Yesterday afternoon, Justin and I went to Christmas Eve Mass with my mom, my sister, and her family.
As is my practice since I was a kid, I zoned out during Father’s sermon. I have a special gift for this. Apparently, I’m so good at it that the priest generally thinks I’m paying rapt attention. (I know this because one of my favorite priests from my teen years told my parents he enjoyed giving his sermons when I was there because he could tell I paid avid attention. Ha ha. Not.) It’s my time during Mass when I allow my imagination to float away on its own. Who knows how many realms I’ve traveled during those sermons over the years.
Yesterday, I looked up at the mural of angels surrounding Mary, and began imagining myself into that scene, which reminded me of one of the spiritual practices I learned from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. (See, I told you you’d be hearing more about this!) This practice is officially called Ignatian Contemplation. (You can learn more about Ignatian Spirituality here. Or under Resources in Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.) Vanessa and Casper (hosts of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text) tend to adapt the official practices a bit, which I love. In this practice, they invite you to enter the text through the eyes of any character you choose.
I decided to imagine myself into the gospel reading — the one you all probably know, from Luke, that begins “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken …” And then takes you through most of the characters and scenes you associate with the birth of Christ, from the angels in the sky to the shepherds in the fields, and into the stable with the animals, Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
I decided to imagine myself into the story, first as a shepherd, then as Mary. Before I could imagine any other characters, the congregation chuckled at Father’s second joke, which I missed entirely. (I was disappointed, actually, because the first one was pretty good.) So I popped back into the real world.
But, the practice made me feel more present to and added back a new level of sacredness to the story of Christmas that surprised me.
I thought as it was appropriate for Christmas, I would invite you to do the same, and give you a taste for yourself of one of the reasons I get so much out of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.
Sacred Imagination Practice
Step One: Choose any character you like. You can even choose other well-known characters not mentioned specifically in the text, such as the Wise Men or the Little Drummer Boy … or even imagine that you time-traveled and found yourself there as an invisible spectator.
Step Two: Once you have selected the character you wish to imagine yourself into, close your eyes and listen to the text. (I’ve recorded it here for your convenience.) Imagine yourself into the scene using all of your senses and emotions. What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear, feel?
Step Three: Listen to it once more with the same practice. You can either switch up your character, or go a little deeper into the first character’s perspective.
Step Four: (Optional) In a true gospel contemplation, you would finish by speaking person to person to Christ, saying what comes from your heart.
I’d love to know how this went for you. What character did you choose? Did this make the scripture come to life for you in a way it hadn’t before? Did it change the way you relate to this well-known story?
Hope your final days of 2019 are wonderful.
PS) Looking for a beautiful way to set intentions and create a plan for 2020?
Perfect timing for me. I’m sooo ready to welcome in the light and relinquish the dark.
I was going to try to host one of my mini-retreats for you today, but as has been this year’s “normal,” that intention did not get off the ground in the way I’d hoped.
Speaking of this year’s “normal,” up until a month ago, if anyone asked me about my year this year, my answer was “it has been a hard year.” I would have said that my overall feelings this year were sad and depressed, and that my lesson was failure.
I started the process last month by answering the question, “what were the highlights of the past year?” In my head, before putting pen to page, I started with all the negatives … Josh’s death, nothing from my business got off the ground, I even found myself being cynical during the valedictorian speech at my oldest two nephews HS graduation(!!) which would ordinarily –any other year– fill me with hope in the future. My overall “corde desired feeling” words from The Desire Map process last year were supposed to be “vibrant, rooted, and blooming” and I did NOT feel the year went that way.
In fact, most of the time I felt like a big fat failure … with an inability to fix ANY of it.
But … when I put all that negativity aside for the purpose of introspection, and answered the question with the emphasis on word # 2, “what WERE the highlights of 2019?” a whole new side to the year sprouted forth. I realized that, in fact, although I may not have felt vibrant or blooming, I rooted in a LOT. As part of my grieving process, I gave myself permission to feel sad and depressed. I gave myself permission to binge on fantasy Netflix and unabashedly enjoyed getting caught up on ALL the Marvel Comics series. (Not surprisingly, Jessica Jones with her cynical but save the world outlook was my overall fave.)
With that as inspiration, I gave myself permission to be angry and even cynical. I gave myself permission to be unsuccessful in my work and –even more heretical –to not even bother to try after some more sad news in May rocked my world again.
Because it was one of the few things that made me feel good, I also prioritized my extended family. I drove one niece to and from club volleyball practices every other week for several months (2 hours each way) and picked up another niece after school a few times. Justin and I worked on renovating my brother’s rental home all summer. I assuaged my disappointment that my backpacking pilgrimage didn’t sell well by backpacking the High Divide with some nieces and two other brothers. I went to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding.
The Desire Map process helped me discover that even though the year was hard, I grew through it. In fact, I rooted in. Strong and deep roots, of course, are important for a plant to be vibrant and blooming.
And when (this Fall) I started to feel like taking action in my life again, I knocked off a whole list of things I had been “tolerating” … from painting the exterior of our house to cleaning some of the rooms that still had junk from past house occupants, even getting my teeth cleaned and scheduling that physical I was procrastinating on.
And truthfully, I feel the difference. I feel more honest and true to my whole self. I feel more deeply connected to –and even tender toward– my shadow side. And as a result, I’m beginning to feel that old revolutionary spirit gather strength and courage in my root chakra.
And instead of blindly following instructions, doing it exactly the way it was explained, I found myself taking The Desire Map process deeper and eliminating pieces that didn’t work for me. In other words, making it my own.
Which means I’ve got my mojo back. ❤
And so, today, on Winter Solstice, the day filled with the powerful energy of regeneration, renewal, and self-reflection. The day we celebrate the Moon Goddess, I invite you to join me in introspection, not just of the past year, but of the past decade.
You can do this via purchasing one of Danielle LaPorte’s books or planners and going for the deep dive her way. Listening to Marie Forleo’s Decade in Review exercises.
Or, click here to participate in my winter solstice retreat from bygone days for FREE. You’ll be taken on a guided meditation, participate in a creative writing exercise, and welcome back the light. Use code wintersolstice2019 at checkout.
* [If you’ve never heard of The Desire Map, or Danielle LaPorte, she is a bestselling Canadian author, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger. Her book, The Desire Map, was published in 2014. To be honest, when it first came out I was just annoyed that she beat me to it. By then I’d been working with clients on flip flopping their lives to align with their desired feelings for just over two years, and had seen some amazing results. It took me a few years before I finally decided to see what all the hype was about.
As I worked through the process for the second time, I decided I love The Desire Map process so much I decided to become an affiliate. This means that if you click through using my link and decide to purchase any of her products, I get a commission. No extra cost to you, bonus for me. Bonus for both of us, actually, because you get a great planning process too. And if you organize in fits and starts, like me, there are several undated versions to choose from as well.
I still wish I’d written the book first, but oh well. Commissions are nice too, and we share a passion for beautiful things and living from our heart.]
What I’m loving right now (that you will probably hear more about in 2020:)
Effy Wild Book of Days course. Can’t WAIT for the official start. I’m especially excited about the companion sweet trash journal. And maybe (if it doesn’t feel overwhelming) Moonshine.
And of course, although I have to seek these out because I don’t catch them elsewhere, the best Holiday Ads. Which one is your favorite?
Reply to let me know which ad was your favorite of if you already ARE a Harry Potter and the Sacred Text fan, or if you had a year you thought was sh*t only to discover the magick was underground the whole time.
And you -what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down -papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.”
Poet, Lynn Ungar, from “Camas Lilies”
February was an unseasonably cold and snowy month for those of us on the Olympic Peninsula. The snow started falling Sunday the 3rd of February, and we can still see patches of unmelted snow in the field behind the house.
The dogs and I enjoyed trompsing in it, but I’m grateful that my lifestyle allows me to limit my time on the roads .
Now that the Equinox and the frogs in our pond have loudly proclaimed it to be spring, I invite you to imagine setting down everything in your life, and writing the note described above. Do you even know what you would do if you could “go to the fields to be lovely”? And be back when you’re “done blooming?”
If you’re like most people, you’re too caught up in your “rushed and useful” life to imagine that it might be different. Until, that is, you’re forced to … through a threshold not of your choosing.
A colleague and I used to walk the waterfront trails in Seattle, to help us think more creatively as we brainstormed a workshop on living a vital life.
One day we got onto the topic of societal expectations: how so many of us simply set out into the world following the blueprint society created for us –go to school, get a job, get married, have children, buy a house, acquire things, raise children, retire –without thinking about whether those choices are suitable for our unique spirit.
In following this pre-subscribed routine, many of us end up with health problems, or become increasingly restless or burned out. If we’re not working in a job that utilizes our best skills, and the lifestyle best suited to us, we muddle along feeling frustrated. Over time this disconnection from our “best-ish” self –the one connected to our highest potential– can contribute to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.
When either of these scenarios play out, instead of looking inside to our own inner intelligence for solutions, we tend to look outside for prescriptions or escape. We choose things like prescription drugs, substance abuse, or excessive entertainment which keep us stuck in the scenario of escaping, and watching / consuming other people’s lives rather than figuring out how to better live our own.
There is nothing wrong with any of these choices as a temporary fix. But practices become habits when we do them over and over. Habits can be beneficial: the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, for example, leads to good oral hygiene and prevents tartar build up, cavities, and bad breath.
Plenty of your habits may have served a purpose at one time in your life, but if you continue to follow these habits without listening to your inner voice –your spirit, or Wild and Wise Heart– eventually you lose the ability to connect with this part of you that is deeply connected to your own well-being.
So, what can you do instead?
Step One: Quiet Your Mind
You can google benefits of meditation and find hundreds of articles on how a meditation practice will benefit you, and plenty more that will teach you how. But I know that those of you who do not already have a meditation practice are skeptical. The good news is that if sitting quietly cross-legged on the floor repeating simple mantras to yourself doesn’t sound natural to you, there are other ways to quiet your mind.
A few are active choices –yoga, xi gong, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, knitting, collage, coloring, gardening– to list just a few. Quieting your mind, or mindfulness, is simply the ability to pay attention, on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment.
Honestly, this can be done anywhere and anytime, especially doing the things you already love to do. You simply need to be taught how, and then make it a practice, until it becomes a habit.
In my opinion, the easiest, most powerful way to quiet your mind is to leave it.
To do this, simply drop your awareness down to your heart. You can place your hand over your heart to add a physical component to this practice, but it isn’t necessary. When you drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe, just slightly more deeply than usual, imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of this heart area. This practice essentially creates a “time-out” for your mind, which enables you to let thoughts go.
Then ground yourself to the earth, by imagining that your awareness is dropping down into your hips, then down your legs to your feet, and connecting you to the earth with invisible roots, intertwining you with loved ones, like trees.*
Then bring your awareness back to your heart, and continue to breathe, imagining your breath is flowing in and out through your heart area for 30 seconds, more if you have the time.
I call this tool my inner sanctuary tool … everything else begins to drop away, and it’s just me and my heart, and the Earth. This tool helps to clear all the static, stories, and amplified emotions your mind creates on a regular basis and begins to reconnect you to what I call your Wild and Wise Heart.
As with all habits, this becomes easier over time. I tell my clients to practice this tool 20 – 25 x per day … but in the beginning, for only five – ten seconds at a time. Essentially, what you are doing is creating a new very simple habit, which will then serve you when you need it the most. You can use this tool in-the-moment and on-the-fly. Or you can combine it with any of the active mindfulness activities I suggested above.
Step Two: Reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart
There are numerous ways to reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart. Kicking off the Inner Sanctuary practice will help you jump start this relationship.
However, once you start to feel this reconnection, you will want to kick it up a notch. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time for yourself. Trust me, even though this might be hard at first, it will be well worth it.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and begin by writing down five things you love to do.
Next, write down three to five things that get in your way of doing these things on a regular basis.
Now, do a time inventory. Think back over the past five days. Did you fall into any of your old “time quick-sand” habits, where you got lost in an activity that didn’t bring you as much value as the time you spent on it? (If so, don’t beat yourself up for this. Just bring awareness to it, write it down, and then drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe until you can feel yourself in your inner sanctuary again.)
Next, do a mindset inventory. Did you fall into any mindset obstacles? (These are things like: I need to set aside hours to do this, I need more money to do this, I can’t do this because ….) Again, the goal here is simply to bring awareness to these thought habits, and then go back to your inner sanctuary.
Release your attachment to all the obstacles. To do this, simply ask these questions, “I wonder where I could find 10 – 15 minutes in my day to do one of these things I love?” And “I wonder if there is some approach that belies these beliefs that I might be able to try today?” Write down your answers. (Try this: write your questions with your dominant hand, then switch to the other hand and write the answers. This is a trick to further interrupt your neuro-typical habits.)
Then act. Follow through –for a minimum of ten minutes– on one of the suggestions you gave yourself.
I’d love to hear how this challenge goes for you. After you try it, please drop me a note in the comments below.