Monday, May 18, 2009

Do Something Different Day

Seven years ago, I did something different. I gave myself a gift that keeps on giving. I catalyzed the creation of a small circle of like-minded women, similar in our spiritual outlook. We’re out to live life to the fullest and to bring more light into the world, starting with our own enlightenment. We wanted the intimacy of a support group and the spiritual inspiration of a church without the institutional factor or large size. The “founding mothers” weren't regular churchgoers at the time, although we were all brought up in traditional Christian faiths. We see the good in all beliefs, meditate and pray regularly, and always invite Spirit to guide us. We like to create ceremony and draw inspiration from the best of many traditions. Our invisible, potent partner and member: the Ultimate Light in His/Her many forms and facets.

Within our Magic Circle, one of our nicknames for our monthly meeting, we start by each sharing what’s happened since our last get-together over take-out— dinner picked up by one of us on the way. One member is single with a large, comfy home, so her house is our meeting place. The other components of our gatherings vary slightly, but usually they include prayers, meditation, and a spiritual education segment.

All of us are over 40—and half of us can add 20+ onto that number. Being women “of a certain age,” one member suggested that we read and discuss
The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien.

In case you don’t already know her,
Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist, an award-winning author, and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology, psychology, and comparative religions. My favorite part of her work is how she takes the best of traditions among various indigenous cultures and suggests how we might apply their wisdom to modern living.

“The Second Half of Life” is a cornucopia of spiritual food. I can’t say enough about this gorgeous book, rich in imagery, wisdom, and suggested questions and activities for “stayin’ alive.” There’s one particular concept in the book that has been invaluable to me. I call it Do Something Different Day. It’s a way of celebrating your birthday—and yourself—once a month in addition to the big bang once a year.

In her discussion of The Silver Gate, Angeles talks about facing new experiences and the unknown and the importance of renewal to keep our souls alive. Why this hit home: I am a person with compulsive tendencies. I spend too much time chained to my computer like a fanatic. I barely see the light of day. Sometimes I feel like I need someone to throw a bucket of cold water on me, just so I get up and move! My love of ritual easily turns into the rut of senseless routine, without an occasional tweak by outside forces. Do Something Different Day is a tweak I anticipate with glee, knowing it’ll get me up--and up to something fun, more often than not.

The custom Angeles mentions—the one I call Do Something Different Day—is an ancient European one, practiced in parts of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. People are encouraged to celebrate their birth day each month of the year by doing something they have never done before. For example, if you were born on the 7th of any month, on the 7th of every month you Do Something Different.

As a Virgo who loves precision, I have always gotten a big kick out of going the extra fractional mile when reporting my age. While most people would say 49½ from the six-month mark on, I like to goof around and say 497/12. (I wish!) Little did I know the power of that one-twelfth fraction toward spiritual revitalization. Each twelfth of our birthday cycle can become a mini-retreat and change of perspective.

Since I spend most of my life at my computer, I have put Do Something Different Day in my electronic calendar reminders with enough advance warning to plan something new for myself. What a simple but profound practice.

In fact, I’ve started to create a Do Something Different Day planning list, a sort of mini-
Bucket List. On my upcoming birth day, the 22nd, I have plans to meet a dear friend for lunch; then, the Magic Circle meets later for dinner. Both dates are different from my normal routine—they only happen monthly or so—but I have done them before. What will I do that’s new? In-between, I’ll stop at a music store I’ve wanted to visit for years and just never made the time. I’m starting to get the urge to play the piano again. My husband and I have been threatening to try a guitar/piano duet sine 1997. I plan to find us sheet music so this hot duo can rehearse. Then, on another DSD Day, we can give our premier performance for the cats.

Your Something Different doesn’t have to be earth shattering or groundbreaking. It can be as simple as having a fancy flavored latte, a kind you’ve never tried before, instead of your usual cappuccino. You can drink it at Peets instead of Starbucks. Start with training wheels! Advance to a two-wheeler, a racing bike, and then maybe a unicycle.

Before you know it, you could be standing on your head, bungee jumping, or climbing Mt. Everest. Stretch yourself. At five-foot-nothing, I personally want that growth in both body and soul!


Photo Credit: VITALITY © Looby


Susannah said...

I love the idea of do something different day! What a great idea and thanks for the mention of the Angeles Arrien book too. I have the Tarot Handbook by this author and have always enjoyed the approach of using symbolism from all faiths, cultures etc. So shall definitely be on the look out for this book.

Another wonderful post Joyce, thankyou.

Joyce Mason said...

You're welcome, Susannah! Angeles Arrien is quite a positive force in my life, and "The Second Half of Life" highlights how fulfilling life gets the more we live it, if we're open to the many ways various people model for making it so.

Michelle said...

I'm still waiting for my "dang that was amazing!" day, but I'll settle for "do something different." ;-)

and on the theme of doing something different, I am here to leave a link to a gift of music for the weekend...

Joyce Mason said...

Wow, Michelle! Thanks for the intro to Indie.Arie's music! Readers, here's a "live link" or cut 'n' paste from Michelle's comment: To All My Girlfriends. You'll be glad you did. What an incredible voice and message. Meet Michelle and her cool blog, too.

Michelle said...

Thank you Joyce. :-)

I also forgot to add that I belong to an online community that has a similar outlook (multi-faith spiritual group of gals). It helps a lot to have "sisters" out there you can share spirituality with, or a laugh, or a good cry.