At the winter solstice, I reflect on the year that was and think about what I hope to do in the upcoming year. The long dark evenings are a great time for introspection, for sifting through memories and experiences, and for giving thought to the possibilities of the future.
I hope that over this holiday season you will find some quiet time to do some ruminating of your own.
Our society is addicted to speed. Everything has to be faster—Internet speed, response time, shipping time. We are plugged in 24/7 and mainline caffeine and sugar to energize our brains and keep them rushing from thought to thought, trying to keep up with the culture. (I think sugar also helps us feel comforted despite the bruising our minds give us with their unreasonable expectations.)
Our minds demand instant gratification. Our thoughts zoom through time and space searching out stimulation and information.
Our bodies are rooted firmly in time and space, aware of our surroundings, emotions, energies, and all the thousands of chemical processes that are underway at any one time inside us. Bodies are not inert—the energy that moves through them is the same as that which moves through the plants and the air and the earth—and I think the body feels the rhythms and engages in a dance of life with the world. The body has the wisdom of nature encoded within it. Our minds ignore this wisdom, and we often miss out on the dance.
Let’s say you get a sudden hankering for pecan pie. Your mind jumps to it, remembering past pecan pie experiences, and encouraging you to get online to find pecan pie recipes, pictures, local purveyors of pies and pecans. Within ten seconds you have an amazing array of possibilities you could pursue&mdcook your own pie in any of a multitude of ways, order pies online, go to a local restaurant.
Busy, busy, busy. All from one random thought about pecan pie.
The mind loves these adventures. It loves feeling the connections on Facebook and Twitter, the interconnections, the speed, the instant responses, all of it feeds the mind.
However, the body couldn’t care less about all of this. The body cares about what is here and now in the present. It is aware of the current season—cool, lengthy darkness, sun low on the horizon. This means the time for root vegetables and sitting by the fire. It is aware of the pleasure of physical movement, the need for rest, the joy of spending time with loved ones. The physical body is fed by doing these things, not by thinking about them or planning them.
Unfortunately in this multimedia world, our minds run the show. We are not just plugged in—we are linked in, instagrammed, texted, tweeted and facebooked. We are online beings. There are always more websites to visit, more tweets to read, more walls to post on. We spend more time in the cloud than in the real world.
It’s no wonder that the main complaint I’m seeing in my office is overwhelm. It comes in many forms—stress, fatigue, anger difficulties, relationship challenges, chronic ailments—but the unifying theme is people trying to keep up with all the things they think they should be doing, accomplishing, becoming.
I see so much stress at this time of year. I find it ironic that we call it a holiday season when few people enjoy it. There’s family stress, of course, but in addition there’s the stress of too much—too much to do and see, too many people to visit and buy gifts for, too many stores to go to, too much food to cook and eat, too many parties to attend, and too little time to do any of it.
In the middle of all this our minds are racing a mile a minute finding new things to add to our to-do list. In addition to the seasonal list, there’s all the self-help stuff the mind suggests—weight loss, healthy eating, working out more, positive thinking, meditating, more time with family, more alone time—there’s always something to improve.
No wonder so many people I meet are worn out and overwhelmed. The external stimulation is too much, and we seem to have lost the ability to insulate ourselves against it, to be able to sit calmly in the moment looking at the stars and feeling comfortable with our place in the cosmos.
To feel this sense of comfortable connection with the world we need to change our focus from our minds to our bodies. Our bodies are our gateways to the eternal now. They live in it. They are fully present in this moment, not jumping into the past and the future. One of the questions people ask me is how to stop their minds. The answer is, you can’t. Minds race around. That is their nature. However, just as you let your dog run at the dog park without running along beside it sniffing at everything it does, you can let your mind run around without paying full attention to it.
Practice letting your mind do its thing while you keep your awareness in your body. Don’t try to control your mind, instead ignore it. Keep your focus on your breath, your physical experience, your surroundings. This is the essence of mindfulness. Paying mind (paying heed) to what is happening in this moment in your body and your surroundings. Noticing, not judging, just being with.
This is an excellent practice to try while sitting or walking outside. Pay full attention to how your body feels and the information coming in through your five senses. What are you seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting? Keep bringing your awareness back to the present. Try enjoying the present moment exactly as it is.
At the risk of sounding like Timothy Leary, it’s time to tune out your mind and drop in to your body.
Because bodies are great. And although minds hate to be reminded of this, without a body, they are nothing.
On this beautiful long dark night of the Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year—we can look up at the stars and allow ourselves to feel the peace of the cosmos and the peace within our bodies. If the mind needs distraction, it can try to identify constellations, or sense the direction of the breeze, or determine the phase of the moon. Just remember to use your senses to do this, not the Internet.
Will any vegetarians be joining you at your holiday gatherings? Don’t worry, they’re easy to accommodate. Just remember these simple tips:
- Make a few dishes without meat – no bacon bits or chicken broth.
- Have at least one warm filling vegetable dish, i.e. roasted root vegetables, some form of potatoes, or a brown rice pilaf.
- Experienced vegetarians will have stocked up on protein earlier in the day, expecting to be served only vegetables or salad. Surprise them by adding protein to the meal in the form of a drained can of beans or some diced marinated tofu stirred into the grain dish.
I’ve found that the vegetarian dishes tend to disappear first – all the carnivores gather round and munch them up – so make enough that the vegetarians will be well fed.
Find more suggestions for holiday cooking, and simple vegetarian dishes, on my blog, Joy’s Organic Kitchen.
A very depleted client came to my office the other day. She crawled straight onto my table and I spent close to an hour filling her with energy, sealing her energy field, and getting her ready to go out into the world.
She felt better when she got off my table.
Then she turned on her smartphone to access her calendar to schedule another appointment, and sent a text or something. I sat in horror watching her send that beautiful energy I had filled her with into her phone. She noticed it too. She could feel how depleted she was just from that interaction with her phone.
I don’t know if the energy drain was caused by the EMFs from the smartphone, or if the text set up a communication and emotional pull with someone not in the room, or whether the intense focus on the symbols and buttons on the phone sucked her energy into the device. I know I didn’t like it.
I suggested that she take a moment to call her energy back to her: “I call my energy back to me, and it returns clean and clear.” She did this, and her energy boosted again. I suggested she do this every time she uses her phone.
What was interesting to me was how the phone pulled energy from her sixth chakra—the Third Eye energy center in the middle of the forehead. I associate computers with the third chakra—at the solar plexus—the site of the lower mind which is busy and makes lists and worries a lot. But thinking about it, the sixth is really into symbols, which are all over the screens of our electronic devices. Plus the sixth is our intuitive center—maybe we try to intuit more than we realize when we are texting or searching the Internet.
I don’t pretend to understand what is happening. I just know I did not like my hard work being weakened by a two-minute phone session.
I don’t have a smartphone. I don’t use my cell phone—I just have it in case of emergencies when I’m driving the freeways. I realize this makes me an eccentric, but the reason is that I don’t like the energies they give off, or the attention they absorb.
Because you probably have a smartphone (you might be reading this newsletter on one), I suggest that every time you put it down, you take a moment to call your energy back to you: “I call my energy back to me, and it returns clean and clear.”
It won’t do any harm. And it might make you stronger and healthier. I’d be curious to know if you notice a difference once you start doing this.
Sometimes an animal is determined not to die. I’ve known a few like that. No matter how much pain they are in, or how poorly their body works, they cling to life, happy to be with their human companion for a little while longer.
It’s always hard to know what to do in a case like this. Do you put them to sleep because of the pain? Do you let them suffer knowing that is what they want? I think ultimately the human companion is the only one who can make that decision. It’s similar to telling a dying human loved one that you can let them go, that you can go on without them and that they don’t need to stay for you.
I’ve seen many animals in end-of-life situations. Here are three of their stories:
Cali was an 18-year-old dog with really bad hip pain. Her digestion was acting up too. We tried enzymes and different diets. Then she decided what she really needed was massage and a hot water bottle. This didn’t surprise her owner, because Cali had always loved extra cuddles. But even with the extra attention, Cali was in pain, and couldn’t move around easily. She told me she planned to live for years, but her human couldn’t bear the sight of her in pain. Since the vet couldn’t help, she had Cali put to sleep.
As a spirit, Cali thought that her human had made the right decision; her body had become too heavy for her. But she really missed the physical connection with her owner. She missed the cuddles and affection she received in her physical body, even though she knows the love bond is still there on an energy and spiritual level. She really did not want to leave her body, which is why her owner had to make the ultimate decision.
Another dog, Sophie, was old and couldn’t move much. She lay on the floor, raising her head to eat and drink when her owner handfed her. She wasn’t in much pain; she just had no energy and little control over her body, including her elimination. But she didn’t want an assisted death. She wanted to die naturally. So every day her owner came home on her lunch hour and changed the towels underneath her, handfed her nutritious food and gave her water.
Sophie was really happy. I can’t imagine living that way, and I was afraid the SPCA would find out and arrest us for animal abuse, but the human felt it was right and so did Sophie. One day she gently passed away in her sleep. She was really happy her owner had let her go this way because it satisfied some part of her soul purpose. And her owner felt good she had cared for her right up until the end.
Another dog, Rex, had a medical condition that could not be healed. He wasn’t in a lot of pain, but he knew he was dying, and he asked the owners to make it fast. I talked with the 12-year-old girl who mainly took care of him, and Rex told her exactly what he wanted. He wanted the family to take him to the vet, and to be with him as he passed away. Then he wanted to be buried in the backyard under a tree where he and the other dogs had whiled away many a summer day. He knew he would still be there with them, and still be part of the family, and he was happy with that.
Three different animals, three different approaches to death. I’ve helped many animals and their humans through the transition process, and I’ve found that while generally animals have a much more relaxed view of death, if asked their opinion they usually have something to say. I’ve also found that humans usually know what their animal companions want; the direct communication confirms what they already know.
“Deep peace in the running wave to you
Deep peace on the flowing air to you
Deep peace on the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace on the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace to you.”
—Traditional Gaelic blessing