December 2013

Dear Friend

I sincerely hope the spirit of expressing gratitude that enveloped the month of November will continue to build throughout the month of December and into the New Year, 2014. I’ve been charmed by the emphasis on thanks, peace, and simplicity, and feel confident in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that this attitude will continue, no matter how hectic things are around us.

We’ve all recently experienced Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday initiated by President Washington and then put into law by Lincoln. Most of my family and friends consider Thanksgiving their favorite holiday of the year. It has always been mine because we collectively pause and give thanks for life’s infinite blessings. We all yearn for an opportunity to gather together with close friends and family, enjoying each other’s company and sharing a banquet. What Peter and I crave is a relaxed atmosphere that is comfortable, peaceful, and calm. It is charming to be surrounded by lively grandchildren coming and going because their energy is so pure, so loving and sweet.

I think of November as the season of thankfulness. A friend gave me a gratitudes bracelet. There are the ten letters in silver and 30 green beads. The idea is to take time to practice gratitude. I love to take the bracelet off, play with it in my left hand, and in a spontaneous trance, under my breath, name all the people in my life I’m thankful for, and all the things I appreciate about my life. When I do this randomly throughout the day it helps me to remember just how fortunate I am.

My daughter Alexandra gave me a gift of five different colored pearl bracelets. I can wear one or several or all five depending on my mood and what I’m wearing. When I take one off my wrist and doodle with it in my attitude or gratitude, I feel so pleased. When we are grateful for our abundant blessings, we are happy. For all of you who write down what you’re grateful for, you know what an immediate mood boost this creates. We can train our minds to dwell in the sweet atmosphere of counting our “gratitudes.”

November was the calm before the hectic storm of the December holiday season. How can we maintain, sustain, and embrace this Zen-like consciousness of inner peace, balance, and harmony in these busy days ahead? How can we focus on how we can make other people’s lives better? And, how can we cultivate emotional stability regardless of the inevitable challenges we’re bound to face? Zen masters never become overwhelmed by emotions even if a mountain were to collapse in front of them.

I love lighting a scented candle – the one I have on my desk is called Fir and smells like a forest of evergreen trees. I love using pine-scented soap this time of year. In my serious quest to live more mindfully, I concentrate on my breathing, meditating on letting go, letting things be as they are – “The way is to be.” Things are as they are and are not as they are not. I’m learning to let things be, and be an active participant of the ever unfolding events in our daily lives.

While listening to a local classical music station as I dressed one morning this week, the host mentioned some advice I dwell on: When you make a mistake, say you’re sorry immediately. When you do something right, keep your mouth shut. This message is useful as we go through our daily details. So often, silence is golden. If I’m right – doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason, the sense of satisfaction is in the knowledge that I acted out of love, compassion, and understanding.

Peter and I were having dinner recently with friends and we were singing each others’ praises. We tend to choose to look at the positive side of things, and celebrate the joys in our immediate mist rather than complain about our problems. We talked about many different things, including what happens after a loved one dies. We laughed, we cried happy tears, and had some cheerful toasts with Rose. Our friend Mary Ellen said there are so many people whose lives are so much worse than ours. Many people in China believe luxury to be sunshine, fresh air, blue skies, and clean water. I certainly appreciate the brilliantly sunny days until the sky darkens in the late afternoon. I seem to thrive in the beauty of our natural surroundings and so appreciate our views of the harbor.

Peter and I went away for a quiet escape for several weeks to reinvigorate ourselves. When I turned 72, we were alone, together, far away from friends and family. One of the great joys of taking a trip is to return home to our familiar surroundings, our favorite colors, and the objects of our affection. The thoughtful, generous birthday greetings brought me such great pleasure. I put all the personal mail in a pretty blue marbleized box and waited for the appropriate moments to open the letters and packages slowly in order to savor the loving beauty. Thank you all for your huge hearts, warm words, and kind messages from the four corners of the world. Kirsten from Denmark sent me a sweet little book, The Bluebird of Happiness. “The bird of happiness lights only upon the hand that does not grasp.” ~~ John Berry

Sipping tea and reading sweet thoughtful messages makes me feel so connected to so many wonderful, good people – known and unknown others. I appreciate everyone’s generous gifts from the heart. These quiet moments of joy sweeten our quiet life in our sweet cottage.

Our dear friends, Kerri and Matt gave me a glass bowl, etched with the wise words, “Every Day is a Gift ~~ Untie the Ribbons.” Let’s take this message to heart. What we most want in our lives we have at hand and only need to untie the ribbons. As we wrap presents and tie colorful ribbons around the packages, let’s remember the thought is more important than the object. When we have an attitude of gratitude and a heart full of light and love, we will celebrate every day as a gift.

Happy December. Happy Holiday Season. Have many silent, quiet moments where you can meditate on all the good in your life. Peter and I have adopted the expression, “A moment’s peace.” We have quiet time, solitude for two. When I keep things simple, when we take our time to enjoy the simple pleasures of our home, we find great contentment and experience tender moments of joy.

I believe Aristotle was right, the aim and purpose of life is happiness. Your happiness is your divine light that can spread hope and bring peace. Happiness is contagious and is ours to cultivate and celebrate.

Great love to you,

Love & Live Happy

Wishing you all the joy of the holiday season!

Peter, Alexandra and dear friend Mary Ellen

Grace Note

"Happiness depends,
as Nature shows,
less on exterior things
than most suppose."

~~ William Cowper