‘Tis the season…

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Happy Solstice! In this time of deepest darkness, all about us nature is quieting down, settling in, and going dormant. Meanwhile many of us are busier than ever, adding even more to our social calendar and to do list.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, most women can relate to the sense of wanting to create a happy experience for our families and/or friends. There is a frenzied quality in the air that some find harrowing and others find delightful. I remember my mother always saved some shopping to do on Christmas Eve, just to be out in the hustle bustle of it all.

It is definitely busier in the streets around the holidays. People are more distracted and do even less wise actions when driving.

I’ve been very conscious of making sure I drive safely, but the sense of overwhelm comes out in different ways. Yesterday I left my purse behind at a meeting as I was off to another meeting. Forgetting a purse for a woman is rare. Our bodies just don’t feel right walking out a door without it. But — what are the chances? — just the night before a friend left my house without her purse! What are the chances of that? Pretty good during this time of year it seems.

How do we stay mindful this time of year? We center in, reset our intentions to be present and compassionate. We pause, we slow down, we sense in, we breathe.

The theme of my local Toastmasters club meeting yesterday was (what are the chances?) ‘Inhale, Exhale’ — such a great theme. But did I pause to notice my inhalation and notice my exhalation? Did I hear the message? No! My mind was caught up in the task of taking meeting minutes, of being sure the guest next to me understood what was going on, and peripherally sensing the limited number of shopping days before Christmas. Sometimes we are just so caught up in planning and worrying that we forget what it is to really live, to really be here, to really feel that aliveness.

Yesterday morning I received an email from my Ohio friend Marita. We know each other from winters spent in Mexico, but we stay connected throughout the year because she’s a talented photographer who sends out group emails of her adventures wherever she is. This is the first year she has been stuck in Ohio, in the deepest coldest winter they’ve had in quite awhile. She’s no fan of the cold, and has always made a point to be in warmer climes. In fact, until now she didn’t even own a decent pair of winter boots. But yesterday’s email started this way:

“Frequent snowfall this month has opened a window into a new world for me.  A natural world in which the Who – What – When – Where of wildlife is revealed like magic.
“Reading tracks in snow can be intriguing.  Am I the first human on this trail today?  That dog is not on a leash!  Which direction did they go?  These footprints were made last night, then covered by a fine dusting of snow this morning.  How many deer were passing through?  Was that a squirrel?  No a rabbit.“

Her words were such an inspiration to me. When we let go of what we wish things would be like and begin to notice what is happening in this moment, magic happens. In this moment, whatever this moment holds, there is always something of value.

Again my mother comes to mind. She was of the generation that followed her husband’s career without question, and so she made homes in many different places. Once the home was set up and the children situated in school, she set about to establish herself in her new community. She found people with shared interests, did volunteer work for peace, one time became a realtor, one time got her college degree in marine biology and started a Greek restaurant. She was an amazing woman in part because of her ability to make the best of every situation. Now she didn’t pretend it was easy to make the transition, just as Marita’s emails from a week ago were a tad grumpier than this inspiring one. But in both cases, these women accepted what is happening in the moment, and instead of clinging to some alternative reality or criticizing this one, they found a way to discover what is it about this time and place, exactly as it is, that they could enjoy, engage in and maybe even love.

So often in life we think that something outside ourselves needs to happen for us to be happy. But this is simply not the case. For my friend in Ohio, for my mother in her many new homes, for us in this season that sometimes feels like a steamroller, we all have choices in the way we relate to what is going on in our lives.

If we can let go of wishing for things to be other than they are, if we can befriend what is happening in this moment, we are not ‘settling’. We are simply not relying on external circumstances to create our happiness.

So let’s give ourselves the gift of mindfulness this season: When things get scrambled, let’s pause, inhale, exhale, reset our intentions to be present, anchored in physical sensation, and to be compassionate with ourselves and others, especially when we feel overwhelmed, exhausted or sad. Let’s send metta, loving-kindness, as a healing balm for what ails us and what ails the world: May you be well, may you be happy, may you be at ease, may you be at peace. In this way we sense our deep connection with all life as we breathe ease and joy. ‘Tis the season!


  1. Why is it, pray tell, that we cry when we are happy? The surprise of seeing part of my recent postcard described in your blog was touching me deeply. Simultaneously it brought a smile and tears. How kind of you to acknowledge of my own searching for happiness and mindfulness this winter. Reading your insightful Dharma talks has been a steady companion and help in my slow transformations to a more quiet life. Many thanks for all of that. With love, Marita.


  2. I am glad you find these posts helpful, Marita. Thank you so much for commenting here. The deeper we get into the dharma, the more we realize our teachers are all around us, if only we pause to listen. Love, Stephanie


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