gifts that give giftsDec 24, 2023
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
— Parker J Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
I suspect in one way or another you have spent some time reflecting on the last year, what the holiday season, and winter brings to you... exploring what your life is telling you who you are.
Perhaps it is the global chaos and various wars in the world at this time alongside the various calls for peace that have resulted in me paying more attention to considering how I can cultivate peace within...
Perhaps it is knowing that I have closed some chapters in my 'book' this year, and opened new ones...
Whatever it is, there is something about knowing that it all starts by listening to what is emerging and creating space for that which is both thrilling and terrifying.
It is just a space to dwell in for a moment...
and to notice what appears...
A friend of a friend of a friend shared the free resource 'Year Compass Booklet' on Linkedin. I downloaded it and started to complete it a few days later. I discovered...
The power of the simple invitation in the booklet enabled me to be more ready:
Prepare your tools and the space around you
Close your eyes and take five deep breaths
Let go of your expectations
Start when you feel ready
At this time of year — whether you are reading this pre or post Christmas, celebrating Christmas or not, are seeing family or are alone, and whatever else may be coming up for you — the idea of spending a few seconds to breathe and make space is inviting.
It reconnects you to your inner being... to the pause... to the space within you...
And from there you are able to listen to what your life is really telling you.
Spending more time with the year compass I found:
- The importance of a year of celebration (more about that in a minute!);
- in 2023 I participated in 13 courses/trainings — best was the improvisation courses with The Free Association, worst was a poetry course that didn't seem to be what I wanted it to be; and
- I have had six unexpected invitations — the most recent was to a Christmas Carol service at Westminster Abbey (more on that in a minute!)
I invite you to complete your YearCompass and find insights you didn't expect to discover. I don't recommend resources lightly, and it is really good. I'd love to know if you do it.
Something I always used to feel guilty about, but then I came across the image below and my whole attitude towards celebration has changed.
It reminds me of the importance of celebration. Being a descendant of the largest forced migration in the world (the partition of India) I read the above piece as an invitation to celebrate with joy, abundance, and pleasure... I am celebrating not just for me, but also for my ancestors who didn't have some of the opportunities that I have. And I am more than grateful just to be able to have freedoms and good fortune that many still don't.
— What does this piece bring up for you?
— What is the 'jubilee' that you can allow yourself to have?
In 2023 I have been blessed to visit Westminster Abbey twice, I say blessed because it is an amazing place full of history, pomp, and ceremony. The first was celebrating Professor Anthony Reddie, one of my PhD supervisors, giving the 37th Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture (the replay is available here).
And the second was a Christmas Concert that a good friend invited me to.
Some may wonder why I went to a Christmas Concert — yes, I was the only visible Muslim there! For me it was a new experience in the world famous Westminster Abbey — even the director joked that Christmas is not as busy as the Kings Coronation which took place in the Abbey earlier this year. For various reasons I didn't join in the carol singing, and to be honest, I was surprised that some others also didn't. It was a great event, good to catch up with old friends, and make new ones. Going was a reinforcement of the many things that Christians and Muslims have in common regarding how we view Jesus and Mary (peace upon them both).
Sometimes it is important to be in spaces that you wouldn't normally go in, or where you are the only one, or where its full of unknowns.
— What is a new experience that you could have? Something you wouldn't normally do?
— Is there a new experience or adventure you think I should have? Please let me know... adventure is one of the things that makes me feel alive.
A gift that gives gifts
After a discussion with a work colleague I wanted to write and let him know how much I appreciated working with him... that then extended to me messaging the whole team and sharing my feelings with them all. It was a vulnerable moment, and I had no idea how it would be received.
Within the 24 hours that followed my initial message, each member of the team shared something about how they loved us all working together. These moments of affirmation are important, and free, and the best gift available. At a time when there is a focus on physical gifts, sometimes a heartfelt message in a card, or a few written words of affirmation sent in an email mean more than you will ever know.
I had no idea that a short message could have bought me some of the best gifts I have received this year.
Do you have someone that you wish you could give a gift to but haven't yet? Why not send them a wee WhatsApp or email; if you really want to push the boat out why not send a short video or voice note so they hear and see your appreciation.
Lastly, a little reminder to find moments to take care of yourself in this busy time, or in any time where you have a lot on...
“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
― Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
All my best to you and your loved ones,
PS - And a last minute post script added at 5:32pm UK time. I just got back from the market.... I love going out in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve ― I am attracted to the hustle and bustle, the families out together, the last minute bargains, and the quality of the energy in the air! As we walked past a bookstore my husband noticed the book Murdle.
It is a book my adult niece bought a little while back and said she loved it. We were speaking about it in the house yesterday and my husband loved it so much he bought one. It is a book and a puzzle and a murder mystery all at the same time! If you don't want to get the book I discovered that the daily Murdle exists and is available here.
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