Every year we end with a review of the last year and a list of things we want to do better next year. We start the new year telling the world what we will achieve -often burdening ourselves with ambitions that can often be about our ego and status or proving ourselves to the world, even if we paint them in spiritual language. Hardly a fun way to start the year…
Rest. This is the word that I have been using in my silent prayer and meditation during Advent which is the season just before Christmas in the Christian calendar. I sit quietly on a chair in a relaxed posture, feet firmly on the ground, hands gently folded on my lap. I set my phone for twenty minutes and I sit in silence. One hundred thoughts instantly rush into my mind, and I start to think about that conversation I had that upset me, I go over it and then I remember I am supposed to be allowing my heart and mind to be cleared of all of that drama, by sitting quietly and being conscious of God. I imagine someone painting the word ‘rest’ in big letters on a wall, because that’s the only thing that can slow down my speeding thoughts long enough for me to remember that I am here to rest. I am here to silence my inner critic and learn to receive love from God, myself and others. I am here to be aware of my inner life, and to give up the need to fix myself, others, and the world. It is time to stop making lists, to pause thinking about work and projects, and to give up the need to be impressive or helpful. I am just, me.
It has taken me a long time to get to this place and each time I sit down it takes work to stay there. While this year, my usually destiny’s-child-independent-self has become clearer than I have ever been, of my need to depend on others in all kinds of ways – I have also become more certain that in some ways, I have looked outside for the answers that have really lay within myself. I started to notice that at the root of my planning and hard work was the need to control in order to look after myself, because of the fear that if I didn’t manage things then who would!?! (slight oldest child syndrome). I was convinced that if I could just get things the way I needed, then I would be happy. The fact of course is that, that is impossible. The last few months have involved turmoil on so many levels, that I felt I had no stability and it was leading me to stress and deep discontentment.
And then came the surrender.
Having reached a very low moment at the end of November I decided I could not end the year this way, and I needed to act. All of the energy that had been making me feel low and unhappy, I needed to channel to better use. Rather than tiring myself out trying to fix external things that were beyond my control or to use others for my own purposes, I needed to look after my own happiness. For me, this is about caring for my body and holistic (emotional/mental) wellbeing, looking after my spiritual life, managing my financial plans, spending time in creative arts and being with the people who love and know me the most.
One of the biggest shifts for me, has been coupling the ‘centring prayer’ I described at the start, with practicing yoga 4-5 times a week. The prayer/meditation has taught me to sit still, to trust God and allow myself to find peace by letting go of the need to control. Yoga teaches me to be present in the moment, finding peace by setting aside the regrets of the past and rehearsal of painful memories and also the fear of the future. While I am focussing on holding my downward facing dog, I am getting to know this amazing body which God has given me, caring for it and being aware of being alive. This has brought me great happiness even though all the external circumstances have stayed relatively the same. My yoga mat is a trusting and a grateful space, like a little piece of sacred ground where God looks down and smiles. If Christmas teaches us anything, it is that God who came ‘in flesh’ or ‘embodied’ meets us in our bodies not just in our ‘spiritual’ selves. I have found peace this year, in an unexpected place, kind of like a baby in a stable.
Wishing you a year of rest, of peace and happiness of 2019. Thanks for reading.