Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

Mindfulness

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UPDATE:

I am totally blown away! Poetry Friday friend and children’s author extraordinaire Tabatha Yeatts has been doing poem / song matchups. Today she matched “Mindfulness,” below with some absolutely gorgeous music!

Have a listen as you read … and then pop up here again to enjoy the beautiful scenes that accompany this plainsong chant.

She’s also paired more poems and songs… so much poetic goodness HERE!

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Today the Spiritual Journey Thursday word is MINDFULNESS. It is my one little word.

When I was thinking about choosing a word for this year, the picture of our greet-each-other time in church on Sundays came to mind. People have different ways of handling this brief but regular part of our Sunday morning gathering.

I like it when the person I’m greeting or who’s greeting me looks at me and, even for a second or two, gives me their full attention. Too often that’s not the way it happens though. Too often the eyes of the person I’m greeting are looking away to the next person—or wherever.  I’m afraid that I’m sometimes that inattentive greeter too. The word “mindfulness” came to mind as the opposite of the inattention I dislike in others but especially in myself.

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Along with choosing my word for the year, I chose a Bible verse to supplement it. My year’s verse for 2016 is Isaiah 26:3. I’m memorizing it in the Amplified version. (I’ve substituted the pronoun “her” for “him”):

“You will guard her and keep her in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because she commits herself to You, leans on You and hopes confidently in You.” Isaiah 26:3 AMP

The poem below elaborates mindfulness a bit more and how I’m focusing on it this year.

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Image: Unsplash / pixabay.com

MINDFULNESS

I have brightened the walls
and enhanced the lighting
in the rooms of my mind
in order to see clearly
the thoughts that come and go.

I have put up surveillance cameras
in each room and at the door.
At the end of the day
I replay the scenes
to better understand the role
of my thoughts in the day’s happenings.

When doubt, fear, criticism, self-pity
pride and their negative relatives
manage to slip in (and they do)
I freshen the atmosphere
with balms of faith, hope, and love.
They cannot stand the fragrance
and quickly leave.

I am working on using
my single-purpose cubicles
(where no media is allowed)
for reading, listening, praying.

I welcome spies
from the land of dreams
and the outposts of intuition
inspiration and second-thought,
for they bring important insights
to my battle against inattention.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Now I’m so looking forward to reading what other Thursday journeyers will say about “mindfulness”!

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

 

Selah

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I was intrigued by the word “Selah” when I first saw it on our list of one-little-words a few weeks ago. This will be interesting, I thought. When I started working on Michelle‘s one little word this week my initial intuition was confirmed. Selah doesn’t have a sure meaning.

“Selah” by the dictionary is: “An expression occurring frequently in the Psalms thought to be a liturgical or musical direction, probably a direction by the leader to raise the voice or indication of pause.” In the Amplified Bible, it’s transliterated “Pause and think of that.”

Despite or maybe because of this uncertain etymology it turns out to be a lovely word to take liberties with. I interpreted it as I would if it were my word and what it would say to me.

My real-life poet friend Laurel and I met yesterday and when I mentioned the subject of “Selah” she recalled she’d written about it too. She has given me permission to share her Selah poem with you. I love how we approached this differently—one as a seeker of Selah, the other as a serendipitous discoverer of it.

Picnic tables in the park

Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Selah (I)

Period. Don’t move
from this place till you’ve chewed
and swallowed the thought.
Delay. Mute the music.
Take a breathing space
a rest, lull, time out
maybe not as long as a coffee break
but at very least
a poet’s line break
or comma’s worth
of time.
Some lacuna in your life
will give it wholeness.
Take a hiatus
from your hurry.
Stop and listen.
Halt.
Hush.
Pause and think of that…
and then carry on.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Selah (II)

Where is it,
this place of rest I seek?
I never find it, but sometimes it finds me.
There I can hear my breath
and I know I am alive, still.
There, I am me, still,
with needs of my own.

I wait for the quiet to catch me

Surprise me with stillness,
sustain me with solitude,
only moments long but endless
in memory, cooling
the singed edges of my soul.

© 2005 by Laurel Archer (Used by Permission. All rights reserved)

(You can read more of Laurel’s wonderful poetry at her blog Four Parts Hope and her annual advent project Toward Christmas.)

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted each week by Holly at Reading, Teaching, Learning. We are currently writing about the one-little-word each of us has chosen as our “banner” for the year.

Savary Island in September

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Our weather has turned gorgeous again after a couple of weeks of welcome rain. The last few days remind me of a September holiday we took some years ago. We spent part of it in the area of B.C. called the Sunshine Coast. On that trip we drove the whole highway from Langdale (near Gibsons) to Earl’s Cove and then caught a ferry to Powell River.

One day in PR we took the road north of town to a tiny settlement called Lund. At the marina there we boarded a water taxi for Savary Island.

What a magical place! There were no cars on the very basic roads. A walk through the woods took us to a small settlement where there was a store—which was closed for the season (fortunately we had brought along a small lunch). A walk along the beach took us past some cottages.  But mostly it was waves sloshing onto the white sand under sunny peacefulness.

I started the poem below sitting on the beach of Savary Island waiting for the water taxi to take us back to the mainland.

Savary Island in September

Savary Island in September (Photo © 2008 by V. Nesdoly)

Savary Island in September

Time dozes in the sun-brilliant afternoon
wind holds its kelpy breath
chorus of invisible crickets
trills a shrill chord to a motor’s drone

At the dock a boat
coughs to life
low-loaded it putt—putts
from the harbour

Voices echo in the still salt air
clear, glassy as the mirrored
double-boats anchored beside the two-headed
orange, yellow and white buoys

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the multi-talented Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge.

A Shalom Blessing

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Today is the first day of the new school year in our part of the world. As the day after our last official summer holiday, Labour Day, it definitely feels like an end and a beginning—even for us who no longer go to school or have to brave the commute to work.

Today’s poem is a blessing on all who are climbing back into the saddle of school or work.

Children's outdoor playground

“Shalom on… their playgrounds…”  Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

 

A Shalom Blessing

(After Isaiah 26:3,4)
Shalom: A Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness and welfare: nothing broken, nothing missing.

Shalom on your going out
on your car, bicycle, bus
on the avenues, roads and highways
and other drivers.

Shalom on your workplace
your office, boardroom or barn
your partner, receptionist
your work truck, computer, iPhone
and all your machines and tools.

Shalom on your children
on their cribs and car seats
playpens and toys
their schools, desks, playgrounds
and all their pals.

Shalom on your coming in.
On your street and neighbors
your frying pan, kettle
pitcher, pot and plate
your fork and your food.

Shalom on your radio
television, phone and email
that deliver news from afar
(may it be good)
on your downloads and players
all the words, music and images
that fill your head and your home.

Shalom on your lists and plans
your goals and ambitions
on the wind that refreshes
the rain that nourishes,
the sun that lights your path
and the moon and stars
that illumine your dreams.
Because you trust in Me
Shalom, Shalom.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly