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~ December 2013 Newsletter ~
Happy Holidays to you! Here we are: two days away from the longest night of the year ~ winter solstice, and two weeks away from 2014. For many of us, it can be hard to find a moment to pause during the holidays. This time of year can be both festive and stressful ~ some feel ambivalent about spending time with family; for others it's an especially pressured time at work; and for reasons that are as unique as each of us, a lot of folks have at least a few moments of seasonal melancholy as the days grow shorter.

I find that in December I often feel pulled in seemingly opposite directions: longing to stay home and turn inward for quiet reflection, while also wanting to connect with others in ways that remind me of life's joy, vitality and abundance.

This is also a time for taking stock of what the past year has brought, and dreaming about what the next year might bring. Many spiritual teachers talk about the power of pausing to let an experience register. When we do that, we have an opportunity to really land where we are. From that place, we can more easily move forward with presence and awareness. I notice that it's a lot easier for me to transition consciously into the new year when I allow myself to fully acknowledge and receive what I've experienced in the year that's ending.

In that spirit, this month, I'm sharing a practice that helps me pause and go inward in a generative way. I call it Letting the Year Register. Typically, I gather with a circle of friends and we do this practice together in late December. I hope you find it supportive and that it gives you an opportunity to let yourself be nourished by what 2013 has given you.
 
Sending all blessings as this year winds down and you welcome in the new!
 
Warmly,
Lea
Letting the Year Register

In many ways, Letting the Year Register is a gratitude practice; an opportunity to acknowledge what you have experienced in the past year and how it has delivered you to this moment ~ on the cusp of the new year. You might like to have your 2013 calendar or dayplanner nearby to help jog your memory.

You'll also need a sheet of paper that feels like the right size for you. I like to use an 18" x 24" sheet of newsprint so I can see the whole year at once, and this size also gives me plenty of room for writing down my experiences. You can use a smaller piece of paper. Experiment and see what feels comfortable for you.

Once you have your paper, you are going to fold it so you have one square for each month of 2013. Begin by holding your paper horizontally and folding it in half, and then in half again. Next, fold the paper into thirds. If you unfold it, you should have twelve equally sized (more or less!) squares.

You can now label each square with the name of each month, and begin to fill in the squares with notes about what happened that month. Here are some examples of the types of things you might want to include:

~ accomplishments
~ surprising experiences
~ challenges that you navigated
~ fears that you faced
~ what you let go of
~ major milestones in your life
~ memorable events or trips
~ new friends and/or relationships
~ goodbyes

Once you have filled in your paper, take time to look over the year and acknowledge all that you experienced ~ some of it joyful, some of it challenging. Give yourself time to come back to it and add notes about experiences that you may remember later.

Writing in a journal can be a great way to integrate and digest what you feel when you look over your year in this way. And if you do this practice with a group, you can share with each other in whatever way feels supportive. There may be some things that you want to reflect on privately.

Once you feel complete in your reflection, you might like to save your sheet of paper as a way to track what you did in 2013. You may also like to find some way to release it. I often participate in a New Year's Eve bonfire and let go of my year that way. See what feels right for you. 
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Our True Heritage

by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.

I want to offer a handful of them to you this evening.

Each moment you are alive is a gem,

shining through and containing earth and sky,

water and clouds.

 

It needs you to breathe gently

for the miracles to be displayed.

Suddenly you hear the birds singing,

the pines chanting,

see the flowers blooming,

the blue sky,

the white clouds,

the smile and the marvelous look

of your beloved.

 

You, the richest person on Earth,

who have been going around begging for a living,

stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness

and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress

and embrace life fully in your arms.

Lea Seigen Shinraku
I'm Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist and writer, and I'm passionate about self-compassion because I witness its power first-hand, on a daily basis. I have helped scores of people live with greater ease and joy by guiding them to transform self-limiting beliefs and wake up from the trance of self-judgment. I draw on my professional training, client work, more than a decade of daily meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. Learn more about me at www.leaseigenshinraku.com.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2013 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.


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