Weaving a "Tapestry of Contentment"

I finally got a book I’d been hearing about for a while, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach, and it’s lovely! I’m finding it enormously comforting, like a cup of cocoa on a cold winter's day. It’s beautifully written and immensely inspiring.

I've been feeling frazzled, and so was Breathnach when she began writing the book.  She says in the preface, "I shared the revelations that came while trying to reconcile my deepest spiritual and creative longings with often overwhelming commitments to family and work."

I'm underlining all over the place as I read, and I wanted to share some of the insights that have particularly resonated with me so far.

She talks about six threads that, woven together, create a “tapestry of contentment.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? The full quote reads: “There are six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security.” Who wouldn’t want that? I’m in!

The threads are gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy.  The book is organized by date, with one entry per day; she focuses on each thread for two months, so I’m currently reading about gratitude. Breathnach recommends counting your blessings, and says, “See if you can’t get to one hundred. So much good happens to us but in the rush of daily life we fail even to notice or acknowledge it.”

This really struck me. It’s so true, and it’s something I’ve talked about here before. But I continue to find it difficult to be grateful consistently. One of the tools she suggests is a daily gratitude journal, to help us maintain that focus. I’ve started one, and am trying to be more aware of all the little things there are to appreciate—even on off days. My life is so rich and full of goodness. It's a shame to pay more attention to the minor irritations or parts that are not going well and miss the greater good.

Something else that really struck me was this: “much of my struggle to be content … has arisen when I stubbornly resisted what was actually happening in my life at the present moment.” Oh, that is so me. I resist reality all the time—how about you? I’m always thinking about how to improve things, remove things, or attract new things, so I often go about in a haze of vague dissatisfaction.

Breathnach talks about the importance of accepting what is. She explains that when you surrender to reality, a softening occurs. “Suddenly I am able to open up to receive all the goodness and abundance available to me because acceptance brings with it so much relief and release. It’s as if the steam of struggle has been allowed to escape from life’s pressure cooker.” That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And it makes complete sense to me.

Further, she adds, "blessing whatever vexes us is the spiritual surrender that can change even troublesome situations for the better. … If you're sick and tired of learning life's lessons through pain and struggle, blessing your difficulties will show you there's a better way."

I was thrilled to see that another tool she recommends is a morning ritual! She says, "give yourself the gift of one hour a day to journey within. You need enough breathing space to allow your heart to ponder what is precious. Or perhaps you can let your imagination soar to the twilight where dreams first dwell. … This much I know: if you go deep enough, often enough, something good is bound to come back to you." And this: “Stressed souls need the reassuring rhythm of self-nurturing rituals.” Yes!

I’m going to enjoy savoring this book each day for the rest of the year. I’m sure there will be plenty more insights and ideas to share with y’all! Meanwhile, I’ve got some creative projects brewing, including a big one that launches in April, so for the next few months I’ll be posting here every other week instead of weekly. Talk to you in mid-February!

IMG_8124.JPG

Sharing the Load Makes it Lighter

This week I feel compelled to share one of my very first posts again. So many people today seem to be struggling and in need of support. The world can be a difficult, overwhelming, and isolating place. We often think that we are the only ones who are having a hard time, but that is definitely not the case. If this post helps you, I’m glad. If you don’t need it today, it’s likely that someone you know does, so feel free to share.

You Are Not the Only One

Your fear, your pain, your secret shame—whatever wakes you up at 2 a.m. or keeps you from falling asleep—you are not the only one to experience it. If you were to share it, someone else would understand. Someone would say, “Me too.” It may not be your spouse, or your parent, or even your best friend—it may be a stranger whom you’ve never met face-to-face. But rest assured, they are out there.

Yes, they, because there’s probably more than one. This burden you carry feels all the heavier because you think you carry it alone. That is not true. If you speak the secret in a safe place, others will speak up too. They will say, “I feel the same way,” or “I’ve done that too, and I’m so ashamed.” The relief you will all feel when you find each other is enormous. Sharing the load makes it easier to carry, and sometimes bringing it into the light makes it disappear.

I witnessed this on a private forum for a class about writing through your pain to the love on the other side. These women—complete strangers at first—gradually began to share their most secret secrets, and the acceptance and understanding is overwhelming. One will post a gut-wrenching admission of something which has smothered her in shame and guilt for years, and within minutes, others are posting. Forgiving, commiserating, sharing their similar experiences. Each one feeling like she alone had done that or felt that way—until the dozens of others spoke up.

It is powerfully uplifting to witness the healing that happens when you share what you think is the worst part of you and it is met with compassion and love. It opens the way for peace and joy. Feeling afraid, ashamed, or guilty blocks joy from entering your life like a clot blocks blood flow—and it can be just as life-threatening. Dissolving that clot by sharing your truth will clear the path for all the goodness that is waiting for you.

If you are suffering, I encourage you to seek out a safe place to lay your burden down. Look for support groups, classes, or organizations that might yield a space for you to share. Your tribe is out there, I promise. Online classes are great because it can be easier to be truthful when you’re not actually in the same room—or city—as the other people.  I have a special love for Martha Beck’s classes because I find they tend to draw people who are either also in pain and seeking to transform, or those who are or want to be healers.

Be cautious about the group you choose—speaking up only to be met with judgment can be devastating. I’m not a huge fan of most religious groups because judgment just seems to be built into organized religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful congregations out there.

If you aren’t ready to share yet, you could try reading memoirs by authors who have had similar experiences. Maybe start a journal or write a letter to an author you feel a connection with (you don’t have to send it). Sometimes getting everything on paper helps you release it, and imagining a sympathetic response can help you feel understood.

Whatever you do, know that there are others who feel like you, who have experienced what you have. What I am learning is that none of us is truly alone. We are part of a collective love, if we will only open up and welcome it.

 

532.JPG

You Are Not the Only One

Your fear, your pain, your secret shame—whatever wakes you up at 2 a.m. or keeps you from falling asleep—you are not the only one to experience it. If you were to share it, someone else would understand. Someone would say, “Me too.” It may not be your spouse, or your parent, or even your best friend—it may be a stranger whom you’ve never met face-to-face. But rest assured, they are out there.

Yes, they, because there’s probably more than one. This burden you carry feels all the heavier because you think you carry it alone. That is not true. If you speak the secret in a safe place, others will speak up too. They will say, “I feel the same way,” or “I’ve done that too, and I’m so ashamed.” The relief you will all feel when you find each other is enormous. Sharing the load makes it easier to carry, and sometimes bringing it into the light makes it disappear.

I’ve witnessed this recently on a private forum for a class about writing through your pain to the love on the other side. These women—complete strangers at first—have gradually begun to share their most secret secrets, and the acceptance and understanding is overwhelming. One will post a gut-wrenching admission of something which has smothered her in shame and guilt for years, and within minutes, others are posting. Forgiving, commiserating, sharing their similar experiences. Each one feeling like she alone had done that or felt that way—until the dozens of others spoke up.

It is powerfully uplifting to witness the healing that happens when you share what you think is the worst part of you and it is met with compassion and love. It opens the way for peace and joy. Feeling afraid, ashamed, or guilty blocks joy from entering your life like a clot blocks blood flow—and it can be just as life-threatening. Dissolving that clot by sharing your truth will clear the path for all the goodness that is waiting for you.

If you are suffering, I encourage you to seek out a safe place to lay your burden down. Look for support groups, classes, or organizations that might yield a space for you to share. Your tribe is out there, I promise. Online classes are great because it can be easier to be truthful when you’re not actually in the same room—or city—as the other people.  I have a special love for Martha Beck’s classes because I find they tend to draw people who are either also in pain and seeking to transform, or those who are or want to be healers. Be cautious about the group you choose—speaking up only to be met with judgment can be devastating. I’m not a huge fan of most religious groups because judgment just seems to be built into organized religion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful congregations out there.

If you aren’t ready to share yet, you could try reading memoirs by authors who have had similar experiences. Maybe start a journal or write a letter to an author you feel a connection with (you don’t have to send it). Sometimes getting everything on paper helps you release it, and imagining a sympathetic response can help you feel understood.

Whatever you do, know that there are others who feel like you, who have experienced what you have. What I am learning is that none of us is truly alone. We are part of a collective love, if we will only open up and welcome it.