In honor of Honey in Your Heart, the latest jewel in mary anne radmacher’s outrageously creative and prolific career, I sat down with mary anne (yes, she’s a lower case girl) and had this delightful conversation. I asked her a few qustions about how life can be sweeter when we feast on the honey that is already there, in the only place it can be–our heart.
Janet: In Honey in Your Heart, you talk about “ways to see” being essential to creating space in the heart for life. And you offer us many ways to do just that. But I’m wondering, now that you’ve written the book, how has this awareness of seeing and creating space continued to expand for you? Have you stumbled upon any new and perhaps slightly surprising ways to see?
mary anne: After recording ( for a solid six months) every time I experienced a little, “Yay,” – that heart lift that occurs when something sweet has happened – I find I mentally note such things. I still DO write them down, but I don’t need the discipline of writing them down in order to see them. The awareness HAS expanded my capacity in a rather unexpected way. In the midst of challenge, or circumstances that feel as if they have gone “sideways” in an undesirable way, I am able to see the potential. The potential for joy, for good, for positive outcomes. Many of the long term YAYs in my life have come out of a short term YUCK. In a practical way, recognizing the truth of this – that goodness often comes out of circumstances that don’t feel or seem good – has given me a higher level of perseverance.
Janet: I love your call to celebrate. Our society has relegated celebrations to a few calendar holidays wrapped in obligation. Most of us forget to celebrate the morning, our kitchen, soft pajamas, hot water, a good book. Can you share a simple sweet celebration that meant a lot to you?
mary anne: I schedule one day, every once in awhile, that is just dedicated to FUN – CREATIVE – Just delightful to me – projects. I asked three of my buddies what their current favorite quote was. And then I incorporated that quote into a set of small notecards, packaged them up and put them in the mail. THAT is a sweet celebration that I love having in my days: being able to create something for someone I love for no other reason than they are worth celebrating.
Janet: My favorite aphorism in Honey in Your Heart is on p 21: “In the freshness of the dawn we see the truth, everything is possible.” I often wake with this excitement and knowing but I can lose it in a few minutes when I face my to-do list. I sense through this book and all your books, that you truly do rise in joy and possibility every morning. How do you do that?
mary anne: The truth of this answer is that I do wake MOST mornings with joy. There are many contributing factors to waking up with joy and anticipation.
Here are most of them:
I do my best to complete my top targeted items each day. I complete.
At the end of the day:
I make a list of targeted completions for the following day. I live with intention.
I forgive myself for any shortcomings, acts of commission or omission and I say good bye to the day. I let go.
I make conscious nutritional food choices. I nurture myself.
I move, or dance or sing. I create. I contribute to my health and vitality.
I do at least one expected thing for someone else. I serve.
I contact one person I love, admire or am friends with. I connect.
On the days that I do not include most of the things on this list … I wake up absent joy.
Janet: The one that made me laugh out loud is “I didn’t know I couldn’t, so I did.” There is such bliss in not knowing that something is “impossible” and then waking up and you’ve done it! What new and “impossible” things are you doing?
mary anne: Due to a host of complexities, I have reinvented my lifetime body of work and have a brand new professional affiliation to make my cards and paper inspirations available in the world. (And that is: http://wp.appliedinsight.net) In addition to creating fresh and unexpected work, I have accepted the role of Art Director. I now work with other artists to bring their best work to the world. It’s like being a creative mid-wife. So, after 28 years of doing a single art element one way in the world, I am blossoming at all kinds of artistic levels. In a lot of ways it feels as if these last years were practice! Ah. Everything is practice, isn’t it? Practice at being the fullest and best of who we are.
Janet: This book is such a call to walk life with a light trusting step and a sweet happy heart. Taking in your words and looking at your pictures, I feel that honey, that sweetness, oozing off the pages and into my heart. And if I’m feeling that way, then you must be soaring. What effect is this book having on you? What honey is continuing to flow?
mary anne: It’s interesting, Janet, that you ask in this way. There has been a most surprising outcome of connecting at such a deep level to the joy and sweetness in my days. It’s an immediate and profound capacity to recognize when NOT to allow the honey to flow. One of my natural gifts is generosity. I’ve demonstrated an innate impulse to give since before I could speak.
And with every gift, there is a downside. Or said another way, there is a spectrum of expression of any quality, skill or gift. I am now more inclined to graciously step away from circumstances, events and people whose priorities do not serve my vision. Notice I don’t say their priorities are incorrect. They are simply theirs, and different from mine. I become increasingly unwilling to compromise my work and vision with actions, activities and people that are counter-productive to what I’m doing. I used to incorporate compromise and accommodation into my daily systems…and now, holding to the sweetness of my days and intention to walk life full of joy and purpose…I am more likely to gratefully acknowledge the role, at one time, that such elements played in my life and learning… and move on. I let go and lean forward!
So – for the sake of the greater outcomes, it’s become important that in some instances the “honey” of my life NOT flow. Or be invited or allowed to flow in a different direction.
(Note: I wrote this column for UPI in 2007, the year my son turned 18, my mother died, and I wrote my first book Writing Down Your Soul. Five years and four books later, I still think this is the best thing I’ve ever written. It may be the best thing I’ll ever write. The “River of Life” Goodbye bBessing letter to my son is certainly the most important.)
This is my Goodbye Season. Endings abound. My son is eighteen; it’s time for him to leave this house. My mother is dying; it’s time for her to leave this planet. And when she does, I’ll also be saying goodbye to the town where I grew up. My parent’s names on a tombstone will be our family’s last address in Marshfield, Wisconsin. My professional life is changing, too. Endings abound.
Endings deserve attention — recognition that they are part of the cycle of existence. Endings are necessary and good, even when they are sad. Endings create the space for new life, new ideas, new experiences. The new is waiting, but first, there must be a blessing. Ancient fathers understood this. They put their hands on their son’s foreheads and pronounced a blessing. Without that blessing, the son would not — could not — leave. With the blessing, the son could step into the fray of life, knowing his family’s honor and love and inheritance are with him always.
And so it is for my son. He turned eighteen last week. I gave him an avant-garde block print from an edgy London artist, a little money (that he says he might spend on a tattoo), and a ticket to New York. I saved the best gift for last. My blessing. This is how I said goodbye and sent him into The River of Life.
Eighteen years ago today you entered life. For quite awhile prior we’d been having odd conversations, you and I, so you weren’t born on April 26th, it was just the first day we could see your perfect face. Your name till then was Alfie. As in, What’s it all about, Alfie?
And we were certainly trying to figure out what it was all about. Me, hosting a soul who had chosen a forty-year old woman for whom motherhood was a distant, tiny, and quickly fading possibility, and big Jer (who before you was the only Jerry), a forty-one-year-old man who had never anticipated marriage or fatherhood. You certainly swept us into a new branch of The River of Life! A branch we were not paddling toward — not consciously. Maybe our eyes were on some other fork, but our souls must have wanted to go here because suddenly, there we were in the Family River. Thanks to you. Thank you for choosing us.
In the end, despite the rapids and rain, I hope you’ll decide that you chose wisely. The trip has certainly been rich. You have been given powerful gifts by your father, gifts that you have taken, absorbed, and enriched. I’m confident he would be proud to say you stand on his shoulders and reach higher and deeper. If you decide to get that tattoo, you can put his insignia on your body and tell the world what it means: “A vote against boredom and mediocrity.” It’s clear that you are not going down the boredom river. You will not live a dull, safe, obedient life. I’m confident and proud of that. And mediocrity? No way. Originality? Yes. Intellectual inquiry? Yes. Imagination? Yes. Mediocrity? Definitely not.
This is a big birthday. Even if feels like just another day. It is, nevertheless, a milestone. Eighteen is big and important. Everything is changing. There may be more change in the next few months than at any other time in your life. You are stepping into manhood, choosing your college, leaving home, entering the world of work, and embarking on your first single-handed trek through Europe. In the next year, you’ll make new friends, find your way in a new city, study at a level you’ve never experienced before, be inspired by real professors, and at long last, find your verbal and intellectual peers — people who will challenge your every thought and word. It may not happen right away, but over time, you will find your people, your place, and your home.
You are ready. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel or shouldn’t feel scary. You are swimming out of the family branch of the river, and taking off down your own River Jerry. And, the truth is, you do not know what you will see or experience or feel. You don’t know what will happen in college, at work, or in life. You can’t see any further ahead than a few hundred yards. No one can. (Some people pretend they can, or convince themselves they can, but we are all equally blind to the vagaries and rocks ahead.) But the river knows, and its strong current is pulling you forward. And the urge to go is so much greater than the fear of the unknown. If it weren’t, you’d settle for safety, that mediocrity your father so abhorred. So, my job right now is to bless you and send you on your way. The river is waiting.
The best gift I can give you is the bits of wisdom I’ve acquired on my own rather tumultuous journey. Here’s what I’m sure of:
- You chose to be here; your soul has its reasons and those reasons will unfold.
- You are special, unique. There is no other G__ W__ K__ and no one else who can live your life or leave your footprints in the world. The world needs and wants and is waiting for you.
- It’s all going somewhere and makes sense at the end, but not at the moment you’re in it. Never at the moment you’re in it.
- Life is easier when you flow with it instead of fight it. This is simple to say and very difficult to do. It may be the reason we come.
- Bad things are good things. Twist them inside out and there’s good or wisdom or something that will fall out and make you say, “Aah.” But it does not follow that good things are bad. Good things are good. Because, in the end, it’s all good.
- Breathe. When all else fails, breathe.
- You are always blessed, protected, guided, and loved.
- I loved you before you were born, I love you today, and I will love you every day of my life. (And I’m pretty sure after, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.)
- I am always here for you, for support, love, a shoulder, an ear, a pocketbook. What I have, in the end, is yours.
Welcome, angel, to the second phase of your life. You are ready. And I am ready to let go. The River is waiting. Go. Go make a difference in the world.
And so he goes. Into his branch of The River. With a rich blessing on his head and in his heart. Although his father is no longer here to convey a blessing himself, I trust that I have spoken well for both of us.
As I watch my son drift away, I whisper, “Goodbye my darling boy, goodbye,” and turn my face toward Wisconsin to explore the next phase in my Goodbye Season — goodbye to the woman who can never really die; she lives in my DNA.
We all have our Goodbye Seasons. Some are more compressed. Some more dramatic. Some desperately painful. Some we resist. Some we embrace. But all changes are a death — a little death perhaps, but a death. All are a birth, too. Our job, I think, is not to struggle to figure the changes out. Our job is to bless the going and the coming.
Before I went to Montana for our July Soul Quest, I ordered a handmade journal from Mary Anne Radmacher. She makes a journal for each of my yearly soul-journs. I treasure her journals because they hold all the deep soul explorations that bubble up during the trip. This year, Mary Anne outdid herself. The cover, as always, evoked the heart and soul of the adventure. But this time, she added pouches on the inside covers. What fun I thought–special places to hold little treasures from the trip. I noticed there was something in the back cover pouch. I pulled it out. It was an angel card–“The Angel of Forgiveness.”
That should have been a clue.
I was, I confess, a little miffed. Oh please, I thought, I’ve had my big forgiveness experience. I’m a bloomin’ queen of forgiveness. I lead people in deep forgiveness experiences in my courses. Surely, I’m not going to Montana to deal with forgiveness! I took the card out of the pouch and stuck it somewhere it in my office.
My reaction should have been a clue.
On opening night at our Soul Quest, I told the group, “You do not really know why you’re here. You think you do, but trust me, you don’t. Make a note of why you think you’re here and then on closing night let’s see what actuallly unfolded. You may be in for quite a surprise.”
I should have listened to myself.
The next morning, we learned about power by working with horse. The following day we learned about the opposite un-power of fish as we attempted to cast for mysterious and elusive trout. Later that day, we floated down the Missouri River in an Avon raft. I recognized the raft. When I lived on a sailboat in Oakland, we had an Avon raft. My husband said they were the best.
Oh boy, lots more clues.
As the day on the river ended, I realized my husband would have loved this trip. He would have loved fly fishing, and riding, and sleeping in a log cabin. He would have loved floating down the river in an Avon raft under the watchful gaze of eagle.
Then, it dawned on me I was wearing the water shoes he gave me, the Tilley hat he insisted every sailor have, and schlepping everything in his treasured but weathered 1985 Ghurka tote bag. I was surprised to discover that I had unconsciously created an experience my husband would have loved.
That should have been a huge clue.
The next day we participated in a Chippewa-Cree sweat lodge conducted by a lovely woman named Lillian. In the lodge, she led us through four rounds of prayer. For each round, hot rocks were brought in and doused with water. In the rising steam. she led us in traditional songs and gave us the opportunity to say the names of people for whom we wished to pray. I spoke my son’s name in each round and many of my friends and partners. It was a beautiful experience and I felt honored to participate in such an ancient and holy form of prayer.
That night I woke with a start. “Oh my God! Her name was Lillian!” In that moment, I knew why I’d created this trip. And I’d come within a hair of missing it. It was not an accident that a woman named Lillian conducted our lodge. My husband, you see, was adopted. He was thirty-four when he found his birth sister and thirty-six when he spoke to his birth mother. They were unable to make peace and he died carrying a great wound around being given up for adoption. His birth mother died a few years later. And her name was Lillian.
Sitting up in bed in a log cabin in Wolf Creek Montana, I knew that I had been handed the opportunity to bring both their names into the sacred space of the sweat lodge and connect them in the grace of forgiveness. But I blew it. But then, I stopped crying and remembered the great teaching of the angels in Check the Box, the course that brings us back in time to hear our soul’s purpose. The course ended just days before we left for Montana. The angels said that we can revisit any experience in our lives and make different choices. When we do, we literally–not metaphorically–alter the vibration of that scene for all time–past, present, and future–and we alter it for all parties concerned.
I closed my eyes and went back to the lodge in my mind. When it was our turn to pray aloud, I spoke my husband’s name and his birth mother’s. The fourth and final round is all about forgiveness, and with tears dripping down my face, I brought their names and their spirits into the lodge and joined them in a total state of forgiveness. In peace, I fell back asleep.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
When I got back home, I had a toothache. A big bad toothache. My back molar had cracked, become infected, and had to be extracted. After the extraction, I felt exhausted. Even with 12 hours of sleep, I had no energy to work. On August 4, I turned to the Voice in my journal and demanded to know what my rotten tooth was about. In the next sentence I remembered that my husband had teeth problems his whole life. In deep soul writing I asked, “What needs to be completed, what else needs to be revisited like the sweat lodge?”
Suddenly I wrote this question: “What do I regret?”
Instantly, I knew. There is only one moment in my life that I regret. And oh, how I regret it. It was the night my husband died. He’d been in a coma in ICU for a week. The hospital called late that afternoon to say they were moving him. After dinner, our son asked to visit his dad and I said, they’re moving him tonight, let’s go tomorrow. The next morning at 6:30 we received a call that he had died. I have regretted not going to the hospital for nine years. OK, I wrote. I will go back and redo it. Just like the sweat lodge and just the way the angels taught. On the page in deep soul writing, I relived the evening of October 5, 2003. When my son said, “Let’s go see dad,” we drove to the hospital. At the hospital, we found his new room. We walked in and saw him on the bed. We stood close together beside the bed and prayed aloud thanking him for the good he’d brought us and promising to hold only the good in our hearts. When my son and I felt complete, I blew a kiss and whispered, God speed. The next morning, the phone still rang at 6:30 and we still got the news that he had died. But this time I felt no regret. I had said goodbye and given our son the space to say goodbye.
When I finished my Regret Redo, I felt a wave move through me. All the exhaustion and pain in my body and mouth flowed out of me and into the ground. I felt a burst of energy and for the first time since I got back from Montana, felt excited and energized. Suddenly, I had to hold Mary Anne’s angel card. It took me an hour to find it buried under a pile of books. The message on the card is: “I choose to forgive all those who have hurt me in the past.”
“Choose” is the operative word here. I have chosen over and over again to forgive, not only my husband, but anyone I think has harmed me. And thanks to heaven sending a woman named Lillian, I was able to bring two unrequited souls into the blessed place of forgiveness. And then, thanks to a broken tooth, I was given the opportunity to experience the next and even deeper piece in the fathomless journey of forgiveness: Regret Redo.
If reading about my Regret Redo experience is activating something inside of you, here are a few questions to ponder:
- Are there moments you wish you could relive?
- Are you willing to revisit them and choose differently?
- What do you think will happen?
- What do you regret?
- How is regret a living, if deeply buried, presence in your life?
- What impact is regret having on you, your relationships, your work, your creativity, your health?
- What do you think will happen if you consciously choose to forgive, and even redo, the past?
- Are you ready to enter into the profound state of Regret Redo? If not, why not?
I invite you to enter into divine dialogue and ask these and other deep questions on the page. Then trust the Voice as it leads you into the profound experience of Regret Redo. Then, I invite you to post your experience here. Your words may change someone’s life.
Blessings on you and all your experiences, yes, even those you regret.
You haven’t heard from me for awhile. Taking a break is a giant no-no in the world of book marketing. But I think that’s a mistake. A big mistake.
Marketing is necessary. It’s how new readers find me and old readers go deeper into the concepts I share. But, as much as I love communicating with you through my books, courses, events, newsletters, and social media, I know that silence, stillness, and solitude are necessary in my life. And not just in my life. I believe that silence, stillness, and solitude are necessary in any spiritual life.
And what I want more than anything is a vibrant spiritual life. My own spiritual adventures are the source of all my books and ideas. And so, I have been quiet this July. And, don’t you know, as soon as I got quiet, the source fountain started bubbling over. It all began in Montana.
My annual soul-venture was a Soul Quest at the Blacktail Ranch in Montana. I stepped into this adventure the way I step into all my trips–in a complete state of trust. First, I trust Gayle Lawrence who designs all my trips. She is an expert in this field, having designed hundreds of spiritually stimulating Journeys of Discovery. I trust Spirit to attract the perfect group. And I trust that as the trip unfolds, everyone will experience exactly what they need, when they need it, and in the form they need. That includes me. I’m one of the travelers, too, and I know that I will be fed in ways I could never predict.
That’s exactly what happened at the Blacktail. I have many luscious stories to tell you, but the one that wants to be told today is the story of the cave. What happened there may well be the most important message I’ve ever received.
On the Blacktail Ranch there is an ice-age cave. The family protects it carefully and keeps it in its natural state. There are no railings, ramps or walkways inside. When you step into this glacial cave, you step into the womb of mother earth.
To get in, we backed slowly down a straight twenty-foot ladder, then crouched down and stumbled forward until we reached a large wet rock. The only thing to do was get down on our bums and slide into the cave.
But once we were inside and could stand up and look around, we realized we were walking where ancient brethren walked. They left petroglyphs and a bison and bear altar stone. They slept here, worshipped here, cooked here. We were on holy ground.
We asked our guide to leave us alone in the dark for a bit. He left and turned off the gas generator that powers a few lights. It didn’t matter if my eyes were open or closed, but I still closed them. It felt more reverent. The cave was not silent. There were drifts of cool air and a chorus of mysterious drips all around us. I swear I heard a few stone groans. The rocks emitted a perfume that cannot be described.
In the silence, I asked the massive stone ceiling above me, “Do you have a message for me?” What happened next is difficult, if not impossible, to describe.
I am accustomed to “seeing” divine guidance on the page. I have also trained myself to lie still in that not-awake-but-no-longer-asleep state I now know is theta. In those precious moments, I know what it sounds like to “hear” guidance. And in yoga, I’m learning what it “feels” like to be still.
The cave experience was none of these. In the moment after I asked the question, the stones delivered a message that arrived inside of me. No seeing, hearing, or feeling was involved. It was an automatic transmission or infusion. The voice of the stones was simply inside me and the rock said, “I am old. You are old.”
At first, I thought uh no, rock, it’s you who are old. Ice age, glacial rivers carved you. I, on the other hand, am just 64. But I wasn’t about to argue with the bones of the earth. So I was still and allowed the rocks to repeat inside of me, “I am old. You are old.” After a few minutes, I realized that the pronouns had shifted, and the I had become me and the you had become the rocks.
That’s when the wisdom burst open inside me. I sensed the rocks were smiling as they watched me awaken to a core truth. I am a soul. Souls are old. We know this. We say “immortal” soul. But think for a moment what that means. If a soul is immortal, it is old. Big old. Old old. Older than the rocks old. I was stunned by the depth of this wisdom. It is the first time I knew–and I knew that I knew–that I was a soul and my soul was in touch with all that is, even these elegant, eloquent, ancient stones.
Now, I know that this is a truism and we speak this truism all the time. But saying “I am an immortal soul” is not the same thing as knowing this at the core of your being.
Try it on for size. Imagine yourself in a Redwood forest or an ice age cave or beside an ocean. Picture yourself in your favorite natural setting. Ask for a message. Then, allow the tree or the rock or the ocean to speak to you. Perhaps it will say “I am old. You are old.” If it does, repeat it fifteen or twenty times and notice how you feel. Do you sense your soul singing in recognition? Then, from the soul level, sing back to your sister rock or brother tree, “I am old. You are old.” Or perhaps, your ancient friend has a different message for you.
I’m going to post this newsletter on my newly renamed and renergized blog, “soul sparks.” (That’s a message from the Blacktail, too, but I’ll save it for another newsletter.) After you’ve had your own “old soul” experience, please add a comment about what happened. We’d love to hear.
From this old soul to your old soul, I wish you a space of silence, stillness, solitude this summer so your soul can step forward and sing to you. Perhaps it will sing a song of creativity. If so, my two courses on creativity are about to begin.
Plug In for Writers if your soul longs to sing in words.
Plug In for Expressive Souls if you want to see with the eyes of your soul, hear with the ears of your soul, feel with the skin of your soul, and know–and know that you know–with the mysterious essence of your soul.
Come play with me. I can’t predict the outcome, but I can guarantee a glorious adventure into the wisdom of your beautiful old soul.
I’ve been a bit of a Scrooge this year. I announced to my family and friends that I was bowing out of the whole present obligation thing. One brother said, “Tough, I’m sending you a present anyway.” The other said, “Thank God, I’m not doing presents either.” If it weren’t for credit card miles, my son wouldn’t even be getting a present. I’ve planned no humongous dinners, no holiday get-togethers, no eggnog, no Christmas cookies, no red and green candles. But I did do one thing: I got a tree.
It killed me to drop $70, but I had to have it. I can’t explain it, but I love a real Christmas tree. I love the little white lights — the more, the merrier. I love the glass icicles I carefully position in front of the lights. They remind me of the beauty of the real thing back in Wisconsin. Most of all, I love reliving the history — my history — as I take out each ornament: the hand-painted porcelain German bell my acting friend Alice gave me in 1976 when I left Los Angeles and my acting life behind, the delicate Dansk animals I bought in 1984 for our first Christmas in Florida, the ridiculous elf with “baby’s first Christmas” painted on his belly, the 1992 Waterford crystal stocking commemorating the year my father died, the ornate red ball with my son’s name in gold glitter marking the year I was confident that life could only get better and better, the mercury glass moon I bought the first Christmas on my own, and my favorites — the ones my son made in nursery school. I love them all, but the heartbreaker is the piece of green burlap with his tiny hand stamped in red paint. I cry every time I put it on the tree. When I’m finished, I cap everything off with the weathered, red and white striped bows that I’ve tied on the tree for over 20 years. Each year I tell myself, “You know, you really should get new ribbons,” and each year I stand back, look at the finished product, smile, and think it’s perfect just the way it is.
But this year I couldn’t bring myself to decorate the tree. For ten days, the 7-foot fir stood forlorn and naked in its stand, challenging me to get off my duff. Finally, on Sunday, I put down The New York Times and said, “OK. This is it, Janet. Just get it done.” I didn’t put on any carols or pour myself a libation. I just circled the tree in my bathrobe, cursing the knots in the lights and fuming about the whole stupid Christmas thing.
This is so fake, I thought. Dec. 25, as everyone knows by now, is not anywhere near the date Jesus was born. Spring, most scholars think. And the tree itself, for heaven’s sake, has nothing to do with the religion of Christianity. It’s an ancient pagan symbol for the mysterious continuation of life while the earth looks dead and cold. I felt dishonest. By decorating it and calling it a “Christmas” tree, wasn’t I just another cog in the commercial event labeled Christmas, a date that has nothing to do with Jesus’ or any other spiritual teacher’s life or message? Christmas at this point seems to be more about spending money and salvaging the stock exchanges from global doom. (Sorry, boys, but aside from the tree and a few bottles of wine, you’ll have to save the markets without me.)
If you’d peeked in the window last Sunday, you’d have seen a middle-aged woman who was singularly not in the Christmas spirit. When I finished, I didn’t step back and admire my work. I just dragged the empty boxes back into the garage and figured that’s one more thing I can check off my to-do list. But when I came back in the living room and saw my precious memory-filled tree sparkling brighter than the Florida sun coming through the windows, I smiled. I plopped back down in my reading chair, but instead of picking up the book review section, I sat and stared at my tree. “You are beautiful,” I said. “I love you.”
I was happy, but I refused to label this good feeling “Christmas.” What’s the matter with me, I wondered. Why can everyone else say “Merry Christmas” with a genuine smile on their face, but I choke on the words? Because, I thought, Christmas has been hijacked.
It’s been hijacked by the world of commerce. That’s painfully obvious. But it’s also been hijacked by the fundamental Christians who think they have the right to shove Jesus down the throats of the non-Christians in America, despite our essential foundation as the one country in the world where religion does not dictate or supposedly even influence government. Our predecessors fought a revolution for that principle. Where did that promise to one another go? The original Americans, the Native Americans, obviously didn’t know or care about Jesus or Christmas. And the early Pilgrim settlers looked down their dour noses at any foolish frippery like Christmas. When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol,” Christmas Eve was just another workday. This whole Currier and Ives image of the happy family at Christmas is a Victorian creation, introduced not so very long ago.
I decided to dig into this whole Christmas thing. Just what is Dec. 25, I wanted to know. Well, in Roman times it was the culmination of a week of revelry honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture and sowing. Romans would have a wild time during Saturnalia, allowing slaves to debase their masters, eating and drinking to excess, and hitting the temples to honor Saturn. Scroll ahead a few years, and the Zoroastrians are honoring Mithra on this date. Mithra was the enemy of darkness. He protected souls on earth and, when they died, accompanied them to paradise. Mithra, like Saturn, was a god of prosperity. Dec. 25 was also “The Nativity of the Sun,” a celebration of Sol Invicta, the invincible god of the sun. Before any of these, of course, late December was the ancient celebration of Solstice, honoring the miraculous continuation of life despite the apparent death of the earth.
Given all the delightful pagan fun happenings on and around Dec. 25, it should come as no surprise that the early church fathers hijacked that date and turned it into Jesus’ birthday. Why not? They had a church to build, and they were building it on the idea of Jesus as the son of God, the “light of the world.” How better to reinforce that idea than to commandeer all the celebrations of the light of the sun? Jesus wasn’t too keen on people honoring or worshiping him. He kept saying he was the “son of man,” not a god. But he did enjoy a good time. It seems that in every other story in the Bible Jesus is with friends, and often eating. And we know he went to a wedding and, when necessary, fed a few thousand people.
So, I’ve decided Jesus would approve of my idea: I am going to celebrate all the Dec. 25 holidays. At my house it’s Solstice and Sol Invicta and The Nativity of the Sun and Christmas. Plus, let’s not forget Hanukkah, the festival of lights, which just ended; Kwanzaa, a smart new holiday; and Eid ul-Adha, which begins on Dec. 20.
Why not? The message of all these celebrations is the same: We humans are connected to and protected by an all-powerful, all-loving, all-giving God — a God of light and life. Whether you see that light as the Sun or the Son, or any other name, doesn’t really matter. Late December has a rich history of humanity’s desire to touch the unfathomable. I ask you to join me in this spirit and honor the light — all the light.
(This blog post was first posted on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality site in 2008. People gravitated to it immediately, copied it and began posting it on their blogs. Every Christmas it shows up on a few dozen blogs. If you’d like to copy and paste this onto your blog or share it with your friends any other way, be my guest. Just please add my name, Janet Conner, and website, www.writingdownyoursoul.com. THANKS!)
People are shell shocked right now. It takes bravery just to read the paper. The heart is broken page after page by stories of yet another disaster, unspeakable violence, and unbearable loss. As for politics, the mind doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. And finances? We all want to run for the covers. Even the weather stories are scary. The movies all sound loud and ugly. The snarky humor in the comic section is no longer funny. Where can we find a bit of shelter? The crossword puzzle perhaps. Or the food section. Surely the food section. Maybe an article in travel will lift us momentarily to a sweeter place.
- Pick up a pen and write
- A slab of clay and shape
- A brush and paint
- A pencil and draw
- A scissors and cut
- A knife and cook
- A seed and plant
- A scarf and dance
- Create a business plan, an outline, a class
- Design a pillow, plan a trip, make a meal
The tools you can put in your hands are without end. The things you can imagine are without end. The places you can go in your mind are without end. The beauty you can touch is without end. The well is deep and it is full.
Here’s what will happen.
When you re-activate that part of you that has never been wounded, the part of you that knows who you really are, the battle with fear will come to an end. When you step into your creative self, your soul-self, you awaken something huge: trust in your own capacity to live a beautiful life. You will be free. And that uninvited guest will have no choice but to slink out the door.
“At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty. When this desire and capacity
come alive, new wells spring up in parched ground; difficulty becomes invitation and rather than striving against the grain of our nature, we fall into rhythm with its deepest urgency and passion. The time is now ripe for beauty to surprise and liberate us.”
So perhaps all this chaos in the world is an invitation. Perhaps that black thing in the living room is an invitation. Perhaps the parched landscape is an invitation. An invitation to awaken to who we really are: not consumers, creators. When we accept, we stop being consumed by life and start creating life. The invitation is real. It is open. It is on your desk awaiting a reply. Please put something in your hands and accept.
Come, let your writer loose at Plug In for Writers, starting August 30
Find your creative expression at Plug In for Expressive Souls Sept 1