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The Blessing Jar

A couple years ago I found this idea in an article and I’ve adopted this practice ever since.  Last Sunday was the end of the first full week of the new year.  Having experienced the uncertainty and unpredictability of the last two years, I am confident things will continue to surprise and sometimes disappoint me in the coming year.  That has not dissuaded me from setting intentions and maybe even a few goals.  Yet that is not what the practice is about.

At the end of the week, or Sundays for me, I stop to reflect on the blessings of the week.  2020 was packed with the drama of retiring in a pandemic and moving across the country.  Last year, I have to say, sometimes I considered an uneventful week a blessing. 

A day is lived moment by moment.  A week is built by seven mostly ordinary days.  And a year is filled in by 52 weeks.  It’s fine to have a New Year’s ritual of looking back at the year but my memory vision is not what it used to be.  I have found a weekly recording of blessings both keeps me present to the gifts of my ordinary life and gives me a scrapbook of memories for my New Year’s Eve reflection.  I enjoy the challenge of looking for gifts as the isolation of our pandemic continues to disrupt the adventures we used to look forward to. Nature offers her gifts in the silence and isolation that always exists and I return to her often. Sundays I take time to take a page from a calendar or a small note sheet and fill in my blessings.  I tuck the note into the Blessing Jar and release it.  New Year’s Eve is a pleasant surprise as I (and family if they are here) pull the notes, one by one, out to review the year.  There are always more blessings than we remembered. 

If you have no Blessing jar, any container will do.  If you don’t have a page-a-day calendar, recycle any piece of paper.  The important thing is to take time to sit in gratitude and savor the blessings of the now moment.  If you think you have nothing to be grateful for, consider the mishaps that didn’t happen. I had one of those driving days yesterday. I sighed as I pulled into my parking space, grateful none of the accidents I narrowly avoided happened.  Grateful for my reflexes and a reliable car.  And a parking space by my door. It’s not too late to begin a Blessing Jar for 2022.  Find the gifts you might have overlooked and allow gratitude to guide you through this year. 

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Everything challenges us

Everything challenges us

As we turn the calendar page, we focus on new beginnings.  As we practice writing a new year, we imagine the new skills we will gain. We write goals as if there is a magic in the new year that will propel us past all the things that got in the way of reaching previous goals.  We affirm that this year the elusive something will be added and we will find fulfillment.  We affirm that this year, the persistent appearance of those things we do not desire will lessen and we will find fulfillment.  As I pondered what the elusive something might be and what the persistent annoyances are, I discovered that everything challenges us.

Joy calls us to lean fully into the experience without the reservation of fear that joy is limited and irreplaceable. We are tentative in joy, exhausting its fleeting time, and then lamenting its absence.  Joy calls us to dig deeper to discover the joy that comes from within and is not dependent on the temporary nature of the outer world.  Joy calls us to embrace the life we have.

Sorrow, which we would rather avoid or dismiss, calls us to resist narrowing our focus to only that which we have lost.  Sorrow beckons us to reflect on all that we have enjoyed, find gratitude in this moment for all that remains and expand our awareness into the fertile fields abundantly seeded with possibilities yet to be revealed.  

Love calls us to recognize it as our true nature, the essence of our being rather than something added to us from outside.  Love illuminates our wholeness and our integration into the wholeness the universe embodies.  Love dissolves the barriers and allows us to see we are not broken, waiting for some missing piece to bring us completion.  Love declares we are wholeness, not as a couple or a tribe but as an element of the All- ness we name God or Allah or the Divine.

Hate, the human distortion of our divine nature, calls us to examine what fuels our belief in separation. Whether we point to politics or religion or nationalism or simply fear of otherness, hatred is a creation of our humanity.  As we sift through all the elements of our hatred, we may ultimately uncover the evidence of our divine unity deep within our human experience.

Justice, that virtuous right outcome we seek, calls us to discern the lens of our rightness. What shapes our perception of what is right and what is wrong in any situation? Justice calls us to dismantle the constructs of our tree of knowledge, the duality of right and wrong, and imagine what will be most beneficial to each one.  Justice invites us to see it as a correction only necessary in our human floundering out of alignment with our best self and calls us to endeavor to live more fully centered in our best self. 

Injustice calls us to act in ways that support the dignity, the worthiness and the divine essence of each one.  Injustice is evidence we, as a community, have allowed our humanity to stray from its divine foundation and we are called, not only to find our way back to our divinity, but to act as examples for those still lost and wandering. Injustice is a temporary condition in the material world and we are called not to see it as diminishing the value of individuals nor as a permanent condition beyond our control to redirect.

However the events of 2022 challenge us, may we respond in ways that bless our lives and the lives of others.  May each challenge strengthen our faith and renew our resolve to not tire of doing good.  May we find wonder in the ordinary and splendor in the silence.  Let us create a 2022 which honors the ancestors, gives us joy in the present moment, and expands our vision for what comes next.