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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
My Pleasure Jar
This is a little tool that’s very flexible. It’s a fun, easy way of gathering goodness!! I call it “The Jar” (I know, fancy!). The one I’m using now is a Pleasure Jar because I’m recording and thinking about pleasure in my life (for my Word of the Year – more about that here). It is super simple and quick, and you may have even done this before for a gratitude practice. Here’s how I like to do it:
- Choose a jar you like (or a box works too) and find a good place to set it where you’ll see it. In the past I’ve put mine on the kitchen counter, on an altar, on my bedside table, and on my desk.
- Cut up some little pieces of paper to write on and clip them together. Set them and a pen by the jar.
- Choose a name for your jar. This “name” is the thing you want to gather more of – it could be pleasure, or gratitude, or your Word of the Year (like mentioned before); or it could be love, dreams, humor, lightness, beauty, intuition, support – it can be anything really. The question is what do you want to notice more of in your life? What do you want to encourage? Then name your jar, you can even put the name on your jar if you want.
- Next you decide what you want to record – I like a bit of a formula, but you can do this however you like. My paper slips say: Today I appreciate __________, it gives me pleasure by__________. I like to begin with appreciation and then see how that offers me pleasure (or whatever I’m gathering). On the back I note the date & then slip it into the jar. Today I wrote: Today I appreciate my Instagram friends, they light up my life in so many ways and that gives me pleasure.
- Now, consider when and how you’ll record what you’re gathering. I like to write on a slip of paper everyday and put it in the jar. Then at the end of a week I take all of the slips out and look them over. The longer you do this the more you have to look at! I usually do this for at least a month. My Pleasure Jar will be collecting goodness until the end of the year.
- Finally, think about what you want to do with the slips of goodness you’re collecting. You may just want to look at and enjoy them each week. They’re reminders that life IS good and that things are well. That is a lovely awareness practice all on it’s own. But you can do more! I’ve created small books from them (A Collection of Pleasures). I have used them in my collage art. I’ve pulled one a day as a reminder, or like an oracle card message. This time around I’m reading them each Friday and then posting my pleasures of the week to Instagram.
I love this little practice! It’s a great way to become more aware of the beauty life offers you right now. The more you look for the things you want in life, the more you find you have them now. What a lot of satisfaction this brings! And it’s a powerful place to work from to create MORE of what you desire in your delicious life.
You can sign up here to receive my posts via email (I send a letter out with links and more about every two weeks). I’d love to hear from you!! On that same page you can contact me, or schedule a free coaching session.
Mini ICAD art and haiku by Cheryl
I’ve been thinking about Pleasure a lot lately. It’s my Word of the Year and I feel I haven’t really given it a fair chance yet. Last year I had a fabulous (and even scary effective) Word relationship – I was very dedicated and spent time each month with practices and playing (I even made a cool book) to really let that Word teach me and expand my life. I got married and bought a new house, among other things that certainly made the word Flourishing come alive for me.
So now I’m pondering Pleasure, my Word for this year, and how I can learn more about pleasure in the next two months. Hey, it’s a tough assignment, I know!! But seriously, it can be tough. Pleasure may be seen as so wrong depending on what we’ve learned from our society, culture, religion, etc. It’s believed to be selfish, foolish or silly, sinful, lazy, wasteful, etc. But it is also what gives life its zing – its love, delight, deliciousness, reward, and joy. I have a lot to learn about pleasure still! And also about dealing with those miserly voices inside that tell me it is just so bad.
I have learned (and relearned!) some very helpful things about pleasure, and myself, over the past year. Things like:
- Each moment and each task has the potential for pleasure.
- Misery is always an option, but so is pleasure. Some of my most poignant and pleasing moments have happened in the midst of miserable times.
- Pleasure is an inside job – like most things – it comes from inside me, and the more I access it the easier it becomes to feel and enjoy it.
- I have resistance to pleasure. There is that little voice that says “Now, it wouldn’t do to feel too good.” Really?
- I’m still learning what pleasure is to me, and what it isn’t. What is assumed to be a pleasure isn’t necessarily for everyone. A gooey, rich chocolate dessert – it seems it should be a definite pleasure, but not really. A perfect autumn leaf that lands right at my feet? Well, yes!! That is pleasure for sure. (But, you know, I would take a slice of pumpkin pie…)
- Sufficient sleep is a pleasure in its own right, and sets me up for greater pleasure the rest of the day. This is true of meditation and yoga too. Often I find true pleasures are things that keep on giving.
- I also learned I don’t allow myself some pleasures because I believe in a lack of time. Can you imagine that?!
With that in mind I’m setting aside time and assigning myself a few projects and practices to help me play more with Pleasure. One is a Pleasure Jar that sits on my altar – I feed it pleasures each day. Another pleasure I’m going to pursue is to complete the ICAD project I began back in June…this is about making art one index card a day. (The image at the top of this post is one of my ICAD’s – so much fun! This idea is from the amazing Daisy Yellow.) I’m also going to create a weekly pleasure list that I will post in my Instagram feed through December. As I do this I’ll be working on those pesky mean voices that say pleasure is always bad, or I don’t have time for it. I expect to have a whole lot of fun the rest of the year, and to learn more about pleasure in my life.
Do you have a Word of the Year you want to spend more time with before the end of the year? What is your Word? I’d love to hear about it! You can contact me at email@example.com or here. Or find me on Instagram. For more ideas of ways to interact with your Word of the Year you can look here (and scroll down).
Hugs and Happy November!
By the way, my Altar Course is free and shares a creative, fun way to clarify, access & activate your dreams!
Image by Cheryl
Life lately has been – well, that is a long and winding road – let’s just say it has been intense. For most of us, I think. For me it has been transformational. When the world is changing, and you are changing, and people around you are changing – it’s hard to know where to go next, or sometimes even how to feel. You can lose track of who you are now, because that is a moving target. You can feel lost, and sad, and miserable. I know I did. As a response to all of this I’ve been on a one woman reinvention trip! I’ve invented, discovered, and revised a bunch of life tools and practices to help myself and my clients deal with the chaos of changing times.
These are simple tools. Some are short, some take longer. Each one alone is helpful, and together they are a recipe for figuring out who you are now, and loving your life more each day as you embrace a revised situation, or a revamped you. I’ll be sharing these tools one at a time over the next few months on my blog. This post is the first in the series Simple Tools for Changing Times. (If you would like to receive these posts via email you can sign up here.)
Insight Boards: A tool for getting clearer about your true self and who you are right now.
So, yes, this is a lot like a vision board only instead of looking for or emphasizing a future vision it focuses on what is true now with deeper insight. That is why I call them Insight Boards. They’re very versatile, but for this series I wanted to share how to make a board that connects with your deeper self to tell you who you are and what is up for you right now.
When I create a board I always begin with a question. Here are some examples for your Insight Board:
- Who am I, or who am I now?
- What do I need now, or over the next month?
- What is changing for me now?
- What is my foundation in life right now? What can I count on?
- What are my values now?
- What are my skills now?
My Skills Insight Board by Cheryl
Above is my most recent Insight Board. For this board my question was “What are my skills now?” I wanted to know more about what I have in my personal skill set that will help me navigate my current life situations and concerns. I wanted to ask my true self more about who I am. The process is like a visual conversation with your “still, small voice” and taps into your intuition.
So, that’s the first step – choose a question. Make it about now. What do you want to know more about? What feels confusing to you? What area of life or self could use some more clarity? Consider this and write yourself a question. And to make this really relevant to you – find a photo of you and copy it (or print it out if needed). This will go right in the center of your board. Go ahead, put it there now!
Next gather some supplies to make your Insight Board collage:
- Surface – I use 12×12 card stock. This makes a smaller board, but I can always use 2 or more pieces as needed. However, you can use anything that has a bit of stiffness to it and can hold the paper, and tape or glue.
- Magazines/catalogs/printed internet images – Use what you have, or pick up a few magazines to read and then use them for collaging. Pinterest can be a fun way to gather images, but I recommend good old paper and scissors. It’s fun to play with scissors, and paper, and glue – plus it’s a pleasing activity that you may have set aside in this computer-focused world.
- Scissors and adhesive – I use double sided tape, but glue sticks work well too.
And that’s it – simple! Next you’ll choose your images and words. My board ended up with a lot of words on it – and that’s just fine. That’s what spoke to me as I looked through my supplies. Here is how I do the process of searching:
- Find a comfy spot and grab a delicious beverage. You are here to relax and enjoy yourself! Place your magazines beside you and pick up the first one.
- Before you choose anything remind yourself of your question for the board. Now, follow your heart – this isn’t a job for thinking, or using your head – it’s for your intuition.
- Then choose words and images that resonate with your question. Don’t overthink things, or worry about having too many, or too few, or too large, or too small, etc. – choose what you feel may be an answer to your question. Or just choose what you’re drawn to, you may not know why until later. When you feel done – you’re done!
Next, let’s look through what you’ve chosen. Go through your pile of selections and start to temporarily place images on your board as you go. Trim around the images and/or words. During this second time through your images you’ll be able to tell if each piece is right, or not. I check in with my heart and if it feels right I set it on the board. Other images and words you’ll set aside. (These I save and perhaps use on another board later). Keep going through and moving the images around on the board (or boards) until you feel done and it looks pleasing to you. If I have too many images to fit on one board, then I just add another piece of card stock. Now stick everything down! You have an Insight Board!!
The next step is the “insight” part. I like to wait a day, or at least take a break, before I do this part. When you’re ready grab some paper and a pen. Sit down with your board nearby. I start in the upper left hand corner and pay attention to each item in turn. I think to myself – “Hmmm, that picture of a book, what does that tell me about my skills? Am I a writer, reader, teacher, self-help junky, good with words, etc.?” If I’m not sure what it means or is telling me I may ask it – “Hey, what do you want me to know? What message do you have for me?” These are symbols that you’ve chosen for their meaning to you – so, it is a conversation! Go through each image and word and see what you can learn from it. Write it down. Sometimes it’s the juxtaposition of images on the board that speaks to you. Just let it tell you its message. Now hang that lovely board up where you can see it and enjoy it!
The information you gain is something you can sit with, see what it suggests to you. No action may be desired, just understanding. Other times you might want to take steps based on what you’ve learned. From my skills board I was inspired to create a sanctuary for myself on my back patio, and to look more at what I am writing and reading. I was reminded that I love seasonally decorating my home but had gotten away from that lately. But the main thing the board reminded me of was the skills I have and have been told I have by others. This was something I really needed as I was feeling pretty lost, and even worthless. I actually almost didn’t choose that question because I thought to myself – I have no skills. Really? That made me laugh because, of course, we all have many skills. This practice was a great way to get in touch with myself and care for myself too.
I hope you create an Insight Board! Take time for yourself, connect with yourself, enjoy the process of making something, of looking at words and images, of losing yourself in your intuitive mind. If you have any questions about this tool, or anything, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
PS – I’m currently working on a free guide to making boards and the types of boards that I use for myself. Making vision, dream, or insight boards is one of my favorite tools!
Autumn Mums Bring Pleasure
What is pleasure? Now there was a question I could get behind this year! If you also like to choose a Word of the Year then you’ll know the joys (and inevitable frustrations) of embracing a word, its meaning, and also its presence in your life. When you choose a word at the beginning of the year, you don’t know what will happen that year and how that will impact what you learn from your Word. And to me that’s the best part! Seeing what life has to share with me through the lens of a chosen word.
If you’ve never chosen a Word of the Year you can learn more about it in these posts (Word post Q1, Word post Q2, Word post Q3) I never wrote the 4th post in this series last year, so, I am going to remedy that right now! In each of the previous posts I shared ways to engage with and enjoy your Word. This post is for the 4th quarter – the end – of your Word exploration. There are things that may happen at this point in your journey that could throw you off track, and I’ll talk about those. I also want to share more tools for enjoying your Word – I like lots of variety, don’t you?
If you began in January by the 4th quarter of the year you’ve spent 9 months with your Word. You know if you like it, if you’ve had fun with it, struggled with it, forgotten it, hate it, etc. All of those things and more can happen, and it’s OK. It isn’t a test – it’s a process of understanding something and whatever you learn is fine. But at this point you may also want to do something a bit different. If you’ve ignored your Word you may want to re-embrace it. Some people just want a new Word for the rest of the year. They’re done with this one, or are too frustrated to continue traveling with it. Some people want to revitalize the way they engage with their Word for the end of the year – they want new ways to play. Some want to forget all about it until December and choose a new Word for next year. It’s all good!
Regardless, this time of year I like to take look at how my Word and I have been getting along. What have I learned? What did I hope to learn, or do, when I chose this Word? Have I done that? Do I feel differently about this Word now? Have I made any changes in my life because of this Word experience? Have I grown or changed? How can I take what I have learned and enhance my life? You can ask these questions at the end of the year too, but I like to check in now so I can make changes in course, if desired.
Answering these questions may give you some idea of how you’d like to enjoy and embrace your Word for the rest of the year. It’s so helpful to just stop and see where you are with this practice. I’m usually pretty surprised at my answers because while I have been thinking about the Word and employing it I don’t always stop and see how far I’ve come. I find there are usually things I still want to accomplish related to my Word, and I still have 3 months!
If you want to keep engaging with your Word here are some ideas for more ways to play:
- Create your own challenge on Instagram or Facebook. I did this by making a list of prompts that related to my Word – Pleasure. I used words like peace, flowers, sleep, good food, etc. for my 30 day challenge on Instagram. Then you can take photographs, write a haiku, or create art that embodies how this prompt relates to your Word of the Year for you, and then share it (or not – you can always use the private setting so only you can see it). You could come up with a unique hashtag to use for this and keep adding to it as the year goes on too. You can see mine on Instagram at #tigyearofpleasure.
- Speaking of haikus, you could write one a week about an experience that week that embodied your Word of the Year. Or write another type of poetry, or you can always journal about it too. The main thing is creating a kind of writing ritual that connects you to your Word.
- Create a Word of the Year group and help each other to enjoy Word play. I like the idea of field trips! So, for example, if your Word is Grow you could all visit a garden center or a botanical garden. At the next meeting you might watch the sunrise for your friend’s Word Light, and later visit a waterfall for another friend’s Word Flow.
- You can always do field trips on your own too (or instead). One could be to the library or book store to see if there are any books that help you to understand your Word better.
- I like to look up the definition(s) of my Word and also the synonyms and write out the ones that really appeal to me. Then I may post them where I can read them or share them with an image on Instagram.
- You can have a Word date where you do things that relate to your Word for a special outing, or even for a full day. Ask yourself what activities, places, music, people, etc. feel like your Word to you. I did this last year and I began by asking myself what things felt like Flourishing to me. The list included going to a restaurant for a really fresh salad, walking around a green and growing park, listening to a fun playlist about abundance and money, and planning a business retreat. When you’re done be sure to make notes of what it was like, what you learned, how it impacted you. I’m thinking I have a Pleasure Day in my near future!
I hope you are enjoying your Word of the Year! For some reason this practice is especially meaningful to me during the last part of the year. I like being clearer about what I want from my Word, and how I can enhance my life through its wisdom. I also tend to work better with shorter deadlines! So, I get more motivated to take more tangible steps. Best wishes to you and your Word!
Lots of Love,
You can contact me at email@example.com. Or set up a free 20 minute consultation for any questions you may have, or to share your experience. I’d love to hear from you!
Art and photo by Cheryl
It has been a spell since I’ve been here writing and sharing. You know, that happens sometimes: life is busy, we don’t have anything to say, or we have too much to say, but aren’t certain how to say it. That has been my dilemma (if dilemma it is). So, here I am easing back with a favorite poem by Rumi about love – because I’ve been thinking a whole lot about love lately!
and became like blood in my body.
It rushed through my veins and
encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked,
I saw one thing.
Love’s name written
on my limbs,
on my left palm,
on my forehead,
on the back of my neck,
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love.
With lots of Love from me to you,