Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to Escape the New Year's Resolution Rut

An Alternate Approach

          Are you busy today, between getting ready for tonight’s festivities and making the ritual list of resolutions – you know, those things you’re either going to start or stop doing tomorrow? Is this year going to be like all the others when, after a week into it, those resolutions start to get lost in old patterns and habits?

Christine Paintner
          This alternate approach to the New Year is excerpted from Christine Paintner’s “Crossing the Threshold: New Year, New Beginnings” article in her Reflective Art Journal from the Abbey of the Arts in 2009. I found her method for creating a meaningful New Year ritual refreshing and certainly worth considering.

          "January 1st brings out our fervent desires for the future and our commitments to change, whatever that change entails. Our inclination is usually a set of “resolutions” aimed at working harder for whatever it is we want or fixing our self-perceived flaws. There is nothing wrong with making resolutions. However they often aim so high without first cultivating the change of heart necessary to prepare space for these new possibilities to take root.

          More and more often now people are taking the celebration of New Year’s as a time for reflection on what has gone before and to listen to their longing for what lies ahead. Each year I see retreat centers and other groups offering options for meaningful ritual and practice. While celebrating with friends can be a very joyful thing, the late night party on December 31st with its endless supply of alcohol has become far less satisfying for many. People are hungering for more depth to this time of transition. We are recognizing the opportunity of a threshold.

Suggestions for Ways to Celebrate the New Year in Meaningful Ways:
          Practice: Preparing
           We begin the year full of resolutions and promises to ourselves to perhaps eat better, exercise more, work less, find more time for friends or for ourselves. But these resolutions often rise up out of our sense of scarcity and the busyness and immediate desires we feel at the surface of our lives. Consider taking some time to prepare – even if only for an hour or two – to really listen for the deeper longings pulsing within you. What emerges from that place of stillness and grounding in your holiness and goodness, rather than from a list of your shortcomings? What new doors are waiting within you to be opened?

          Practice: Reconciliation
          In Jewish tradition, the New Year begins with the ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in autumn. During this time, Jews reflect on those relationships during the past year that need reconciliation, recognizing that the way to move forward in more fullness, is by acknowledging those places where we have failed another person in the past and then making amends. Is there someone you have hurt this past year through your words or actions? Is it possible to ask for their forgiveness? Is there someone who has hurt you this past year through their words or actions? Can you offer them forgiveness?

          Practice: Dream-Tending
          In Christian tradition, the New Year begins with the season of Advent four weeks before Christmas. There is wisdom in beginning the year during this darkest season, offering us the image of being in the dark and fertile womb of creation anticipating new birth. In the days leading up to your celebration of the New Year, honor the language of nighttime and darkness by recording your dreams. Keep paper and a pen by your bed and before going to sleep ask to receive dreams with wisdom for the year ahead. When you awaken, try to jot down some notes about images and feelings you notice before you get up and lose those threads that connect you to the dream’s story. Honor the way dreams speak in non-linear and intuitive language. As a part of your New Year ritual, consider spending time with your dreams, perhaps making a collage of images that have appeared to you and reflect on what these have to say to you about what lies ahead. Dreams often reveal the hidden rooms of our soul and invite us inside for exploration.

          Practice: Walking into the New Year          On New Year's Day take a contemplative walk at a labyrinth if you have one near you, or in a peaceful, wooded place. As you take each step ask yourself how you want to walk in the year ahead. Pay attention to what responses rise up in you and embody this in the pace and movement of your body. As you continue to walk imagine yourself stepping across the threshold of something new and notice how your body feels.

          Practice: Doing What You Love
          Consider spending New Year’s Day doing all of the things with which you want your year ahead to be filled. Make a list of the five most important and soul-nourishing activities of your life and spend a day savoring these experiences.

          May you make friends with newness and know deep within that the God who keeps revealing new things to us, also fills us with hope for a future of peace.”

          What are your suggestions for a meaningful New Year practice?

You may find out more about Christine and her work here.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Celebrate What? A Gift for You at Christmas

          It’s very simple. Nothing to research, nothing to buy.  Nothing to prepare to do. Nothing to cook or wrap or save up for. Nothing to share, nothing to worry about. It’s free. It’s a gift to yourself. Ready for it? Here it is:
          Celebrate. That’s it, just celebrate. Celebrate what, you say? This is a good place to start:
          Celebrate the breath that sustains you, that keeps
          your whole being moving and growing and feeling

          Celebrate the simplicity of life and the humor when
          we turn that simplicity into a tight clutch of discord

          Celebrate the diversity of people around the world
          that broadens our spectrum of color and experiences

          Celebrate how calm you instantly become when
          you close your eyes and sink into the loving arms
of solitude

          Celebrate the color of the water on that special day
last spring when you thought you’d never seen a
          more sparkling periwinkle blue 

Celebrate the bounty that floats you through life,
the abundance that surrounds you and brings you

Celebrate the wet nose poke of a pet seeking your
touch of love

Celebrate the seasons with all their good and not so
good parts. They are the continuation of life and

Celebrate friendship, that soft place to fall, that
place without envy, jealousy or upset

Celebrate family, its imperfections and its purity,
whether its biological or created

Celebrate spirit and the joy of ALL seasons.
          I join you in all these celebrations and many more, for you and your loved ones.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“See” You on Facebook: The Impact of Social Media on Our Lives

          I’ve been moping around the last few years blithering about being the only member left of my family of origin and about not having any children of my own. In addition, my spouse of 24 years passed away a couple years ago, which obviously left me feeling alone and lonely. With these circumstances, I can paint a fairly desolate picture of this life as a senior citizen if I want. Most of my friends, however, just aren’t buying it. They know I’m, if anything, more plugged into a large circle of interested and interesting friends who love and support me in real time and via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Electronic Age

         Most seniors have seen an entire electronic revolution erupt during their lives. We didn’t have things such as garage door openers, phone extensions within the home or remote TV controls when I was in my single digits let alone not having high speed information available via computers.

          More seniors are tackling classes at junior colleges, senior centers or private one-on-one instruction in order to learn what is necessary to get and stay connected. Social media connections are helping to alleviate isolation, loneliness and depression brought on by having family and friends move away and become less accessible, and as individual mobility and independence start to decline.

   Social networking via the computer has created a new ‘community’ for elders, especially those who physically are unable to leave their homes. Increasing numbers of older people are going online, with the latest statistics from the Pew Research Centre, a U.S. think-tank, showing that one-third of people over 65 use social networking sites, compared with six percent three years ago.

A Downside

          Most seniors, once trained, glom onto social media and the internet in general, however, a significant segment of the older population expresses stress and anxiety about using it. Some seniors find it difficult to grasp the mechanics of navigating the computer itself as well as the intangible world wide web. In addition, having so much information available points out to some just how much they don’t know. That can be depressing!


          While you know how I feel – how my every day and my life in general is greatly enhanced by social media and the internet, I wonder about others. Somehow I think it would be worthwhile doing intense small group or one-on-one trainings for those elders who are receptive to learning about a whole new way to acquire and maintain friendships. If you’re reading this, you’re already there, but I bet you know others who might benefit from this connection. If you do, how can you help them widen their world?

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  Technology:  Friend or Foe? Part 1

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Icing or the Cake?

          I was talking to Nancy recently. She’s the 40 year old daughter of a friend of mine and is a woman who is  beginning the process to end her second marriage. Nancy is creative and smart and independent. She has always supported herself. She likes men who give her lots of freedom and time and space to pursue not only her work but her hobbies as well, which include singing and garden landscaping.
          In our conversation Nancy was lamenting the fact that she yet again finds herself in a relationship with a man who hooked all his reasons for being on her. He would say he only wanted to help her by doing for her or that his joy was in supporting her and making life easy for her. What he was saying, in fact, was that Nancy was his ‘cake.’

          The ‘cake’ is the main deal. It’s the core of a person, their ability to be creative, to grow, to be happy with themselves; it’s the thing we look to within ourselves in order to survive in the world. You can’t be someone else’s ‘cake,’  because that means they put you ahead of themselves, which is just plain unhealthy and  puts pressure on you to be and do for them, which is not good for either of you. While you can’t be someone’s cake, you can be their ‘icing.’

          The ‘icing’ is the thing that makes everything better. It’s returning home after a long day and being excited because that other person is there. It’s about having someone to share troubles and difficulties with, knowing that that person won’t judge you and will really listen and try very hard to see your point of view. It’s knowing that going to the party, movie, play or vacation is enhanced by that person’s presence with you.
          Nancy feels suffocated and tied down and responsible for the entire happiness of her partner. She feels like a delicate butterfly who wants to experience all the world has to offer but is being restrained by an ever-tightening grip of a partner who needs her to define him.
          Trying to be someone’s cake is suffocating and unhealthy. Being the icing is joyous and exciting and uplifting for all involved. It gives space and freedom to both parties to grow and expand their own cake. While Nancy has lots of work to do around  her choices, we all can learn about the ‘cake’ and the ‘icing.’ Are you allowing your partner, family member, child, etc., to experience their own ‘cake’? Do you demand to be a part of that ‘cake’ or do you just want to share your ‘icing’?
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Do You Ever Cringe When You Open Your E-Mail?

          I’m on so many lists and receive so many e-mails about important social and civic activities. When General Foods refuses to label GMOs in any its products, I get an e-mail, a call to action. When one political party or another throws roadblocks in the path of progress or makes the issues personal rather than about positive change, I get several e-mails and am asked to sign petitions, write letters or share a point of view with all my Facebook friends. I even have an app on my phone that allows me to scan the purchase tags of items I may want to purchase allowing me to find out if the company has ever supported apartheid or been associated with controversial activities, like having its workers housed in sweatshops.

Access to Info Versus Lingering Toxicity

          I love having this information so effortlessly at my disposal and appreciate my initial contact with many of these ‘causes.’ Of course I’m going to stand up and acknowledge that I want a government shutdown to end now. Of course I’m going to say I abhor underage workers slaving away in unhealthy work environments for pennies a day. It’s what happens after these initial contacts that has left a slightly toxic feeling in my soul.

Morning e-mail

The more I became involved and enlightened, the more my mailboxes, both real and virtual, became filled with negative messages of all that is wrong in the world. It could be people, politicians (because we know they’re not people), companies, both here and abroad and the environment that evidently acts alone to bring about things like global warming and shockingly aberrant weather in the form of storms like Hurricane Sandy or a super typhoon in the Philippines. I would cringe when I logged on each morning, afraid to see what terrible activity or person was plotting to ruin the world. I felt nervous, afraid, na├»ve, and pessimistic about having a safe and abundant place to spend my glorious days in fulfilling activities.

It Sticks With Me

          Some people can see this daily barrage and let it float right through them – not me. It bores into my heart and robs me of the assurance I create daily to be able to live and love fully. It beats me down, more rapidly than most people I admit. But I’m determined, so I swept through my e-mails and unsubscribed from all those organizations who are probably just trying to do good with their notifications. I’m sure this purging won’t entirely solve the build-up of negative input, and I know it’ll accumulate again, but I feel relieved.

Open to Goodness

          This cleansing reminds me that I’m in control of my happiness, regardless of what is happening out there and regardless of what I ‘should’ being doing about it. My wellbeing is tied to a good and generous world that supports fellowship and love, but I have to choose activities that reflect that attitude. For me, I can’t be open to a lot of negative and turn around and project the positive. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up learning about and supporting the good cause, it just means I need to step back and reclaim my peace and prosperity periodically in order to more fully live a well-rounded life.

You might also enjoy:  Complaints 101
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