It’s Christmas Eve, 1976. Gregorian chants are playing in the background and my mom and dad are sitting quietly with their eyes closed, hands resting upward — thumb and index finger touching — while my younger siblings crawl on their backs and shoulders. My two older brothers and I sit nearby, holding our own meditation poses, bored, rolling our eyes and counting the minutes until this ritual will end. Growing up, my parents would regularly pull all five of their children — ranging in age from ten to one — into our library for a family meditation. As much as I complained, a part of me yearned for this spiritual practice. Especially around the holidays when it seemed the dark and light often danced and flickered in equal measure.
Spiritual renewal is essential to our emotional well-being. It helps us nurture our essence, feel centered, build inner strength, live in integrity, and trust life. It allows us to connect to a higher power, feel a sense of purpose, and experience meaning in our lives. We explore and nurture our spiritual lives in many different ways, including yoga, prayer and meditation, musical or artistic expression, and spending time in nature. Here are some of the daily practices that help nourish my spiritual life, during the holidays, and beyond:
We all crave sacredness and ritual in our everyday lives — not just around birthdays and weddings. Rituals can be both carefully planned events like a candlelight service on Christmas eve and casual but regular remembrances such as voicing gratitude before a meal or creating dedicated space in your day for contemplation. When we mark important transitions or milestones in our lives — whether it’s your daughter’s first period or your son starting kindergarten — we connect to the sacredness of everyday life. We remember that life is mysterious and we’re more than our to-do lists!
Stillness, whether experienced through prayer, meditation, or reflection, is our time to be alone and connect to our inner wisdom or our higher power — what I call our internal GPS system. It’s essential for all of us to carve out time for quiet reflection each and every day. One of the biggest gifts I’ve received from a daily meditation practice is the ability to live more comfortably with what is — whether that’s my girlfriend’s cancer or a car accident. Life is like the weather in Texas — constantly changing. Meditation has helped anchor me, so that despite this impermanence and turmoil, I’ve learned how to be still and find my center in the face of it all. I particularly like carving out time for contemplation and quiet on the Winter Solstice.
Practicing Service to Others
Mother Teresa says, “The fruit of love is service.” We are all interconnected. The more we reach out and are present to one another’s pain and suffering, the stronger we become and the easier it is to embrace the esoteric idea that we’re all one. I’ve seen huge shifts in consciousness occur when we reach out and help one another navigate this sometimes scary, often isolating and perplexing, but beautiful world. Sometimes that might look like serving Thanksgiving dinner at your local homeless shelter, and other times it’s helping out your neighbor who just lost her husband.
Living in the Present
Many great spiritual teachers believe that the answer to everything is to just “be here now” and that our suffering and emotional distress would end if we simply stopped resisting the present moment. One New Year’s Eve as I sat on the couch with a full-body cold — a splitting headache, body chills, and a nonstop runny nose — I thought about this principle. And as I watched the things I was missing — my friend’s dinner party, my son’s piano recital — fly out the window, I connected to my breath and felt myself arrive in the present moment. I sensed my resistance beginning to dissipate, and a feeling of peace slowly settled over me. I temporarily suspended my desire for things to be different, and I embraced that on the couch, with a cold, was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Three of my immediate family members died unexpectedly between my twenty-sixth and thirty-fourth birthdays. For years I let those losses dictate how much and how often I could experience joy. Any time I started to feel light, free, or happy, the old feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” would creep in. Can you be happy only if things are going your way and all the stars are aligned in your favor? I believe we’re born with the innate capacity to experience emotional well-being and joy; it’s our birthright to feel good. Happiness comes from within; we’re wired for it. We just have to remember to choose this moment to moment.
It’s easy to forget who we really are. To lose sight of what matters. To fall asleep and not remember how interconnected we all are and that we’re fully human and, at the same time, divine.
A regular spiritual practice — whether that’s daily prayer or meditation, being in a spiritual community, or singing — serves to anchor us. It grounds us and helps us navigate the challenges we face from just being human. It helps us stay awake. And begin to let go, so we can relax and trust in the rhythm and flow of life.
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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness and life balance teacher/speaker and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here. View all her services/offering here.