Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your Annual Review

This title might sound dreadful, if you’ve ever had an annual review to measure your job performance. Leave out the dread and think self-review with the goals of patting yourself on the back for a job well done and redirecting your course in the year to come for goals you’ve missed.

The review I suggest isn’t your typical report card to Mom and Dad, even the Mom and Dad in your mind. (If I could learn how to turn off parental voices in my mind, I’d be the richest woman on earth when I shared that secret!) What I’m suggesting is an objective, loving look at your course and whether or not you’re getting closer to where you want to go. I talk a lot about my GPS or God Positioning System. Have you veered off course? That’s all … and if you haven’t, it’s time to get excited about whatever represents Paris, Rome, or other exciting destinations. You’re getting closer!

My Year-End Review

No joke, it’s more than a rear-end review where I measure how much weight I haven’t lost! I review my journal to see what’s really been going on in the past 365 days. I play Objective Observer and view the scene from further back than too close to see what’s really happening. If you don’t already journal, read Journals: The Sort-It Detail and consider starting one as a goal for the new year and decade. But even if you don’t journal as yet, you can do a meditative review of your year by simply observing it as a movie in your mind. Do it as early as possible in the new year.

Keep a calendar or PDA? Use it as a memory jogger to recall key events. Find a quiet corner and an hour to do this exercise. Start with January, and month by month, see what you were up to. Drink in the events as your memory movie unfolds, then contemplate them for 3-5 minutes to sort out the feelings and learning. Next write what comes up for you. What were your key lessons, feelings, progress, stumbling blocks?

Once you’ve got 12 monthly blurbs, you can check for common patterns and truly experience the magic of Objective Observer or Overseer. Remember, there’s “seer” in that last role, which means you are seeing with wise eyes and the ability to notice the course you’re taking. What would you redirect? What would you “not change for anything?”

Enter the New Year Softly

Wave hello to 2010. After all, it’s a new decade. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were worrying about terminal crashes to our computers (pun intended) and stashing food for the dreaded domino effect of bad programming fallout in our electronic devices? Bad programming is what we’re trying to avoid taking into the new year with us. To change a pattern, we have to see what it is—and tinker till we get ourselves back on the path we want to travel.

I can’t repeat too often, winter is an inner time. Be joyful, celebrate the New Year, but the real celebration is another year of growing as a spirit embodied on Earth.

What’s your “10”—your hottest projected accomplishment—in ’10? What do you aim for? What looks like success? At the end of this new year, you may change your mind and discover in this process that your truest accomplishment was something different all together.

That’s the inner adventure. May yours be fulfilling and dotted with exciting surprises. May the 2010 decade overflow with cool insights.


Photo Credit: HOLIDAY BACKGROUND © Dmstudio Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quarterly Astrology Forecast and Winter Solstice Exercises to Warm Your Heart and Light Your Way

Happy Winter, Cool Insighters!

In case you haven’t noticed in the sidebar, I am now writing a quarterly astrological forecast by sign for one of my favorite sites, Perrie Meno-Pudge. You’ll learn a lot about winter, what it is and isn’t good for, and find out what’s happening in both the General Sky as well as the Outlook for your Sun sign. Check out what winter holds in store for you at Perrie’s Planetarium – Winter Solstice 2009.

Get a taste of the fabulous Winter Solstice celebration I held on December 21st with my Solsisters friends. Two of the regular exercises we do each year—I call them “astrologizes”—are replicated on Spirited Woman blog, where I am also a guest blogger this week. The articles are called Astrologize: Exercises for the Winter Solstice to Warm Your Heart and Light Your Way. Here’s #1, Ceremony of Recognition and #2, Burning the Old.

I’d like to close with this quote from the Revels and my wish for you:

And so the shortest day came
And the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing
To Drive the dark away.

Let’s all proclaim together—Welcome Yule, WELCOME YULE!


Photo Credit:  WINTER STAR CONSTELLATIONS © Solarseven  Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let It Begin with Me

Music inspires us. Once during December, someone asked me my favorite song of the holiday season. It’s Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me. Even though it’s played most often during this time of year, Let There Be Peace wasn’t originally written as a holiday song. That’s fitting, for peace is not a season, it’s a way of life.

Yet when we see the headlines, peace probably seems like a pipe dream. War is rampant. Years later, we are still reeling from 9/11. Is it just me, or have more people on the edge gone over? We see senseless killings, mayhem, and discoveries of physical and sexual abuse, even by priests, parents, and other adults most trusted by children.

Peace is not a season; it’s a way of life.

It’s easy to feel helpless and wonder if the world has gone mad. Do you ever ask yourself, “What can I do? I’m only one small person.” I can’t stop countries from fighting. I can’t keep crazy people off the streets or out of airports.

But I’m going to tell you what you can do; how your small daily acts of peacemaking are more important than you ever imagined at a time when they were never more needed. Like pebbles of caring, your acts of kindness ripple outward when dropped into the ocean of our collective consciousness. The little things you do every day can have a divine domino effect.

And while songs inspire us, a picture is worth a thousand words. We first got the Big Picture when Earth was photographed from our Moon in the late ‘60s. Its beauty was magnificent, and that image should fly on a global flag to remind us who we are—one planetary people and organism.

Use peaceful words—cooperate, consensus, fun, together, common ground, everyone, love, and friendship. Avoid “fighting words” like us and them, some people, those kind of people, and what kind of a person would…

Here are my Five Tips for a Peaceful Day (Week, Month, Year, Life):

1. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment. Take a moment and start noticing when you react to something with anger or a desire to lash out. Ask yourself: What inner conflict is this stirring up in me? Almost always, we are merely projecting our own struggle onto another person. When this happens collectively, it escalates into war. It can be nipped in the bud, as in you ‘n’ me, bud!

2. Watch your thoughts like a hawk. Thoughts are powerful, because they lead to actions. Every thought leads to a collection of thoughts called a mindset. Set is the operative word. We can become fixed in negativity—a negative mindset—which leads to hate, conflict, even murder and war. Or we can notice and build on what’s good. Accentuate the positive, as another old tune goes. It leads to love, joining, and a sense of community—even a global community.

3. Watch your mouth. This is the partner of Watch Your Thoughts, because one of the actions thoughts lead to is talking. Use peaceful words—cooperate, consensus, fun together, common ground, everyone, love, and friendship. Avoid “fighting words” like us and them, some people, those kind of people, and what kind of a person would…. You have the power to redirect any communication, to neutralize it and lighten up its energy. Above all, don’t gossip. I define gossip as idle talk about others with no constructive value, usually mired with judgment.

4. Consider that you don’t necessarily know what’s going on with people. When someone acts like a jerk, instead of getting angry, wonder what’s really hurting him or her. I’m a sensitive person who tends to take things personally; so, this one’s a challenge for me. Just for a change, assume it’s his or her stuff (that projection thing in #1). Then exercise compassion. Assume this person is having a bad day, a problem, or a rough life. Don’t escalate by responding to the sharp word. If you’ve ever seen someone good at this, it’s a joy to behold. (They turn grumps into gold). Some customer service people are experts at it.

5. Find common ground, even with so-called enemies. Everyone has something they really care about. Find out what it is and talk with them about it, whether it’s old cars or their pets. Give up having to be liked in favor of doing your best to make all communications as productive as possible. And don’t forget, common ground may be that you and the crab learn to live in the same airspace!

Peace on Earth. It’s an inside job. It’s a good virus. It’s contagious in the best possible way, capable of morphing into forms of good beyond your wildest imaginings.

The holiday season is a time for thinking and doing “big.” Just as John Lennon did, I invite you to do just that--Imagine.


Photo credit: My great great niece, Ana, mesmerized by the menorah.

Note: Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me was written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson, © 1955 by Jan-Lee Music.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Happy Holidays”—Another Kind of Peace Sign

© 2009 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

I love my friends who “want to put Christ back in Christmas,” and I honor their viewpoint. I grew up with strong Catholic roots, and I love celebrating the birthday of Jesus. But I don’t think saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” necessarily does the trick of what’s at the heart of that Christ in Christmas expression—making people act more Christ-like or more aware of the religious roots of the season.

In fact, it can have the exact opposite effect. I am rarely this blunt, but I have to say it. In certain contexts, “Merry Christmas” is rude. It alienates Jews, Muslims, and practitioners of a variety of other religions or beliefs other than Christian. In a not so subtle way, it imposes your viewpoint on other people by just assuming they share it. “Happy Holidays” acknowledges the vast number of faiths that exist and respects a person’s right not to believe at all. It says, “Whatever you celebrate or don’t, I wish you well during this time of year where there’s a surge in generosity of spirit.”

Let’s put this in perspective. No one wants to inhibit your freedom to say Merry Christmas at church, among fellow Christians at home or in any other setting, except those that are more public where people of all faiths converge. If you know someone is Christian, “Merry Christmas” the right thing to say. “Happy Chanukah” is the appropriate greeting for someone who’s Jewish. Happy Solstice is a good bet for your favorite agnostic.

 But out and about, where you might not know someone’s spirituality or lack thereof—that’s another story. Here’s an empathy experiment. Imagine you’re Christian and you just landed on a planet where Christianity is not the norm. It’s a festive time of year and people are shouting (pick one) Happy Chanukah, Allah Be Praised, or Atheists Rock! No one acknowledges your beliefs, and you feel like a lonely petunia in an onion patch. If your beliefs are close to your heart, this can be painful and isolating. At best, it is hurtful or irritating; at worst, when done consistently, it contributes to an intimidating atmosphere where people do not feel safe to share themselves. Beliefs reflect the core of who we are.

How little it takes to acknowledge and celebrate diversity.

When “Happy Holidays” first became the politically correct greeting, I, too, resented it. I felt like a lifetime of celebrating the season in a way that wove religion, spiritual perspective, and general goodwill had been forcibly replaced by something that sounded secular and cold. It took me a long time to get the point. We are free to “talk amongst ourselves” in a very candid way in any homogenous group, but once we mix it up, we have to consider the comfort of others. It’s the Golden Rule. It’s the teaching of Jesus at his best, and I daresay of the prophets from any number of other religions.

Inclusiveness is the epitome of Christianity. Jesus ministered to the fringe of society—the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised. This loving kindness and welcoming is reflected in the beliefs of many other paths up the mountain. I appreciate that there are those who believe in their heart of hearts that their faith is the one and only way to salvation. But out in the world, it’s not OK with me—or a lot of other people—to emphasize it. Religion can be even more divisive than politics and this time of year, especially, we need to focus on the love in which we’re all joined. There will never be peace on earth unless we learn to stand comfortably in our beliefs while respecting each other’s unique way of seeing things.

Lastly, we are wrong to assume that saying “Happy Holidays” is secular or implies a person whose only interest in December is shopping and the presents she receives. As one of my friends recently reminded me, the word “holiday” is derived from “holy day.” You can make the winter celebrations more ecumenical or universal, but you can’t deny their roots. Many people would be surprised to know that the Christian holiday traditions drew heavily from pre-existing pagan practices. The original “Christians” were Jews before they split into two separate faiths. The simple expression, “Happy Holidays,” has a lot more togetherness behind it than meets the eye. The degree to which that’s true depends on the mind and heart of the person saying it.

Let’s try a collective experiment. The next time you say “Happy Holidays,” make it an open-minded, open-hearted outpouring of goodwill and the only true gift anyone you can give anyone—to love them just the way they are.


Photo credit: +EPS WORLD RELIGIONS, DOVE © Casejustin | Dreamstime.com