Joyeux Noel

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Adair Heitmann 2015

When I was a kid, growing up in the Presbyterian Church, we’d sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve by candlelight. The overhead lights would dim in the huge, fish-shaped sanctuary, with cathedral-height ceilings. The congregation hushed, candles were lit one from another, then the magic began. We sang all three verses of the ancient carol, Silent Night, slowly raising our candles in unison, then reverently lowering them.

As a youngster the feeling of majesty and awe, and even a connection to a deeper and broader, unexplainable mystery filled me year after year. This connection to my own sense of spirituality stayed with me as I grew into an adult. I’ve explored Buddhism, Paganism, Wiccan and other earth-based religions, Shamanism, Native American teachings, and Transcendental Meditation. Now a Unitarian Universalist, I’ve found a home in which I can have all my personal, eclectic beliefs, and still be part of a community.

Christmas time comes and how the heck do I celebrate? I still believe in a presence of Love and Grace that is bigger than I am, because I’ve felt it’s comfort over the years. I still believe in Santa Claus, don’t you? Santa certainly brings joy to the season. I love the pagan-based live fir tree in our living room, adorned with colorful lights, and handmade ornaments, chronicling our interests, friends and blended family traditions.

Every year I wait to be presented with a Silent Night experience. I don’t go looking for it, it always come to me, when I least expect it. Last Saturday night it’s kind elegance entered our family room. Having a teenage son who loves history, he chose the movie, Joyeux Noel, to watch with us while we enjoyed carry-in sushi for dinner. The movie is set in December 1914. Based on true stories, it dramatically portrays an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front that allowed soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other’s way of life.

When our son was young, we read a book together about this amazing historical event. Tears dripped down my face as we read about the soldiers, French, German, and Scottish, all singing Silent Night together. Fast-forward to this past weekend, watching, Joyeux Noel. When the acclaimed tenor turned soldier starts to sing Silent Night, alone, unarmed on high ground between the trenches, the hair on my arms stood up. My heart opened, my soul smiled, and I wept tears of mercy and kindness and hope. Tears of charity and clarity. I was given a blessing in my own home.

This holiday season, no matter what you do or don’t believe in, I wish you moments of peace, decency, and dignity.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to grace surrounding you when you least expect it.

You’ve Finished Your Novel, What Now?

AjahnChahYour project, artwork, memoir, essay, is done. The beginning, middle, and end of your creative process complete. What’s next?

How often have you jumped into the next project immediately? Or started developing your writing platform for publicity before your computer has even cooled down? I admit, I’m guilty.

What helps me focus on the transition time is something I’ve learned as a long-time practitioner of the art of meditation. I’ve learned to exhale, stop, and be present in the moment. Completing a project, especially one that has taken me a long time to finish, has its own sense of fulfillment and timing. Many inventive projects are fraught with unsettling feelings accompanied by ups and downs of exhilaration, despair, and ecstasy.

This morning I’m reminded of the following quote by a Thai meditation teacher.

Do not try to become anything.
Do not make yourself into anything.
Do not be a meditator.
Do not become enlightened.
When you sit, let it be.
What you walk, let it be.
Grasp at nothing.
Resist nothing.
– Ajahn Chah

Creativity and wellness message for today: Embrace who, what, and where you are, right now.

P.T. as Meditation

Today, it’s almost been two weeks since my knee surgery. Note to self, “Don’t stress the meniscus of right knee doing a StairMaster exercise routine, then carry laundry up the basement stairs.” Oh well, one complexly torn meniscus and arthroscopic surgery later, I’m onto the next hurdle which is Physical Therapy.

P.T. as I call it, has become a meditation on life. I have to slow down in order to do my knee bending exercises. I can’t rush the heel digs into the bed. I have to keep every repetition pure and simple, in order to strengthen the muscles, and increase flexibility. Like a meditation I have to be fully present with every flex, stretch, and bend.

Pain does occur during P.T. It’s a good pain though. I know it is necessary and actually part of the healing process. It’s like in life, I know that at some point I will hurt, but I can’t constrict my movements in order to coddle it. If I do, I won’t get the full benefit of P.T. or life. Discomfort comes, I just can’t predict when or why, yet sometimes I can control how long it stays. When a burning ache occurs or a wincing, piercing sting jolts me, I say, “Ouch” or I stop or pull back, and I lessen the stretch, bend, or push.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Sometimes lessening is part of life’s lesson.

Soothing the Raw Edges of a Creative Life

I’m getting ready to lead my writing critique group and should be preparing my writing to share, but instead, I’m writing to you in my first post of 2012. As artists, writers, creative, and divergent thinkers, we can attest to being vulnerable, scared, and paralysed. Life alone can do this to us then we add, of our own volition, the stress of putting our tangible expressions out there, into the world to be viewed and judged.

Yesterday I was reminded, yet again, about the benefits of meditation. Disclaimer–I’ve been meditating for years–but it sure does help when someone else tells me how good it is! I’ve included an essay by Orna Ross here, it is so well written and inspiring too. Jane Friedman posted it on her blog and I learned of it through Facebook, ahhhhh the joys of sharing through social media.

My favorite line is:
“Meditation soothes those edges and creates a place of safety from where we can take risks.”

Creativity and wellness message for today: Claim your essential self.

P.S. Should I forego my shower and meditate instead?

I Am the Spark

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative spark lately. It all started a few weeks ago with social media. Through Facebook I stumbled on The Art Students League. When I was in high school I commuted every Saturday by train and on foot from CT to NYC to attend Figure Drawing classes at the League. I hadn’t actively thought much about it in decades but my recent connection ignited a line of thought.

Over the years I have been an artist, an educator, a graphic designer, a healer, a writer, a speaker and a consultant or you could say I have used my creative thinking and problem solving to express myself and to help pay the mortgage. As an artist my work gives people a glimmer of a different world. As a teacher I fan the flames of my students expressive pursuits as well as teaching them techniques.

When I was a healer clients and students came to metaphorically sit by my fire. My work in personal and spiritual development warmed and comforted them. It helped many go out and be stronger in their lives and encouraged them to pursue new passions.

Now I’m loving being more of a spark. I write about creativity, dreams, meditation and wellness. I also write about literature and writing and reading. Working at a library I infuse the literary, artistic and cultural experiences of my community. When I give presentations my intention is to light the fuse, not give the answer.

There is something profound and freeing about being the spark. I’m happy in my current role. What are you? Are you the fire tender, do you support the artistic work of others? Or are you the fire itself, blazing the trail? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

This brings me back, full circle to The Art Students League. At the League I learned how to be a keen observer and I was taught the importance of mastering a technique. Those two skills have served me throughout my life and the classes there kindled my desire to be a real artist when I grew up.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Consider which aspect of individual expression you support, for yourself or to help others? Is it the spark, the fire tender, are you the wood itself, the air, the match , or the  . . . and let me know.

Fullness

Last night the moon was so full and bright I opened my shades and let in the light.

Memories flooded my senses — swimming under the blue glow of a full moon in the waters off Cape Cod; creating and leading Full Moon Meditation Retreats in Connecticut; writing poetry inspired by a full moon’s clarity. Then this morning I received a copy of Catherine Al-Meten’s  article in which she explores the various names and cultural interpretations of the Full Snow Moon, the largest one of the year. I’m enjoying a feeling of coming full circle.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Let the energies of the full moon pull you closer to your true expressive self.