I have just finished decorating the Christmas tree, a tradition I have enjoyed for many years. As each year passes, I am reminded of the many blessings I have received. Each ornament tells a special story, a decoration from our wedding cake, a pink fairy from a trip to Glastonbury, England, a crystal ornament from a ski trip to Taos, New Mexico, a little glass bird that was my grandmothers and a chewed up Santa Clause that reminds me of the Christmas when Bella-Rose was a puppy.
As I reflect upon this magical time of year, I gaze up and see the beauty that surrounds me. It is a pretty winter afternoon and the sun is shining, I am warm and enjoying a cup of magnolia-rose tea at my desk. Everyday brings its own special and unique gifts for me to enjoy. As I look out the window, I see the bright orange leaves of the Bradford Pear trees at the end of the garden, bringing such delight to my eyes. What a gift to watch the trees change from bright green leaves to this lovely vibrant orange. One-by-one the leaves gently float to the ground and soon the tree will be bare, a time for nature to rest before the white blossoms appear in the spring time. I marvel at the beauty outside my home office window and the gifts I receive as the seasons change, all this work performed by Mother Nature, while I sit at my desk and observe and am blessed.
I planted the Bradford Pear trees eleven years ago when we built our home in Austin, Texas. I dug a deep hole and placed them in the earth and I have watered them during hot, dry Texas summers and I mulch every spring and autumn to protect the roots from the heat and the cold. In comparison to what I receive from the trees, I am humbled. I receive shade in my garden, birds singing, beauty, privacy from neighbors and squirrels that run up and down the branches and trunks. What a joy to be able to lay my eyes on those trees when I look up from my computer screen. The sight of them is as refreshing as soothing eye drops for tired, red eyes that have been looking at a screen for too long!
Sitting at my desk I watch the sunset. As the day comes to an end, the sky turns a pretty shade of pink. I sit and observe the ranges of deep pinks, oranges and gold's streaking across the evening sky. This is yet another gift presented by Nature. I do nothing, I give nothing. All I need to do to receive this gift is stop typing, and pay attention to the gifts passing my window. I miss many of them during the day; I am too wrapped up in work, and what I need to do next. But then there are those moments through the day that I look up and notice what is happening around me. I focus my attention outwards and when I pay attention and live in gratitude and awe, I always find that life is giving me yet another gift to unwrap and take pleasure in. How utterly amazing! And yes, here comes another one! The houses in the distance are all lit up with Christmas lights, twinkling and shinning bright. I enjoy each sparkle and color, and I did not even have to put them up! I did not need to climb up on the roof or up on the ladder, I did not buy them and I am not paying for the electricity either! But here I sit surrounded by a field of grace, as I behold this marvelous sight!
On this day of the Winter Solstice, I reflect on the bountiful blessings in my life and I reflect on how life is constantly bringing me gifts to unwrap, all I need to do is take the time to notice them and accept them with gratitude and grace. Sometimes the gifts that arrive bring up feelings of frustration, disappointment or anxiety, but if I can step back and look at the message or the lesson the gift offers me, then the gifts that arrive wrapped in brown, torn paper with no pretty bow, are the gifts that will later reveal themselves as a blessing in disguise. Living in the spirit of gratitude, reflection and service to others I find more purpose and depth. I believe that finding a way to be of service to one another is the highest path we can choose, and it is a way for me to give back for all that I have received.
Developing a daily practice where I can spend time in quiet inner reflection can help me transcend ordinary thoughts and mind-chatter, allowing the intricate beauty and connectedness of life to be revealed. "This day will never come again" wrote Thomas Merton, and as I sit in my home office, I will never see the sunset this way again with these precise colors splashed across the sky, or these Christmas lights twinkling or hanging exactly this way, I will never have my little dog sitting at my feet just as she is tonight with the intoxicating fragrance of rose and magnolia as I sip my tea. This evening, this day will never come again. Life is precious and each day, each sunset, each moment is sacred and a gift.
On this day of the Winter Solstice, I am grateful for the darkness and for the light, for the day and for the night, I am thankful for the gifts that come wrapped in pretty paper with big bright bows and I am thankful for the gifts that come in the brown paper too. Cultivating the art of self-reflection helps me to continue noticing the gifts everyday and to live with gratitude and to trust that what sometimes appears as turmoil is a future blessing in disguise. Everyday I fall down in my attempt to live a conscious life, I make mistakes, but I get up and try again. My goal is not to live a perfect mistake-free life, but rather to live a life were I am not restricted by the illusion of fear – the fear of not having enough money, time, friends, and opportunities. Through the practice of inner reflection, I come to realize that I am completely supported by life; I always have been and always will be!