I was certain that the Year of Nothing New and my first completely vegan holiday season would make the holidays more relaxed and enjoyable. I daydreamed about snuggling up with my family to make nature-inspired holiday crafts, reading lots of books, and just savoring the urge to hibernate during the short, still days. After all, without all the cheese and cookies, mad dashes to Target, and endless Amazon searches, I would have tons of time and energy, right?
Despite my hopes and intentions, December still pulled me into the over-scheduled and over-indulgent madness. I drank lots of wine. I ate plates of vegan fudge, perfected a vegan sugar cookie recipe, and hosted more parties than I can count. Some mornings, I would wake up and every cell in my body would ache, begging me to curl up with the cats and stay in bed.
I thought gifting would be my big issue since I didn’t want to buy new things, but I found countless ways to work around the challenge and give meaningful gifts. I picked up a few toys for Eloise on eBay, and searched for soft vintage shirts and a old painting for my husband. Friends received lots of handmade edible gifts, like vegan Chex Mix and vegan Irish Creme, and overall, the shift to spending time with each other instead of money on each other was a welcome change of pace for my family.
The giving wasn’t lavish, but we were still indulgent. I stocked my fridge with nut cheeses and treats, and we had so many reasons to raise a glass and celebrate. I love hosting parties and spending time with people I love, but I found myself sneaking moments of quiet and stillness whenever I could.
My obsession and meditation became tending the fire in our cozy wood stove. At first, I didn’t even realize how much time I spent gazing into the flames, stoking logs, and checking on the coals. Eloise was the first to notice, remarking to a friend, “My mom is the Fire Woman. She keeps the flames going.”
When I shared this story with my husband, I accidentally called myself the “Fire Lady.”
Eloise quickly corrected me, “No, you’re the Fire Woman. You have the power and the love of the fire.”
I had never had someone imbue their description of me with so much strength. It bolstered my energy as I ducked out to coordinate another family outing and help my dad with gifts.
Later, on New Year’s Eve, as I tottered back and forth on towering heels, fetching wood for a fire that crossed the threshold into 2017, I heard my husband describe my passion, “I think my wife was a baker in her past life. She has an ancient connection to her fire, and she loves making bread.”
I realized that, as the world hummed around me, I was finding moments to be present with myself. I could warm the heart of my Fire Woman and connect to something ancient and soothing no matter the chaos of karaoke and clinking glasses filling my house.
When the revelry faded, I realized I had inadvertently been practicing a sort of Trataka meditation to keep me centered. Yogis often suggest gazing at an object to quiet the mind and meditate, and candles are the preferred objects because they supposedly stimulate the brain in a way that encourages rapid relaxation. I had found my flame and the quiet place in my mind.
Sometimes, I would gaze into the fire and really focus on meditating and clearing my mind. Other times, I would just grab a moment when I could. I didn’t set out to better myself through more focused meditation. I didn’t download an app or write out a schedule. I just followed the urge to do what felt right. Without any particular intention, I had started a practice of meditation because it was what I needed. I sought calm, and I found it in the wood stove.
Since the holidays, I have continued my own variation of Trataka meditation, and I have followed some meditation exercises in an app I often use for Yoga called Daily Yoga. I used to really struggle to quiet my mind, and I would take hours to wind down to sleep at night. I have tried several times to start a meditation routine without a lot of luck. I finally realized that the things we want will come in their own time. I don’t need to push my mind to be quiet; obsessing over calm thoughts isn’t relaxing at all.
So, this year, I set out with an un-resolution. My goal is to listen and go slowly. I accept that I am just fine as I am today, and that I will keep changing. The person I become will be just right, too. I might consider some aspects of myself to grow better and some to grow worse, but that is just my opinion. The only truth is that I am just fine as I am and if I can listen to myself, I will continue to feel happy.
I’ve noticed a trend in easing into change this new year, and I applaud those around me who have decided to go slow with new goals. I’m a big believer in radical self-acceptance. I know you are great just as you are. So, I love the idea of savoring the journey and following the irresistible pull of our inner desires instead of setting goals from the outside world.
Instead of vowing to lose 10 pounds, try mindfully enjoying vegetables. Don’t make yourself run every day; allow yourself the space to move and grow strong. Explore new paths in your small business instead of setting difficult financial goals, or striving to be like a company you admire. If you share a hope of a quiet mind and want to join me in a meditation journey, here are some simple ways to start:
- Pick a quiet time when you already feel calm and reflective.
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion.
- Pick an object to gaze upon. Of course, I love my fire, but a candle or anything that makes you happy would do.
- Breathe. Just focus on feeling your breath and letting the object and your breath quiet your thoughts.
There are lots of apps and programs to help you meditate, but you can practice clearing your mind and listening to yourself without a lot of help. You just need a little time. Oh! And hey…namaste. 😉