Welcoming an ocean of love in 2012

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Popular wisdom teaches us to keep busy… fill our lives up with anything that might keep us entertained with a superficial promise of fulfillment… smooth over the raw moments and then promptly forget they ever happened –> to crawl into a comfortable dark cave of ignoring what is happening and slip peacefully into a blissful hibernation. And that is how it becomes possible to miss our lives. Although we have all had the good fortune to hear advice from great teachers such as Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, and a host of others, when it comes down to it, it is always a personal choice of whether to live in the brilliance of this moment or to crawl into our cave and sleep. The New Year is always a particularly potent time in which we make this choice.

In Tibetan Buddhism we say protector chants at dusk – chants that call enlightened protective energy to us. The reason for this is because the time of changing from day into night is a particularly powerful time in which we are more open-minded and there is more potential to grow and change; because it is such a powerful time, we are also more vulnerable to the attraction of hiding away in our cave. Therefore, we call in enlightened protective energies to come and be with us and to guard our mindfulness. It is an important and powerful practice… and a practice that is OH so easy to neglect in a busy Toronto lifestyle!

Similarly, the year end is potentially a powerful time to open ourselves to deeper awareness, growth and change. I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Wisdom Awareness Protectors to leap into action for everyone who connects with this article, and to bring their wise compassion to protecting the minds of these folks as they approach the end of this year and enter into the powerful next year.

Buddhism encourages us to live our lives fully – to value the opportunity we have in this life to develop our wisdom and to contribute to the welfare of this world. It can be easy to forget this and get caught up in meaningless minutiae, collecting material things, and focusing on the external rather than cultivating the internal. Just as in meditation, when we realize this has happened, all we need to do is bring ourselves back to our core purpose in life, take a deep breath, and take the next step forward.

So I would like to encourage all of you to take an hour to harvest the crops you planted and tended in the past year, to honour your work and your accomplishments this year, to mourn the things that didn’t work out the way you wanted, to re-discover what is truly meaningful to you, and identify your goals for the coming year. This is an important part of living life joyfully, mindfully, and true to the course of your life mission. If you are the kind of person that likes a good writing exercise, I offer you a link to the exercise , “Seven steps to spending more time planning your life than planning your vacation.” I love this title because vacations are nice, but living a joyful, mindful life is so much more fulfilling! This includes things like working in a job that resonates with who you are and your gifts; investing in the relationships that truly matter to you; living in a home that is genuine, warm and comfortable; and last but not least… pursuing your core heart dreams!

So on that note, I make a heartfelt wish that all of you may receive both blessings and protection as we transition into rockin’ 2012. There are so many people predicting that 2012 will be a year of mind blowing transition. And I say, “Bring it on!”. This world needs a whole lot of healing, and my heart is open wide to 2012 being the year that we welcome that Great Ocean of Love into our hearts to heal old wounds, make us whole, so we can all participate in creating a beautiful world – together. Where there IS peace. Where there IS joy. Where people care for themselves and each other and this precious earth. Thank you for being here, and may our connection grow in mutually empowering ways in the coming year. Cheerful New Year to you all!

Choose to be present this holiday season

By Andrea M. Winn, MEd

Living in Toronto we are surrounded by people of many cultures with many traditions, some of whom celebrate at this time of year and some who do not. No matter what our tradition, it is hard to escape the messages of Christmas. Even as a Buddhist, I have noticed their impact. In western culture, the holiday season is probably the most emotionally loaded time of year, with messages broadcast through the media to be cheerful, loving, generous and to spend quality time with family. What if we have a challenging connection with our family, or no connection at all? What if we are poor and can’t afford to buy the gifts that supposedly demonstrate our love? There are innumerable ways in which people may not fit the close-knit loving family vision for the holidays, which opens the potential for pain and judgment. That is why it is important to consciously choose to be present this holiday season, in a genuine way, moment by moment, whether we are fitting the season model or not.

It is a time when we are called to open our hearts and be generous of spirit with all people. We are encouraged to send cards and connect with the important people in our lives, especially family. There is little that can tug at the emotional strings of our hearts more than family. These are the people who gave birth to us and guided us into this magnificent, big world. They profoundly imprinted our beings with their style of loving and their hang-ups; in some cases these hang-ups were so significant they became child abuse. On the other side of this, parents also have to face their imperfect and sometimes disappointing relations with their children. Our connection with family is profound, whether it is positive, negative or likely a mix of both. And all of that gets stirred up at this time of year.

In my tradition, we see that as a good thing. It is a time that offers opportunities for healing old wounds, a time when we can more deeply mend our hearts and connect with ourselves. Healing is a process that we have to engage – it doesn’t just happen on its own. Oftentimes part of that healing process involves consciously seeking perspective. For instance, plan emotionally for the holidays. Nobody knows the emotional challenges you face during the holidays better than yourself, so take some time to think about it ahead of time and look at how to support yourself in being grounded and joyful this holiday season. For some that will mean building in supports for sanity and self-connection while visiting family, such as journaling or arranging to be in touch by email or phone with friends back home for check-ins. Others are not in contact with family, and they might arrange in advance to get together with “chosen family”, people with whom they choose to spend the holidays. At such a special time of the year it makes sense to think about what will bring you joy, what is important to you, what will ground you, and how to build in supports for your mindfulness and connection with yourself.

Also, be honest with yourself about when you need help. There are times in all of our lives when we need help to process or move through something. It is important to listen to ourselves at those times and to seek out the help we need, often in the form of a therapist or other emotional/spiritual healer. Our purpose in life is to grow and become our potential. Be generous with yourself this holiday season by ensuring you have the support you need to be able to open your heart and be loving and generous, both with yourself and others.

One easy way to give yourself a gift of support for this holiday season is to receive my Free Meditation. You can get this by clicking the button at the top of this page. Enjoy, be merry, and be present!

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