It happens every new year – we get this wonderful feeling of starting anew, of being restored in some way, of having our life force boosted, of even being given another chance to realize our dreams. A big part of that feeling of being restored comes to us as a gift from the winter solstice, when the sun returns, and with it the return of nature’s awesome life force. Here in Amherst, Massachusetts, we are deep in winter, with perhaps two feet of snow on the ground. It’s bitter cold most days, with temperatures falling to single digits most nights, and barely reaching the low 20s during the day. Yet, you can feel the spring energy in the sunlight, which is so much stronger, fuller, and muscular now, as compared to what it had been in November and December.
Life is returning to us. The Great Spirit has blessed us with the energy and the opportunity to begin again. And naturally, we make promises to ourselves of how we want to improve our lives.
In that spirit, I want to offer a few suggestions of my own on how I want to make my own life a little better this year. Perhaps some of these ideas will work for you, as well.
- Less bread. The first thing I want to do throughout the new year is to try to keep my insulin levels a little lower by eating less processed foods. This is a challenge because I love good bread. For most of my adult life, I’ve maintained the habit of eating toast on a regular basis, which is unwise, to say the least. My joints haven’t become toast just yet, but I want to be more flexible. I’m steaming the bread now, which I enjoy. Still, I’ve got to cut back, so this year my goal is to eat bread only occasionally, such as on the weekend, and stay with oatmeal porridge or soft rice for breakfast.
- More greens and adhere to the 3, 3, and 3s. I love green vegetables, especially collards, kale, broccoli, watercress, napa cabbage, and bok choy. They’re rich in minerals and phytochemicals and therefore powerful alkalizers and immune boosters. Typically, I eat greens twice a day, but I want to include them at breakfast more often.
One of the recommendations that I’ve been making to my clients, and want to follow more religiously myself, is to eat the 3, 3, and 3s – which is to say, three servings of green and leafy (which means at least one serving at every meal); three servings of round or sweet (again, a serving at every meal), and three servings of roots each day.
The green and leafy not only boost immunity, but also bind oxygen and release it into our blood (another way they alkalize the blood). Their life force opens the upper part of the body, including the lungs, heart, and liver.
Sweet and round vegetables heal the diaphragm, especially the liver, stomach, pancreas, and spleen. They also strengthen the third chakra, the center of our identity and sense of self.
Roots tonify and strengthen the lower organs, especially digestion and reproduction, along with the second and first chakras. As much as possible, I want to do the 3, 3, and 3s.
- Find a new rhythm to support my life. When life is working, our daily routine follows a wave pattern that is essentially composed of work (or energy expenditure), followed by rest and play (or energy recovery). Work is essential and enjoyable, except when it becomes excessive. Then there’s too much energy expenditure, and not enough energy recovery. The expenditure part of the wave is stress-producing and oxidative. The recovery part of the wave is anti-oxidative and healing. When the expenditure part of the wave is excessive, and the healing wave is weak, we get into trouble. We all must train our bodies to heal by respecting, and sometimes emphasizing, the recovery part of the wave.
When I was younger, and focused more on writing books and articles, I had a good rhythm each day, and every week. Most of my week was spent writing, with a few consultations sprinkled into the mix. I traveled to teach and counsel, and to research books, but the traveling was well spaced across the year and didn’t demand too much from me. I had enough time to rest and play a lot of tennis. Now, at the age of 56 (and about to be 57 this spring), everything in my life has gotten bigger and more demanding. All too often, my schedule runs me – I don’t run my schedule. That’s not good. Somehow, my schedule got bigger than my capacity to control it. I want to change that. Somewhere in the midst of these demands is a new rhythm that can support my life and produce a new balance. I need to consciously search for that balance. How can I do it? First, by being more conscious of the rising and waning energy levels – which is to say, work when the energy is rising, and rest when it’s waning.
But there are deeper waves and subtler forms of information within us that must be listened to and respected. And these subtler energies are whispering in my ear that play and fun may be part of the answer to many of life’s problems.
As I have gotten older, I play less. Work occupies too much of my life. I’m starting to see that illusion more clearly. It’s true that work can be play – at least until it becomes excessive. Then it’s not fun any more, and certainly it isn’t play. At that point, a different form of play must be engaged in.
I want to find my life’s rhythm by honoring the healing power of play, enjoyment, and fun. Work is a given, it’s inescapable, but play can be forgotten and postponed too easily. I sense that with more fun, everything will come more into balance. All of life, including the work, can be lighter and more playful. There are lots of ways I play, of which I am committed to doing more. But it’s important to find new ways to play, to explore life a little more, and find the wonder and surprise in living. I want to grow my capacity for wonder. I think play is the doorway to wonder. In this way, play may be sacred, because it exposes me to unexpected encounters with the divine.
- To live more fully from my soul. My soul keeps telling me that all is well and that there is help at every corner and in every change. My soul tells me that the fabric of reality is woven in love. It calls me into that reality on a regular basis and I experience its peace and restorative powers.
My mind keeps telling me that the ground is giving way and that every change brings difficulties and failure. My life has proven otherwise, but my mind is relentless. I witness it doing its tricks all the time. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I tremble with fear.
Over the years, I have become more adept at shifting out of the mind and into that realm where love holds me and assures me that despite the fire that’s burning in my mind’s eye, the peaceful and beautiful stillness is always present and available to me and everyone else. I want to grow my relationship with my soul. It feels like a calling.
There are many ways to grow the relationship with the soul, which lives in the field of divinity and is never separated from God. The simplest way is to sit in meditation and prayer and feel the presence of my inner life. Witnessing that presence enhances my awareness of it and allows it to come more fully into consciousness. But the same thing can be done when I sit by my window and look out upon a sunlit afternoon, or at the falling snow.
When I do that, I feel a subtle yet overpowering shift in perception. Another reality emerges from beneath the one that I typically experience. In that emerging state of being, I experience the absolute fact that all is well, that there is help at every turn and with every change, and that the fabric of reality is woven with love.
For that, I am willing to sit by my window and look out at the sunshine, or the falling snow, or the rain, and wait for my soul to take possession of my senses.
And who knows? If I do more sitting and watching this new year, I may find myself experiencing more and more wonder. I may even eat less bread.