necessities of food, home, and clothing must be satisfied if our spirits are to thrive and evolve. It seems, though, that we’ve lost the connection between the pursuit of our basic needs and our spiritual health, as though spirit doesn’t enter into our choices and consciousness until not just our basic needs, but all of our (manufactured) desires, are met. Focused solely on the crazed pursuit of “more,” we have become disconnected from Source and source: we do not know where we, our food, our homes, and our clothing come from, nor at what cost to the earth and our neighbors. We do not relax and breathe unless we’re “on vacation,” when a lot of us routinely become ill from the anxiety, over-work, and imbalanced living we’ve consented to endure, often unconsciously.

 Slow living recognizes that spirit is (always) our essence, that the pursuit of basic necessities can be/is naturally spirit-fueled and intentional, and that the satisfaction of these needs can be creative, communal, and enough. A slow life is a consciously inspirited life.

 Homes can be green, energy use sustainable, clothing recycled, and food joyfully grown, locally procured, and communally shared. Our gifts and art can be recognized, encouraged, and shared in the production of the goods that meet our needs. We can “make a living” that is peace-filled and care-filled, and our businesses and interactions can be collaborative circles of collegiality rather than competitive, top-down hierarchies.

Small steps, in time, create new paths.

Grow a garden; join a CSA; shop at farmers’ markets. Seek and support restaurants like this: http://www.braiselocalfood.com and programs like this: http://wisconsinfoodie.com/

Make use of resale shops. Cull outgrown, unworn, disused, and unneeded possessions; recycle, reuse, and re-purpose creatively. Know where your material possessions are made and by whom; understand the dis-eased world you’re either perpetuating or choosing to change: http://video.pbs.org/video/1488092077/.

Live green: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Homes.aspx

 Heal whenever, whatever, wherever you can, starting with yourself and your choices.

 A slow life offers continual invitations and opportunities to recall and connect with who we— truly—are: shards of a holy and ongoing Creative Impulse, interdependent and aware that our only home is Love.