Saturday, December 15, 2012

Maintaining a Vigil

I don't know where to put the great sadness that settles so suffocatingly after yesterday's events in Newton, Connecticut.  At the time of such horrific happenings, many of us were going on about our day, perhaps working, meeting with friends, preparing for a joyful holiday.  Wouldn't you think that there would be sudden rush of energy that would suck life from you, that you would know without being told?  My husband came in from running errands and as I was ready to tell him some small thing, he asked, "Did you hear the news?  A school in Connecticut? " and he choked on words as he tried and failed to tell me.  I had to go look it up.

We have experienced that feeling of not knowing if a child was safe - the incredible terror, and imagining the worst.  It is easy to feel with these families;  and then to know the gasping gratitude when your worst fears are not realized.  It is almost unbearable to try to imagine the feelings of the families who have lost their dear ones.

I'm not sure what kind of actions will be of use, beyond prayer; I read a blog by Peter Niedbala this morning that at least said something that felt right - that we need to avoid being desensitized by such events.

One way to do that might be to resist the temptation to bury these emotions, and instead, to stay with this community in our hearts throughout the days ahead.  Practicing a periodic vigil, balancing the activities of our own day with thoughtful intentions for these families will ensure that they are not forgotten.  As more information comes to light, perhaps we will see ways that we can exercise our  own part toward healing in a broken world.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Retreat to Refuel

Someone recently posed the question: "What do you all do to stay sane this time of year?"  I've heard comments in stores and  coffee shops in the last few weeks like, "I can't wait till this season is over!"   "There's too much pressure to buy, it's just a grand opportunity for marketing!", etc.  And I find it sad that so many people feel helplessly overwhelmed, that they become bitter about this time of year with all that it has to offer us, visually, mentally, spiritually.

In the last ten years I've been involved in selling my paintings;  I market to shops and sell directly online and at shows.  I don't see myself as a very material person, so I feel a little strange about putting more"stuff" out into the universe.   But of course, I'm delighted when people buy my work because they think it will bring pleasure to someone;  I try not to make my friends feel like they have to support me in this venture.

While I attempt to limit my commitments as I go into this busiest season, things come up that add to my "to do" list.  I've been known to get grumpy.

In the past few weeks I've balanced myself by attending two retreats at Holy Cross Monastery.  Thanksgiving weekend I attended one by Carolyn Bluemle, using yoga to express gratitude and practice presence.  And then this last week I was fortunate to go to another one with John Philip Newell.  This retreat also focused on presence; I bought a CD of chant and prayers that he developed with Suzanne Butler and some wonderful musicians.  I play it in my car and in my studio.  I find myself singing it throughout the day.  And I find both Carolyn and John Philip in my head periodically - my breathing slows down, my mind clears and settles, and I remember the things that I believe to be most important in my days.

Today I did my last craft show for the year.  I'm ready to prepare for Christmas.  I'd like to do a little baking, to write some cards, to buy or make a few simple thoughtful gifts, and to reflect with gratitude on this period of waiting, making ready.

Tell me about your preparations.  Are you able to experience joy  in this period of shortened days, holiday anticipation?  I hope so!