05 February 2012

Spirit of the Season (Dec. 2011)

My life has opened up wide of late. It is as if the universe has decluttered my heart and time, forcefully removed anything and everything that no longer serves my highest good in order to create room for something new, something yet to be revealed. I can kick and scream and protest, or I can accept these changes with a soup├žon of grace, staying open and willing until that mysterious something new is unveiled.

I have no idea what or who is on the way, nor when it will arrive. I only know that I have far too much time on my hands, and that the message has come to me from several directions that I should use this time to be of service. I am a firm believer in “doing the footwork and turning over the results,” so I have started being of help where I can, figuring that whatever steps I take now are leading me to where I need to be. I spent three hours on Sunday stuffing envelopes for Democracy Unlimited; today I proofread a directory for a nonprofit organization; and I am on the waiting list for the next training through Schools of Hope, through which I will help a child with literacy skills, primarily by reading to them every week.

Not much, but these steps are a start. It’s funny. I went to hear Derrick Jensen speak last week, and afterwards went up to him to tell him that I’d just fallen in love with him and to give him my card. We spoke briefly, and then he thanked me for my activism. Did he think that I was a political organizer? I always laugh when people assume so, saying no, that’s the other side of my family. (My cousins are all political activists.) I almost corrected him, almost explained that I am not an activist, that there is nothing to be thanking me for. But I didn’t.

Later, thinking about the concept of activism, I realized that maybe I am an activist in my own quiet little way. If the personal is political, then how I live my life is a form of activism. I raise happy organic hens who provide delicious, inexpensive eggs for six or seven households. I live as lightly and as consciously on this earth as I can. I love as many people and critters as I can. I move through this world with honesty and kindness and compassion, with a smile and kind words for strangers, and a hug for the guys at my grocery store. I cook delicious meals and feed friends whenever I can. I teach people how to be more efficient so that they can be their best in the world. And I donate money and, when I have it, produce from my garden to Food for People.

Which brings us to Christmas and this season of giving. By now, you’re probably deep in the thick of it, sucked into the vortex of rampant consumerism. I don’t suppose I can convince you to side-step the seasonal insanity, especially if you are among those who truly enjoy the giving of presents. But can I entice you to reframe your concept of giving, if not to replace the giving of things, then to augment it?

Here is what I ask of you: instead of stuff, give of yourself. Ask yourself, “Where can I best be of service?” And then go there. Do it. Be of service. This is what the season is really about. It is about coming together as community, sharing our stored bounty with each other in celebration, helping those who need help, gathering around the fire for warmth as we brave our way through the long cold nights and too-short days. It is about making sure that those who need food, have food; who need shelter, have shelter; who need warmth, have warmth; who need love, have love. We all have something important to give. For goodness’ sake, let it be a gift of real value, a gift of service and heart.

Quotes of the Month

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. – The Dalai Lama

When I am searching for the ways to stay in love, I hear Maharajji saying, 'Feed people, serve people, love everybody, tell the truth.' So I serve more … and I find myself more in love. What is wonderful is that the love lies not outside as a reward, like a gold star for being a good helper, but within the act itself. For when you offer yourself in service, it opens your own heart so that you may once again taste the sweetness of your own heart’s innate compassion. – Ram Dass

Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God. – Eric Butterworth

Recipe of the Month

Winter Salad

Wash and cut beets into 2 to 3 inch chunks. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle, then remove skins and slice.

In a salad bowl, combine:

Sliced roasted beets
Toasted pecans
Satsuma tangerine segments
Sliced green onion
Crumbled gorgonzola or feta cheese

Toss with dressing made from:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves crushed garlic
a splash of maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

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