So the darkness shall be the light,
and the stillness the dancing.
- TS Eliot
Here at our home, Stone Hill Farm in Vermont, we deliberately close out the holiday season with an annual Twelfth Night celebration. Drawing from folk traditions of medieval Europe, the evening is a fun and festive night of music, poetry, storytelling, and the final night of feasting on the delectable treats of the season.
With our celebration behind us, we enter the deepest part of the Vermont winter. Holiday lights and decorations are put away and the farm stands quiet against the frozen landscape. All is still.
As a young adult, I recall being uncomfortable with stillness. I had become compelled to activity, feeling that being still was idleness, even laziness, and that I "better get back to work" on at least one of the many projects I was likley to be involved with at the same time. I was in perpetual motion, racing from meeting to rehearsal to event, often breathless, but feeling that somehow all of this activity meant I was doing "important" things. Even if that were true, I didn't allow a moment to be fully present.
As life has evolved, I have come to recognize the vitality and power of becoming still. I can now look back to my life as a young child, when stillness was the dreamy state that always preceded some act of creation. It was the most fertile stage of the process, in fact, when all possibilities were open and available. Most important, those moments of stillness had no agenda. I wasn't inwardly reaching for some next idea. I was simply BE-ing in the moment, as is the province of such experiences in a child's life.
As an artist and creative, reclaiming that capacity has been vital to living the kind of integrated life that brings me deepest joy. Those moments of stillness, without a set agenda, have yielded insights which have shaped the course of my life. And even if those insights had not been given, those moments of stillness have become oases of renewal and replenishment which deeply restore my soul.
Here in the northland, winter's spell of white and icy cold provide an ideal natural metaphor and contemplative catalyst. The pristine, seemingly barren earthscape belies the vitality and fertility beneath its placid surface. So too, are we invited to embrace the stillness of this season, and the stillness within ourselves.
Yours From The Core,
Happy New Year.
It's a mysterious expression - "Happy New Year" is filled with hope and wishes of blessings in the year ahead, the optimism of gaining a fresh start on life. Though measures of time are largely human constructs and somewhat arbitrary, many people choose this time to make those oft-teased "new years resolutions" which display an extraordinary range of efforts to improve oneself through dieting, reading more, drinking less and so forth.
I want to resolve something together with you: let's NOT make any new years resolutions. Save one.
I invite you to resolve to radically accept yourself *exactly* as you are in this moment, with whatever imperfections you think you may have - the projects left undone, the messy closet, the extra (or too few) pounds on your bodily frame. Accept it all, with love. This is, in all its imperfect glory, our beautiful, human life.
Such radical self-acceptance contains within it a precious gift. It's the gift of lightening up, of letting go, and of allowing ourselves in that release to become empty.
Empty? Why would I want to become empty, you may be asking? What's the "gift" in that?
While traveling recently I came across an interview in the elegant magazine Cereal. It was a conversation with designer Kenya Hara who described his creative process as working to make each of his designs "empty," pointing the observer to the essence of what the object is: toothbrush, water bottle, soap dispenser, pen. "Emptiness is richer than fullness," he said. His words have lingered in my psyche ever since.
According to Kenya Hara, emptiness suggests a receptiveness, an openness to the world, which otherwise can be obscured by the "chatter" of our surroundings or the noisy projections of our own internal dialogue. By emptying ourselves, we become quiet. We listen more deeply to what surrounds us. We open to the timeless essence of things. There is, I believe, a deep freedom available to us in that, if we allow it.
So in this brave new year, I am inviting all of us to not resolve a thing, save for that of emptying ourselves - even of resolutions themselves. Let's listen together to the whisperings of 2017 and see where they might lead.
The timing of this maiden blog post reveals an irony not lost on me. It marks the beginning of a new adventure, coinciding with the emergence of this new year. 2017 is the year the CROCU/CoreMindfulness courses will once again be made available to the world: two in online formats, and one which will take place as a live retreat in September at our farmstead in Vermont. I hope you will join us for the journey.
May this new cycle of time, this new year, be all you wish it to be, in all its humanness and essential, imperfect beauty. May you know the fullness and freedom of emptiness...which opens to reveal the luminous core spirit within you.
Yours From The Core,