Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meaning Basket for a Mindful Holiday Season

We've put up our Christmas tree early this year, two full weeks before Thanksgiving. The plan is to decorate it during the November calm so we'll be able to enjoy it even while busy with rehearsals and preparations for the annual LUNCH Holiday Show next week, and tired week that follows, when we'll be putting away mountains of scenery, props, and costumes.

With all that's been in the news lately, I've been especially aware of the gulf between the attitudes of Thanksgiving, love, community, and gratitude this holiday is meant to represent--with it's intended mindfulness of others' needs--and the actual Season of Consumerism and over-consumption that follows instead. I know I sound like a bit of a Scrooge, but personally I don't need any more things, or hobbies, or toys for entertaining myself. I have much more of everything already, and I suspect that most of the people I know are in this same situation. Our planet doesn't need the impact of manufacturing all this, transporting or storing it. I'm aware of my own excess, but at a loss to know what to do to help the many, many people in this world who have far less than they need for basic survival and comfort.

With all this in mind, I've decided to make a small change in the way I approach the coming season. In effort to change my holiday habits of over-doing, over-wanting, and over-buying, I've created a different sort of symbolic container to place beneath our Christmas tree. It's a second-hand basket--a Meaning Basket--to contain my growing awareness of all the good that already exists in my life, as well as tangible reminders of the material, hopeful, and helpful longings I feel.

To this end, I've cut small pieces of scrap printer paper from the recycling bin, gathered a handful of pencils, and placed these together in convenient places all around our house.  On the slips of scrap paper, As I think of them I'll write the names of the many people, things and opportunities I already have in my life, then I"ll drop these into the Meaning Basket under our Christmas tree. (The piles of paper scraps and pencils all over the house are something I've been using for a long time to capture creative ideas and reminders for my TO-DO list.)

I'll focus, especially, on those people and things I never seem to get around to enjoying as fully as I would like. Then, I'll take steps to do the special things I always intend to do, but never seem to get around to because I'm too busy with shopping, rushing around, or looking through the mountains of holiday catalogs that come in the mail each day. As for my unused possessions, I'm either going to make a point put those things to good use in the coming year or give them to someone else who will. How many of these are things I've asked for and received for Christmas in the past?!

I'll also write down the needs I see in our community, the many things I see and feel drawn to help with. There are so many that I often feel pulled in all directions, overwhelmed, with no plan of action. In January, as I'm looking ahead to the coming year, I'll sort these out and choose something to follow through with, something tangible and manageable to make a start.

Our close family has asked to keep gift exchange simple this year with primarily homemade, handmade gifts, gift cards, and time spent spent enjoying each other's company. This feels right to me.

Mindful of this, I intend to use the basket and scraps of paper instead of spending December thinking about what else I might want and don't really need, or wandering through stores and shopping online trying to figure out what to get for people who've told me they don't really need anything else either. When I see an ad for something I might want, I'll get the scissors and cut out a picture of it, like I did when I was a kid, then drop that picture into the basket where it can sit in the context of all the good that already exists in my life. Thus, my inevitable longings for shiny, new things will find more balanced context, a context where I can better decide which acquisitive longings to indulge.

All this may be asking a lot of a second-hand basket, but such a simple container seems like an appropriate symbol for carrying the Thanksgiving mindset of gratitude and mindfulness forward into the coming Christmas season. It is my hope that the value of my new Meaning Basket and the insights it holds will stay in place long after our Christmas tree has been put away.

Will you join me by filling your own Meaning Basket this season?

©Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Sunday, November 22, 2015

20151120 Happiness = New Words + New Melody

Happiness is listening to the radio on a long drive home after a satisfying day of work, with a beautiful, pink-clouded sunset filling the sky all around me.

Happiness is finding a program on the radio playing songs Stephen Sondheim said he wished he'd written. Among the selections was one I'd never heard before, a lump-in-the-throat-joyful-AHA-moment-feeling-at-the-end sort of song, written for a voice just like mine.

Happiness is coming home to discovering that I already have the sheet music for this song among the books on the shelves in my studio.

Happiness is setting a goal to learn to sing and play the song this week. I will sing it for others sometime soon, in the hope of giving them that same lump-in-the-throat-joyful-AHA-moment sort of feeling it gave to me :-)

New Words, new melody. This is happiness.

I'm not going to come right out and tell what the song is. Not yet. Though there is a big fat clue among the words you've just read.

And here is another big clue.

©Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Thursday, November 19, 2015

20151119 The 3-Acre Woods and Beyond

I ventured into formerly forbidden territory and survived!
Though the same can't be said for whatever creature this was whose bones I found lying in a woodland thicket.

I'm just back from a walk in our woods AND the unexplored stretch of woods to the south of us. 

I'd never gone very far over our property line in the past because I thought I'd be trespassing. No one could have seen me if I had, but that's just the way I do things. 

Then, last week I learned that the 40-plus acres adjacent to ours, to the south and east, had been purchased back in 2013 by Avalonia Land Conservancy, Inc​.  The property is now designated as the Mistuxet Hill Preserve, linking the whole woodland to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center​ and permanently preserving all of it from development. Forever!

All this time, the nearby woods where public land. I had no idea!

Today, I walked right on past our property boundary and wandered far off through thickets, around fallen trees, and over a little trickle of stream nestled between mossy boulders. There were no trails, besides those suitable only for deer. I had to make my own way through the tangle. I found many interesting corners and a few mysterious "treasures" along the way--animal bones, including a large skull, several different kinds of mushroomy things I never seen before growing on downed trees, stones with crystals sticking out of the mossy soil, and giant leaves that looked like they might be chestnut (could they be?) from a now bare, unidentifiable tree.

I've just returned from meandering for more than 2 hours, exploring the "wilds" of the woods in our own back yard. I feel deeply peaceful and contented, something I can't explain with any specificity, but truer than true, nonetheless.

I had been holding myself back for years from this ready source of adventure and exploration simply because I incorrectly assumed it wasn't possible or permissible. 

There's a broader lesson here. 

Moving forward, I may rely a bit less on my usually cautious assumptions. 

You'll find me out push boundaries in my own quiet way, while venturing into the unknown territory outside my own back door.

©Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing