In deep mid-winter, my soul always experiences a feeling of drawing inward and letting go, of the old dying and the new preparing for birth. It's no accident that we are given a bright shiny new year at a time when the earth and all that is in it is still sleeping. We need that time of quietude for healing, reflecting, storing up, and emerging anew ourselves. Being in the "dead" of winter brings me to another of my favorite annual soul-nurturing rituals. It could be called "How to Hibernate," AKA Lent.
Growing up Southern Baptist in the 1960s, we didn't hear much about the practice of giving something up for Lent. Then I landed in a pile of Methodists and listened as usually sensible adults bragged about giving up wine or chocolate and their kids giving up cookies or the jelly on their toast. I struggled to connect these superficial "sacrifices" to spiritual growth and finally gave up. Then one day a pastor friend shared the Lenten tradition he and his family followed and a major Ah-Ha moment blossomed.
My friend suggested that we use this 40-day season to let go of something we want to give up forever. It might be a habit that isn't in our best interest or a relationship that doesn't nurture us or even something we habitually worry about. Letting go of it for 40 days pretty much assures that it will be erased from our life forever and clears the space for our soul to expand.
Then he added a Step 2 to the process: Replace the time and energy you would have spent on whatever you have given up with something that builds you up instead. If you've let go of a relationship that is dragging you down, devote that same energy to nurturing one you want more of. If it's a habit you want to banish, he offered the example of replacing smoking with using your hands to do something that engages and delights your senses. Erase and replace is the goal.
My own most profound experience (up until now!) was the year 2007 when I gave up fretting. Thanks to breast cancer, I had gotten myself into a perpetual state of anxiety and couldn't seem to pull myself out. So in pure frustration I decided to give up fretting and replace it with quietude.
I designated a very pretty (and comfortable) chair in my living room as my "Time Out" chair. Every time I felt myself feeling anxious, overwhelmed, fretful, worried, or fearful I would put myself into Time Out. The initial goal was simply to sit still and quiet my mind. This was hard! So I set an interim goal of only sitting still without wiggling, and finally set a timer for 5 minutes and "made" myself just sit still, adding a minute a day. Sometimes listening to meditative music or a guided meditation helped. Often it was all I could do to not jump up and run do something else.
But I stuck with it and slowly a miracle began occurring. My mind began to quiet as my body did and I began to experience what it means to "Be still and know." Soon, I was so eager to go to Time Out that no fretful triggers were needed, and I found myself wondering I needed to set the timer to keep me from living in this lovely quiet chair!
My love affair with meditation had begun.
In 2011, I decided to build on this foundation and give up Living by Default and chose instead to Live by Design. This was a leap of pure faith. I decided to actively give up lingering limiting beliefs and actions, and to replace them with expansive thoughts of Can-Do.
I decided to give up doubts and fears and replace them with the courage to take baby steps.
I decided to give up rehashing conversations and situations wishing I had said or done something different. If an apology was needed, do it. If not, move on.
I decided to give up the bad habits and sneaky fears that did not serve me, that burdened and bogged me down, so I could give more to my own life, to my family and friends, to my business, and to all the things that are important to me. The Law of Giving says that the Giver becomes the Receiver, and yes, giving up what does not serve us is a powerful form of giving.
When the decision was made that this would be my focus for 2011, I caught myself almost immediately thinking "This is going to be hard," then laughed out loud and remembered that "hard" wasn't at all what I wanted to create. Even declaring a positive intention offered a moment to choose.
And that's the goal – to live by conscious choice, not by chance. Meditation once again came to the rescue and I was on my way to a regular practice.
This is the secret to Deliberate Creation. What we choose, moment by moment, day by day, determines what we create in our lives – soul expansion, health, relationships, business outcomes, you name it. It comes down to living in each and every present moment, but what a lovely booster this hibernation habit can be.
PS - Sticking with this practice led to meeting my Beloved later in 2011.
Anne Wade is the founder and publisher of The Soulmate Dance. She is a writer, educator, life coach, and lifelong student of soulmate relationships, devoted to expanding our understanding of all types of soulmate relationships and experiences.