Lessons in Pleasure
Winter Scene (by Cheryl)
Well, yes, 2017 was an interesting year! I’m not going to go into just how interesting – there are plenty of people who enjoy analyzing and judging the past year. I don’t want to write about any of that! I want to talk about what lessons we each took in and that made our lives more tenable, lovely, and wise.
To me this year seemed like an upside-down duck. You know, the duck looks all serene floating on the surface of the water, but underneath she’s actually paddling madly! Instead this year the surface of things looked chaotic, and scary, and quite a bit mad, but just under the surface I could sense a deep, calm beauty, and love. It is there as sure as the apparent chaos, and I’m so grateful for that and the people I know who shine with that calm beauty for the world to see. I will keep tapping into that stream as much as I can! To me that is the Truth and also our saving grace.
Part of this experience for me was the influence of my Word of the Year – Pleasure. That choice was a bit of a reaction to my Word of the previous year, Flourishing. Let me tell you that was one intense manifesting and happening year! But despite so many dreams come true I felt that I didn’t always let myself enjoy the beautiful things that happened. So I chose a Word for 2017 that would help me to learn how to allow more enjoyment of life. Well, if you’re anything like me what you expect when you choose a Word isn’t always (ever?) what you get! And yet it seems that no matter what Word you choose the lessons are just what you need to know. This year was no different! Instead of enjoying more Pleasure I learned a lot about how I block Pleasure in my life. And I learned that regardless it is always, always available. This is something I already knew, in a sense, for in the past during my very worst times there have also been joys, and loves, and small treasures that elevate life to true beauty; and this year was no exception. But the ability to really let myself sink into the delicious pleasures of life was, well, still hard for me.
However, I must say I HAVE learned over the year, and I’m getting better at Pleasure! I’m also much better at addressing those crazy stories that shut Pleasure right down. (You know, like – you can’t have fun until ALL of the work is finished – as if that ever happens! Or you don’t deserve Pleasure! You haven’t done enough to earn it, or you aren’t good enough…blah, blah, blah!) But what I learned even more is that the key to Pleasure and to enjoying it is the willingness to embrace it! In fact the willingness to embrace it all has been the thing that has ushered in the most Pleasure for me this year. That has allowed me to go past the surface and find the joy and peace underneath what seems to be going on.
So, because I really want to learn more about all of this….meet my new Word of the Year for 2018 – EMBRACE!! I chose to be willing to Embrace it all n 2018. Whew! I’m really looking forward to this new journey. What will I learn now? That’s a little bit scary really! But, I find a good Word of the Year is definitely a bit of a stretch.
What have you learned this year? Was there a word, or phrase, or a song lyric that really stood out for you? If you chose a Word of the Year – what experiences and lessons did it bring you? What is your Word for 2018? I’d love to hear what you think and what you’ve learned!! You can email me right here: firstname.lastname@example.org (just copy and paste into your email address line). Or set up a free mini session here.
AND I will soon be sending out a free, short email series (to my subscribers – sign up here) on what to do with your Word of the Year once you have it! It’s packed full of ways to play with, interact with, and just get to know more about your chosen Word through the next year.
Lots of Love to you and yours, and wishes for a truly Delight-filled New Year!!!
How to Fashion the Holiday of Your Dreams
Oh, Christmas Tree! (Image by Cheryl)
Lofty ambitions, yes?? But it is definitely possible to enjoy the holidays no matter what is going on in your life! (I can say this from personal experience of major loss, huge upheavals, and fears of dark winter days). Even if there are no big events that have caused us woe we can hold a lot of negative expectations of the holiday season – crowds, grumpy shopkeepers, unpleasant relatives, money stresses, etc. On the other hand we may have very hopeful expectations, especially about other people in our lives, that are not realized and make us feel unsatisfied and unhappy. But I want you to consider this – the only true maker of happiness in your life is you. That is a beautiful power for good! And not just for you – it blesses everyone you come into contact with! I’m not saying you don’t derive joy from your relationships and situations, but that you are the decider of what does make you happy. And with that in mind I came up with my Holiday Dreaming Practice. I can’t tell you how much I have needed it over the years!!
The Big Picture:
As with most things I suggest, it all begins with the Big Picture – or dreaming of what you desire! I began my professional life as an interior designer and I still find the design process has a lot of relevance to creating anything – especially a beautiful life! In design we begin with the DREAM – un-edited, un-purged, wide-open desire!! This is the road to clarity, and also motivation and intention. Below are some questions to consider and write in a handy place (you know, so you can find it again!).
- What do you really want to do this holiday season? This is a list of non-negotiables (I really want to make Christmas cookies with my kids); and the things you have always wanted to do, but perhaps don’t (I really want to go see the Nutcracker ballet!); plus those delightful things that get pushed aside (I really want to spend time each day with a cup of coffee enjoying the Christmas tree and day-dreaming).
- How do you really want to feel? I’m guessing stressed isn’t on this list! By writing down and being aware of what you really want to feel you’re able to make it a priority, and even with the holiday rush that may come you can find those feelings – regardless of what you may be doing. My list includes feeling pleasure in the season, feeling the spaciousness of plenty, feeling the delight of creating a beautiful experience, feeling the joy of love, and the enjoyment of making things.
- What do you honestly expect? This is a question that can go several ways, but it’s key to be honest with yourself. I used to write things like a gift I wanted, or snow, or to be very happy, but the truth is that was what I hoped for. What I really expected was frustrations, dark days, cold weather, and sadness due to loss. It’s true that these things exist each and every holiday session, BUT (you were sure there was a but, yes?) I also can expect so many other lovely and beautiful things. What I learned was if I wasn’t aware, then my depressing expectations wound take over. They say what you resist persists – but also what you allow to lie in wait can jump you. That is OK if you will also make time for the beauty of life. Sadness, and fear, and angst are parts of life, but love, and joy, and peace are what I call the Truth with a capital “T”. Also they are what this blessed season is all about!!
Take a Trip:
Our next step is taking a Trip of Imagination. You can do this several ways. You could write out a story of the best holiday season you can imagine. Include all of the smells, sights, feelings, and joys you encounter. Put yourself right into this story and feel the pleasures now! Or you could create a board of images and ideas. I used to fill my office door with photos, ideas, and beautiful images that spoke to me of the holiday I wanted to have. Making a collage like this on your refrigerator and getting the whole family involved would be a lot of fun too! Just looking at the images is a reminder of what you want to enjoy. This year I don’t have a handy door so I made a Dream Board – and I think I like that even better!! A Dream Board is like an Insight Board (see how to make one of those here!) but the focus is on the dreams that you have but perhaps have stuffed away, or the ones you dismiss due to lack of, well, lack of anything (time, money, space, etc). This is an invitation to let yourself dream without limits and to tease out the things that haven’t come up in other parts of this process. I make my board and then go over each image and word to see what it has to tell me about the holiday of my dreams (see my board below).
Holiday Dream Board by Cheryl
Now we have some information about what you really want to enjoy this season! It’s time to pull it all together and come up with ideas of how to make it happen. This can require thinking about what a feeling or desire means to you. For example, if peace is a feeling you want to have then what does peace mean to you? What things feel like peace to you or bring you peace? Is being alone for a time each day what you really need to feel peaceful? Or is it more that you really want to have peaceful interactions with your family? What helps you to feel the deep calm at your core that is Peace? Here are the steps I use to go from dreams to plans:
- First go through your lists of feelings, desires, and what you really want to do (all of the things we’ve been discovering up to now) and highlight the most delicious and important ones to you. We’ve been gathering a lot of hopes and dreams, now we get to choose the ones we truly want to focus on.
- Next we’ll look at each highlighted desire. As I go through them I brainstorm ways to bring that into my life now. For example, I want to spend more time creating this year, so I made a list of things I’d love to make. I began with those I can do right now – without any shopping or other deterrents. I have all I need to make candles, so that is first on my list! I can also make collage art – yay! I love that! I’d like to make some ornaments too, but since I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to make yet I’ll need to play with ideas, maybe do some research, and probably go shopping. So, I’ll set that one aside for later. Make a list of your lovely ideas! I use different colors of highlighter to prioritize my list (pink for definitely and soon; yellow for yes, please, but a bit later; green for maybe, we’ll see, etc.).
- For feelings the process may be a bit different. I tend to allow myself to feel the feeling first. This requires setting aside time and then letting yourself sense into the feeling. Pleasure is one of the things I want to enjoy this holiday season so I listed some things that have felt like joy in the past. I imagined myself doing the things on my list. Baking cookies (yummy smells, tastes, and the fun of making), enjoying the process of decorating (creativity and play), listening to holiday music (restful pleasure and sweet memories), and candlelight (light, warmth and beauty) are things that have often given me pleasure – and they’re easy to do. But the key is to remember that the intention of feeling pleasure (or whatever you want to feel) is more important than what you do to bring the feeling about. I know I can bake cookies and feel stressed, frustrated, and unhappy! So, it’s vital to step into this process with the intention to allow yourself the enjoyment of it. And if it still doesn’t feel like what you want then delete it and move on to your next idea.
Make it Real:
Once you have some ideas that light you up it’s time to schedule these into your calendar! This is a key step to make things happen, but also to make it lovely and pleasing. This is where your prioritized list comes in handy. Editing is very important in interior design, but even more so in life! This is why I adore post-it notes! I write my hopes, dreams, and plans on them, place them on my calendar and move around or delete until it looks like a life I can love! If it starts to feel like too much then recall the reasons you chose these things to do, use those desires and feelings to flow through your plans and bring joy. And if it is still too much then just focus on the feelings you want and post those on your calendar. I’ve had extremely stressful holidays and simply remembering that love, peace, and joy are real things that I can feel at any time has saved my bacon frequently! What about things you feel you MUST do that you don’t want to do at all? Well, that is another entire topic, but I have used the choice to try and see the very best – even in awful circumstances – to help me enjoy at least parts of the experience. The comfort of sunshine, a cup of tea, a friend’s voice, a smile, or (and this has often worked for me!) an irreverent sense of humor can all offer you light in the dark.
Now go forth and enjoy all of the blessings of life and this beautiful holiday season!! I know I’m going to! By the way, this is a process I use at the holidays, but it can also be used for any event, season, or project that you want to really be clear about and truly enjoy. My wish for you is tons of love, blessings unnumbered, and the clarity of peace this Holiday Season!!
PS If you want to ask a question or tell me about your holiday plans (I’d love to hear from you!) you can email me at email@example.com. To join my email list (and receive a free mini-course on creating altars) you can look here. If you would like to talk I offer free sessions for 20 -30 minutes and that can scheduled right here.