For many of us, the holiday season is busy with preparations for memory-making with family and dear friends. Today I received a message that caused me to pause and consider whether all this activity really gets us any closer to the connection we crave? I know I am guilty of spending too much of my time on my holiday lists when I could be spending that time in the pure presence of those that I love.
The fact that this message came to me via email is not lost on me. As much as technology brings us together, for me it can also cause just as much disconnection. Technology has the capacity to fragment some of my most cherished moments in ways that would never have been possible when I was a child. Perhaps worst of all, most of the time I don’t even notice it happening.
What if all the gifts, the food, the crafts, and the parties are actually confusing us into thinking that the activities alone yield the closeness that lives within promise of Christmas? If the greatest gift we can give to one another is our presence, how might we reshape our choices to create space for this greatest gift of all to emerge?
A friend and dear mentor recently sent me a lovely card in celebration of my upcoming graduation. Enclosed was a small magnet of a little yellow butterfly with a note saying the gift was to remind me of the butterfly’s annual wisdom of growth, transformation, and metamorphosis.
This friend did not know that the butterfly has been an important symbol for me over the last year. I love the image of transformation we can take from the butterfly and I have done a lot of thinking about butterflies over the last cycle of seasons. For these reasons, this small gift from my friend ended up being far more touching than even she intended it to be. It brought me pure joy.
In the last year as I have been thinking about what I can learn from butterflies and their cycle of life, they have started to show up in different ways. I notice them outside, on clothing people are wearing in meetings, on a little note card from a friend, in bowls I use daily in my kitchen but ignore. Now, finally, one arrived at my door just for me. An affirmation of the noticing I have been doing all year.
In this spirit, and because it fits with my intention for this week of “Open hands, warm heart,” I share a simple poem I wrote one day in May last year when I was struggling to find my way. This was written after a walk along the Sammamish River Trail near my home in Woodinville, WA. I hope it brings a bit of lightness to any heavy spots in your heart.
This simple intention, “open hands, warm heart,” is helping me weather the storms of graduate school more than any other thing – coffee included! Today I am thinking about those moments in my life when I so desperately want a certain outcome, like a particular internship or job, and how much fear is embedded in my desire for that “perfect” outcome.
This intention reminds me not to operate from a place of scarcity and fear, but to try to trust in the abundance of life. This is especially hard during times of transition and change, but it is then that it is most important, of course.
“Open hands, warm heart” invites me to be open to the grace and gifts in the process – whatever they may be – and to do this with a warm and trusting heart. Trusting that I will be okay no matter the outcome can be liberating. It is precisely in that letting go of control when I see my strength most fully.
Now let me pause for a moment to reiterate that this is my intention for the week. Meaning I am practicing, not perfect. I am still far more likely to go to my place of fear than breathing in feelings of peace and abundance in those moments. Human nature, I suppose. However, having this intention by my side reminds me to gently lean in to a more kind and generous self-talk. It helps me practice nonviolence towards myself.
In the end, this intention fosters in me more peace and opens me to receive big opportunities and also the small moments that I may miss when the fear is all consuming. Off we go: “Open hands, warm heart.”
Special thanks to my dear friend, Sarah, for introducing me to this framework for inviting more grace into my life. Blessings to you.