The Gift of Presence
We walked along the path, my friend and I
Next to a bramble of pine mixed with bright red branches.
The early morning sun lit up the frosted ground
Where it sparkled like a veil infused with diamonds.
We walked and talked, in anticipation of the day.
We had come a long way, to meet other friends
Fellow travelers who would share many hours together
Learning about how to give up on learning.
INTENSIFY THE EXPERIENCE
Participate in the sensual pleasures of the seasons-- whether it's seasons of the day, the year, or your life—to feel more fully alive. Here are some suggestions from the community of wise teachers on ways to engage all the senses during December.
Enjoy the aroma
Trees are the protectors and in winter they are often brought into the home. Pine, as an essential oil, has a resonance with the lungs. Scotch Pine (pinus sylvestris) can be diffused to help disinfect a room. Or use pine as part of a chest rub to support the respiratory system. I have been taught to use it as a blend. One combination includes lavendar essential oil (bio-regulating) and tea tree essential oil (antiseptic). Jeffrey Yuen, a renowned teacher in this area, suggests a one percent dilution for children. A one percent dilution consists of a total of 10 drops of essential oil (pine five drops, lavendar three drops, tea tree two drops) to one ounce of carrier oil. Adults can use a dilution of four or eight percent. For an acute condition use for up to ten days then stop.
Deepen the tastes
The traditions of the season are right on for digestive needs in December. Warming foods help the body deal with the cold and spices aid in digesting rich dishes. I always have dried ginger in my kitchen. It regulates the stomach and a small bite of it can relieve indigestion and even the achey feeling that can be the first sign of the flu.
Feel the colors
December is a season of light within many traditions. Jerry Epstein, MD, observes the Hannukah holiday by sharing imagery for lighting the candles within and letting their radiance fill your body and the world. The imagery should take about three minutes or less. Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position, legs and arms uncrossed. Close your eyes and breathe out three times slowly, then:
Imagine a menorah in front of you. Light the first candle of the festival, using the special shamas or servant candle, which you place on the menorah in its special holder. Breathe out.
See yourself placing this light in your heart. This light of hope spreads throughout your body, illuminating you. Breathe out.
See, sense, feel, and live the light radiating out from your body into the world, spreading a luminosity of hope to all people everywhere. Breathe out and open your eyes.
Repeat the exercise each day of the holiday, progressively lighting an additional candle, until on the eighth day, all candles are lit.
Move to the music
One of the pleasures of December is the many opportunities to hear live music and join others in song.
A family singing together around a holiday meal was the focus of an SNL skit this year.
Sting shares his thoughts on what makes this time of year magical in the promo for his album If On a Winter's Night.
Without music, how could we dance? For me, the movements of 2015 are best accompanied by Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love.
The past twelve months have been a year of paradox. I became restless and unable to move at the same time. Something was happening within me that I couldn't figure out. I became frustrated by habit and routine, yet appreciated their value. Basic questions like "where will we live" and "what do I want to do?" surfaced and couldn't be answered. Then I discovered a writer who said "what do I want to feel?" is the question to ask. Every question and answer seemed wrong, yet the changes had the feel of being right, coming not by choice but by being "borne on the stream of time".
Although I was in the dark, within a deep mystery, one thing I could see was that every truth can have an opposite and equally compelling "truth". For instance, someone posted a quote that if you're not "ready" for change it's because you can't simply be in the "now". My immediate response was, "what if the now says not now"? Another saying that came up was, "Wheresoever you go, go with your whole heart." Yes, but what if your heart is broken? Can you follow only a piece? I became suspect of any recycled advice posing as wisdom.
I decided to head for a personal conflict free zone. I turned to meditation, which I've been doing daily for many years. But even that had changed.
Meditation is held up as a way to find inner peace or at least lower blood pressure. But that is just the beginning. If you are looking for transformation, at some point you can expect a confrontation with habits and with whatever gets repressed. Once you're there, you cannot go back.
I found I could no longer act like I knew what I was doing. There was a renewed and very strong need for sensuality and companionship. I cried easily and often. All characteristics I thought had to be “overcome” in order to be a successful meditator. But guess what, not true. After 40 years of meditating, why is it only this year that I discover what Carl Jung says in his commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower: “Emotion is the chief source of all becoming—consciousness. There can be no transforming of darkness into light or of apathy into movement without emotion.”
To transform means to become a new person, When we recreate ourselves it will feel like making love, an embrace that includes everything. It isn’t lonely and it isn’t pure and it isn’t prescribed. I still cannot see what is ahead for the coming year. But maybe that’s the point. This is an uncharted terrain, how can I anticipate what will happen next?
If life is a book with many chapters, the title of this one is Create. And it begins with another paradox: To close is to open.