My home is a peaceful haven (even in January)

“My home is a peaceful haven and I feel safe and loved.” Louise Hay

I’ve spent the most lovely weekend with my family and extended family.  On New Year’s Eve as we stood in a circle singing “Yon Bonny Banks” I could have burst with happiness.  And last night (well, about 1.30 a.m), Lee and I were talking about how good our lives are, and how much we have to be grateful for as we enter 2012, and that we might be in the minority of people in the world who feel that way.   Home is where my heart is, and I’m so grateful now to live in a happy, peaceful home. 

Change starts with little things

Which is not to say it’s perfect – we are human, and the house itself needs some work done.  Just little things, but in 2012, we will make those changes – that bedroom carpet I hate will get changed, the bathroom will have the bath boxed in and a new shower panel put up, the dining room will have the shelves put in that I want, and we might change the floors in the kitchen and utility rooms.  Little things that need done that could so easily be done.  That’s a good metaphor for life, really – it’s the small changes that make our life better after all.

Our haven, our cocoon

Even with these things that could be changed, our home remains perfect enough to be our haven, a cocoon from the madder and busier outside world.  I love my friends passionately and love spending time with them, connecting with them, being challenged by them, or supporting and encouraging them when they need it, as they do with me; but it pales against the passion I feel for my home now, and the peace and joy I know there.  (And I qualify that with the truth I learned in 2006/7 that if I lost that house tomorrow, I know it’s only a house as what matters is the people in it, and I know I can create a home wherever I want to do that.  I can do the same with a haven).

Creating your haven

One day, I’ll run “The Haven” as a retreat from a madder world – but for now, I’ll create my own haven as that longer journey begins here.  If you want your own haven, you will have to put some initial work in.  De-cluttering is vital – throw out what is no longer useful or attractive to you (or pass it on, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder).  De-clutter the closets and drawers as well; don’t hide stuff away behind closed doors – it is stil there, and still draining your energy.  Everything in your house should be there because it brings you happiness, either through memories connected to it, because of the fact it makes your life easier, or because it brings pleasure to your senses, so critically examine your belongings through those filters.  And as you take stuff away, decide to fill any spaces that are left with what brings you joy.  This does not need to be costly – it takes time and imagination, but you can even use other’s “junk” to do this, or you can go to many of the budget home places and find what you need easily.

Our haven and happiness

I’ts YOUR haven so it needs to reflect you.  If you don’t know what your haven might look like, start thinking and journaling on that one.  Use some home magazines and see what draws your eye, stick them into your journal and then copy what you see – you’ll personalise it easily to suit you.  Our haven has a lot of little pointers towards happiness – signs that say “laugh,” and “love,” posters and plagues that say happiness, ornaments that give us joy.

We also have a “happiness tree” where we attach little things to it that either make us happy or are memories of things that gave us happiness in a year.  This is our third year doing it, after a friend on Facebook said that they didn’t want the Christmas feeling to end, and I realised I felt the same, and the reason was because it was a season of general goodwill and happiness.  The first year, I got a tree branch and painted it and attached things to it, then we bought a metal tree with lots of branches and I’m just about to remove the various tickets, butterflies, corks, and tiny ornaments attached to it to prepare it for 2012.

Christmas trees and the January blues

 This year, I also do  not want to get rid of my Christmas tree because it’s so beautiful – but much and all as I feel that, I know that come mid January, it’s tinsel would look decidedly odd, and it’s particular baubles would look out of place.  The Christmas tree is a symbol of light in the middle of darkness, it’s symbolism steeped in ancient history – and yet, I’ve wondered why we don’t have something similar for January, seen as the “most depressing month because of the shortage of light (and usually lack of money caused by Christmas celebrations).   It’s like January is a waiting month – between the joy and celebration of Chrismas, and the extra light we start to see in February, heralded by my favourite flower, the snowdrop.  Yet if I see it as a “waiting month” or a “month to get through,” then I waste 31 special days of my all too short life.  So how to “get through January” while living in the present, so I’m not wishing the days away? 

January Joy Ritual

A few years ago I started to plan good things into January – massages, weekends away, catching up with friends – things to look forward to.  This year, I’m adding to that by creating a January Joy ritual.  Rituals are so important in life, particularly where change is required or to cope with change, as there is safety and peace and calmness in them (and what is Christmas with trees and cards, and presents if not a yearly ritual?)   Enjoying my home will be key to this, (so I can snuggle in it with warm rugs and the light of candles and good smells), and candles and lights will remain critical. 

I was going to hit the sales for a special candle holder, but then I remembered that we got a number of tall red candle holders for the tables at our wedding in 2005 that come out each Christmas, and I realised that I could use these, with some sort of baubles somewhere, as these reflect the light.   Now all I need is 30 quotes/songs we can use for each of the days, as we will light these at dinner time, and keep them lit for the rest of the evening – not as a countdown to light, but an appreciation of light in the middle of darkness..

What ritual might help you in January, and how can you make your home a haven, or more of a haven than it all-ready is?

And in the silence, I will hear

Leaving 2011 behind

I’m loving what people are affirming their intentions for 2012 will be… and there is a pattern there that I don’t remember seeing before.  It’s as if many know that external changes are desired, but the ultimate aim is to change internally in some way, to expect more from their lives or appreciate what they already have, or to grow in some way.  2011 is a year that many are glad to leave behind.  It gave opportunities for growth, it allowed others to accept “what is,” and yet others suffered the loss of loved ones or dealt with serious illness or dis-ease they never anticipated, and had they thought about it in advance, would have known they could not have coped.  Yet they all have survived, albeit changed. 

Lessons learned & learning to let go

Who knows what the next year will bring?  Since there is so much that is beyond our control, all we can do at the start of a year is set our intent, and ask that what happens is for our highest good.  I’ve had a most unusual year that I could never have foreseen this time last year.  It’s a year when I’ve made many mistakes, learned a lot of lessons about time. Energy, trust,  expectations and assumptions, and made a lot of new friends, (and probably enemies).  It’s also been a year when slowly, I’ve started to let go of things (including pride and my need to do everything myself) and people,( including those who wished to go of their own free will and those who just left without saying anything).  In the past, those who left or distanced themselves from me would have left me feeling dejected and rejected, but it’s testament to how I’m changing that I’ve allowed them to go -and asked that the Universe blesses them with love and joy, strength and peace as the go.  In itself, this is a miracle for me.  

Miracles R Us

Since I blogged on my intention for 2012, I’ve had a lot of questions about what a miracle is, and why I think I should see these – and frankly, I’ve no real idea, except that I’ve been drawn to this book many times and found it by a wonderful “accident” when on holidays.  I may study it and at the end know it’s not for me, but I start reading it with an open mind – and what IT says is that it doesn’t matter who or what you are, miracles are for you.  It doesn’t matter what your past  or background is, just know that they “undo the past in the present, and thus release the future.”  And franky, I’m up for that.

Passport at the ready

At this point, I’d say a miracle would be something that is way beyond what I could expect from natural laws, and indeed it might even be what others call grace, or others may call serendipity.   The Course in Miracles seems to have many definitions that I’ll be exploring for myself, and I expect it will be quite a journey internally and externally.  

And I will be exploring for myself.  I have a wide range of friends with various beliefs or “no” beliefs and I can see that a few of them do not help in living on a daily basis.  I know some who believe strongly in God who are deeply unhappy but appear jolly, and I know some who have no belief in God and who on the surface appear to have it all together, yet are also deeply unhappy and live lives that are so much less than they long for.  They are also those who think a focus on keeping your attitude positive is a waste of time, which I found to be quite interesting…  I start with a belief in a higher power, that is outside of us all and has positive intent for my life, and who is actually interested in me as an individual human being.  In that respect, I’m with Einstein, who said we should see the Universe as a friendly place, and that’s as good a view to take as any, given how the Reticular Activating System works.

Walking in truth

Once upon a time, I knew the truth, and that was the truth, the whole truth – and the only truth.  I fought hard to defend that truth from attack, and I lived from a place that knew that mine was the right truth, but now I know differently.  Not only do I have quite different beliefs about absolutism and fundamentalism, I know that my responsibility is simply to find MY truth and live it and breathe it.  It’s none of my nosy business what others do.  It is not for me to judge your walk against mine, or compare your beliefs with mine except to see which “fit” me.  Indeed, I do not have the time to judge or compare, if I am to concentrate on my walk and be open to my own soul lessons!  Instead,  knowing I have no right to meddle or interfere, I respect your right to walk in your truth, to learn your own lessons, to hear the voices you need to hear for the growth of your soul.  My only responsibility is to me; – and believe me when I say that this attitude is a miraculous change.

New Year’s Eve Silence

Today is New Year’s Eve (called Hogmanay in Scotland), and I have much to do to get the house ready for our guests and for tomorrow and next week.  I know that many are doing a massive house clean and tidy to “sweep out the old,” a great metaphor of what we want for our lives.  I’m not doing that, as I’m still not feeling that well, which at least reminds me that self-care and health are indeed to be a priority, but the girls have helped me do the essentials.  Normally, I would push myself on through it, but since I can’t shift what I’ve now had nearly continuously from September, I didn’t – and didn’t feel guilty because I knew I needed to take the time to heal.  And to be silent with my journal – and what I read was about immersing oneself in the immense silence to find God, the Divine, the Universe within in order to catch fire.  I haven’t started thinking about what that might mean….

Silence is a rare thing these days across the world, and a rare thing for me, given I fill my time up with people, social media, words, music, news, facts and anything that I believed would help me to grow and continuously improve.   But in leaving little space to breathe, this greediness for growth and knowing more meant that there was all-ways noise.  In being a multi-tasker instead of a mono-tasker, perhaps all I’ve really done is pick up little bits of lots of things and hold on to these, when little of it is of value to others, or to my soul.   In the noise, I cannot hear my heart speak.   So 2012 means it’s time to instead be greedy for silence and to now absorb what I all-ready know, and to focus on less instead of more.  And in the silence, I will hear, and in the hearing, learn to move from fear to love.

2012, A Course in Miracles and Healing My Life

11 years ago, I made some choices that led to significant personal changes for me and many others. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, while the choices I made would not be the ones I made now (and I won’t beat myself up because I have the benefit of hindsight), I know that those choices were actually about me starting to own my own power, to stand up for my life, to speak up and speak out. I did this at a time when I’d say I was entirely emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. As someone who then became very independent, I understood what “self help” really was – and knew I needed it, and since that time, I’ve grown immensely as a human being. I’ve lost or significantly reduced the hardness, the judgemental black or white side of me, and the narrow mindedness that once defined me. I’ve learned some hard lessons along the way, and I’ve equally known love and kindness and grace.

At this time of the year, I normally spend time looking through my journals to find clues for my theme for next year. I don’t “do” New Year’s Resolutions for a number of reasons, mainly because I find they don’t work for me, and since 2005, I’ve had a general theme for the year. That’s really important for me as I am highly curious and get bored very easily, which is a less than totally helpful combination when it comes to focus. I find the theme helps me filter out things. Does what is presented fit with the theme? Then go for it! Otherwise, I can decide whether or not it takes my energy up or not.

So 2011 was to the year of balance and outrageous joy. I’ve already written about why I’m so thankful I chose that theme, as the year unfolded in most unexpected ways and proved to be the busiest and most challenging of my life. Without it, I’d have collapsed, exhausted. Although I know I didn’t reach this year of balance and outrageous joy, I know I kept heading in the right direction at least. I don’t need to review my journals as I did that in September on our two week retreat at our various havens, and I know that there are themes that are already appearing. Did you note that? Themes, plural…and that’s got me frustrated, because if I don’t focus on one thing, I’m not likely to hit it… but there are so many things to focus on, how do I choose. So out came my journal.

I know that above all, this theme must be MY theme. I know already that:

– it is a year I will learn to love, inspire, nurture and encourage myself
– that self care and health will be a vital priority (and on this one, I’ve bought a cheap calendar and I’m going to cross off with a big red cross every day I do 30-45 minutes exercise and eat in a way that nurtures me (with the idea that I don’t break the chain of crosses; this is the “one significant change” that will make the most difference in my life as Steven Covey suggests). I’ve also found a local yoga class (the only other time I did yoga I ended up hurting myself as I pushed myself too far) and I’m intending to limit my time on Facebook and Twitter significantly – and even more importantly, I’m going to limit the amount of new books I buy and read, and the amount of internet reading I do too….
– that it could be a year of adventures in grace and gratitude, but then I’ve already had those years (2007/2006)
– that Louise Hay’s and Heal Your Life will feature large in it
– that A Course in Miracles will feature large in it, and that as I heal others, I heal myself, and it’s time for me to accept Perfect Love..
– if I am to be authentic, then I need to update my status and my journey so if I say I’m going to the gym and then don’t go (because the car park was full, yes Geoff), I put that in too, to give the fully honest account…

I know all this because of various events and “synchronicities” that have happened since September; what’s been bugging me is the overarching theme. And today I realised why – it’s because I’m wanting it to be perfect. (Yes, Brene Brown, I’m still working on the Gifts of Imperfection and may just read your book again!) It’s that duality of wanting to grow emotionally, spiritually as a human being at the same time as knowing that I need to slow my life down and just be. Which at this point I would say is an impossible task, even though I’m very tired and continually fighting bugs of some sort. And I can be pretty confident it IS, given that every year I’ve told everyone “next year, I’m going to slow down,” or “next year, I’m going to live a quieter life.” Now, my friends just shake their heads and say, “no, Caroline, you’re not going to do that, don’t be silly!”

Then – in the way of synchroniticies- I “chance” upon a video by the Spirit Junkie who talks about the Course in Miracles and speaking your truth, and learning to be a miracle worker. And laughingly, I think, ” I could make this the year of Lessons in Miracle Working,” as this concept of how we are all here to know miracles and work miracles is something I’ve just started learning about. Then my ego steps in; this is too grand a theme, too “out there.” But I’m learning to move my ego out of the way and ask the question, “what if.” What IF this was to be my theme? And having moved ego out of the way, the inner critic steps up to the mark, and reminds me that actually, my health, and learning to love and nurture myself is actually more important than this, and really, it’s more important that I just slow myself down and BE. And then my head kicks in and I see how it may be important to slow myself down, but given the various projects I’m involved in, my long commute and busy days in my job, the meetings I attend, the time I spend on social media and emails, connecting with people and catching up with people. All of which is important to me, and none of which I can see any good reason for eliminating, so I can see no way in which I CAN slow down, even with my “48 hour days” and “time tardis” that I know enables me to do so much more than many people (which is not in any way a compliment to me but is instead evidence of me wanting to do it all, push myself to the limit, keep busy, keep moving towards perfection). I laugh and think “flip sake, it would take a miracle to get you to slow down, woman, AND it will take a miracle to keep you focussed on any health and fitness goals.”

And then I really laugh. If it would take a miracle, when why on earth would I NOT call this a year of Lessons in Miracle Working? There will be no greater miracle than this. In the process, I expect that I will learn to love and nurture myself and I will make my health and fitness a priority: these too will be miracles.

I’ve already enlisted one friend who will keep me accountable, and remind me when I’m getting off track. We’ve arranged to meet once a month to review honestly how we are doing. I have three other friends who will do the same once I ask them, my guardian angel-friends. I’m going to need their input; and I’m going to need a lot of miracles. And then I pick up my new “I can do it 2012 calendar” to get it ready for Sunday… and read the introduction, which says…

Last year had many restrictions, and it took hard work and diligence to build the foundations you desired. This year you will find much more freedom. Welcoming change will allow your boundaries to expand. Let the old ideas go, and do something different or unusual. Always remember that Life loves you and will support you in all your endeavours.” Louise Hay

Time to let the old ideas go.