An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Posts made in December, 2013

A Circle of Support

“Now let us welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Recently I gathered for the last time with a group of eight eccentric, interesting, and insightful men and women who have been my circle of support for the past 18 months.  We have gather together every Thursday evening  at the home of Paul Levy, a spiritual teacher and author in Portland, OR who led our group in extreme consciousness-raising, or as he calls it, “Awakening in the dream.”

This was a group based on honesty, confrontation, encouragement, and celebration, all with the goal to deepen our awareness of our own process in life. The group was unusual in its ability to create an environment where anything could be shared and complete authenticity was encouraged.

quick-writing-tips-500x331I had made the decision to leave the group because of an intention I have for the New Year to create space in my life for more commitment and dedication to my writing practice. I felt vulnerable knowing that when group-members leave there is always sadness and sometimes a great disappointment.  Members become very close and some stay for years.

Yes, disappointment was expressed honestly and complete support was offered from each group member. They acknowledged the necessity of this sacrifice to honor my commitment to my own path.  They expressed their belief in me and honored the personal work I had done in the group.  As I drove home I felt empowered, and that the completion of my intention was indeed possible.

women-singing-earthNow my intention is to invite each of you to create a circle of support for your intentions for the New Year. Parties have their place, but purpose can get lost in this important transitional time of year.

Nearly twenty years ago our family adopted an amazing New Year’s ceremony from author Sarah Ban Breathnatch, author of Simple Abundance. It offered us a meaningful tradition to honor what has passed and gave breath to our creative powers of change.

Ban Brathnatch wrote, “I knew in my heart that in order to go forward, I needed to come to a full stop.”

Here are the instructions for the ceremony she outlines:

IMG_1209Gather together with family or a small group of friends.  The group sits in a half-circle facing a table, fireplace hearth, or alter that holds twelve white taper candles in candle holders. If you have a fireplace and can have a fire lit, that is perfect. Each person is given four blank sheets of paper, an envelope, and a pen. One person leads the ceremony.

It begins with this declaration: “Make room in your heart for all the good waiting for you this year.” The first task is for each person to write down everything from the past year they would like to forget and forgive. “Let go of all the hurts – real and imagined,” the group leader instructs. “Forgive yourself for all the unfinished tasks, unmet goals and mistakes.”

Sally Kempton, an internationally recognized author and meditation teacher says that a “ritual of release” clears the space necessary to reach goals and intentions in the New Year.  “You can’t step consciously into the next phase of your life unless you bring consciousness to your past,” she writes.

Once the group members have finished writing down the things from the past year they want to release, they each throw their list into the fire or tear it up and  throw it away while saying, “Good riddance, go in peace.”

Next each person makes a list of their major blessings from the past year and then shares one or two with the group.

Then everyone writes down one or two lessons they learned in life in the past year and what they could do differently because of that lesson. Each person shares one thing they learned.

This sharing portion of the ceremony is often deeply meaningful, especially if people are willing to allow themselves to be vulnerable and honest.  The group is given the gift of learning not only from their own lessons, but also others.  Respectful listening offers validation as each person shares.

1521800_722004931144142_2038197683_nNow it is time for the candle lighting.  All twelve candles are lit to represent each month of the year and to welcome in the New Year.  In our family each of our daughters got to light the candle of her birth month.

While the candles are burning and perhaps some soft music quietly playing the in the background, the group members spend some time writing what they would like their life to be like in the New Year.  This can take the form of goals or intentions they would like to pursue or it can be written as a letter to self, describing our hopes and dreams and committing to a few new practices.

Each person shares with the group something they want to create in their life in the New Year.

After the end of the ceremony each letter is sealed in an envelope.  It can be kept by the group leader or each person, and saved in a place where they can find it one year later, open it, and see how the year unfolded, preferably during the next New Year ceremony.

If the group would like they can end with a prayer for the New Year and refreshments. If necessary we can do this ceremony alone, but even including one other person we create a circle of support which adds accountability, encouragement, and a witness to our journey.

This beautiful ceremony has given our family a powerful and meaningful way to usher out “the old” with a tangible way of letting go of old hurts, mistakes, and wounds; it also “welcomes in the new,” by creating a sense of anticipation and hope.  And it gives us each a gentle launch into a new beginning, the opportunity to try a little harder, do a little better, live a little more consciously, and create more peace, joy, love and empowerment in our lives.

Happy New Year!

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The Return of the Light

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

Dear Readers,
This coming Saturday, Dec. 21, is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  It will also be the 35th birthday of our oldest daughter, Anne Elizabeth, and the 23rd birthday of our youngest daughter, Mary Rose. (We have six daughters and no sons.)

The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol and sistere, which means ‘sun stands still’ because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the seasonal movement of the Sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction. Though it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, from each day here on, there will be a few more minutes of light with the lengthening of each day.

IMG_2014Annie’s birth, and the year prior to her birth, was a profound time of a return of light in my life.

Working as a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City, Utah, I covered murderer, Gary Gilmore’s story and his subsequent execution, for which I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize at age 23, the same age my youngest daughter will be turning.

Though I had professional success, spiritually, I was bankrupt.

Covering the Gilmore story put me in the company of other journalists that were much more sophisticated, calloused, and experienced, than I was.  At 22, I was swimming in waters too deep and dark for my youth and naiveté. Both the story and the people I spent time with exposed me to the shadow and darkness that is part of life.

In that environment I carelessly abandoned values that had been deeply important to me, made choices I would later regret, and engaged in behavior that took me on a path far away from my true self.

Stressed Young WomanBy the time my work on the story was over (it had lasted over six months) I turned down an opportunity to get a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York, and returned to the mundane stories I had previously been covering.  I was deeply depressed, unfulfilled, and unsure of what to do with my life.

One day I received a phone call from my brother Rodney, 17 years, my elder, who lived with his wife, Jean, and their children in Vancouver, WA.  His invitation was simple: “Come home.” And his counsel was direct, “I want you to take a leave of absence from your job, come up here, and just take some time to sort things out.” He told me felt inspired to make this generous offer.

Within a week, I was packed and heading north on I-5.

I am part of a religious family whose Christian faith goes back generations. I take great care in the writing I do for this web site to respect the individual spiritual paths and beliefs of my readers. In so doing I have been private about my specific spiritual leanings. Today, it is important to me to be a bit more transparent.

Soon after I was home, Rod encouraged me to come back to church, to get involved in its program for young adults.  Reluctant and resistant, but wanting to respect my brother’s advice, I decided to open my heart to possibility.

scan0005The first activity I attended, I met my husband. (Of course, I didn’t know the importance Brian was going to have in my life that night.) And I felt more comfortable at the activity than I had imagined.  There was a diverse group of people who were friendly, funny, and willing to welcome me into their circle.

As I studied, pondered, and prayed, — and had a lot of fun, I found myself returning to the light and experiencing a spiritual reawakening. Meanwhile, Brian Allred became more and more interesting to me. His deep spirituality and commitment moved me. I was captured by his friendly nature. I loved his mind.  The deal was sealed by how well he danced!  In December I received a sweet little surprise, a Christmas card in the mail from him.  Shortly after that he called and invited me to a New Year’s Eve dance.

That last dark night of December, we couldn’t stop dancing or talking. By the time we parted company at 3 a.m., I knew I had found my spiritual partner.  He had the same experience and proposed three days later. We were married three months after that, and had our Annie nine months later.

mother-with-newborn1I was a reluctant prospective mother. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But then I held my newborn baby, Annie in my arms, on Dec. 21, (the Solstice that year). Tears rolled down my cheeks as I gazed at her and something unexpected happened: I fell in love again.

I learned of the heart’s infinite capacity as each of our other five daughters arrived.  When it was Mary Roses’ time, she arrived early – on Annie’s birthday and the Solstice. Rose was born at home, close to the Christmas tree, with her other sisters present (at their request.)  Annie was the first to hold Rose.

The Solstice has special significance in my life.

7793090_orig1It is a deeply reflective time for me.  During the winter solstice, the earth is tilted as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It is the longest night of the year.   As a metaphor for my own journey, it is interesting to me that the seasonal movement of the sun’s path comes to a stop on the solstice before it reverses direction, with each day having more light. So long ago, I too reversed direction.

The solstice has been celebrated by different cultures back to the early Romans and beyond.  It is seen as a time of new beginnings.  We all have our own personal periods of walking through darkness and shadow.  We can find our way to the light again. We can find the path again that leads back to what is true and right for each of us.  We can integrate what is revealed and uncovered by our descent into darkness.

I feel a great celebratory significance of a season that marks a time when I had fully turned away from the dark path I was on, reclaimed my lost self, and returned to The Son.

VashonI celebrate the magnificent wonder and beauty of the earth and the marvels of the heavens. I rejoice at the great gift I was given to return to my truth and find my spiritual partner on this earth. Becoming a mother, not only to Annie and Rose, the bookends of our group, but also to Maria, Amanda, Sarah, and Suzette, is one of the great joys of my life.

To be able to write and to integrate all my past experience into one great whole gives great purpose and meaning to my experience.  This Saturday Dec. 21 will also be the first birthday of my “Creating a Life You Love” website.  Of course I deliberately chose this day.  It felt sacred to launch something so dear to my heart on that day, to begin another solstice journey.

Consider on this Solstice, how you, dear reader, might welcome the return of the light into any shadows or darkness in your own life. Offer yourself the gift of your own curiosity and compassion as you explore. Be patient with a process that happens in small increments. Believe it is possible to change direction where needed. Discover your own solstice journey!
Love, Tamera

Winter-Solstice-2010

 

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Creating a Christmas You Love

“Over the past century our nation’s Christmas celebration has changed dramatically, turning a delightful folk festival and important religious celebration into a multi- billion dollar commercial venture.”  — Jo Robinson & Jean Staeheli, Unplug the Christmas Machine

In the late seventies Jean Staeheli and Jo Robinson, two Portland, OR, writers, mothers, and homemakers, were asked to develop a workshop on handling Christmas Stress for a small college in their area.  The school was seeing an increase in problems with both staff and students during the holidays.

The two women sat down and wrote out a brief outline, not knowing at first how it would work.  What emerged was a series of exercises that would help each participant determine their values about the holiday season and then to take inventory as to how their holiday activities were either pulling them away from, or moving them towards, those values.

“The response was overwhelming,” Jo recently told me.  “People were crying; they were just riveted by it.”

The workshop had touched a tender nerve – people were overcommitted, stressed, and glassy-eyed trying to Young woman wearing Santa's hat is screaming.keep up with their regular responsibilities and the burdens associated with creating a Christmas celebration that has turned into harried, commercially influenced venture.

Their first workshop notes turned into a book, Unplug the Christmas Machine, A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season. Since the first edition came out in 1982, the book has never been out of print.

“It still works,” Jo said, “The reason for its longevity is that we’re not telling people what to do, instead, we’ve provided a structure for them to find out what kind of celebration works for them. . . We give people permission to keep the celebration simple, more in harmony with their values.”

Here are some tips they suggest:

Make an inventory of all of the tasks you do to preparation for the holiday. This can include everything from baking and gift- wrapping, to travel preparations and helping out at church or school.  Include everything you can think of.  Next put your initials beside each activity that mostly falls on your shoulders.  Next put an ‘X’ after all the items that have little value to you.

kar_csinyi_h_tt_rk_p12Using the numbers 1-10, rank each of the following value statements according to its importance in your life. (1 is the most important rank) Christmas is a time to: Be a peacemaker in my family and the world; spend enjoyable time with my immediate family; to reunite with my relatives; to celebrate the birth of Christ; to create a festive, beautiful home environment; to show my love and generosity through gifts; to remember the poor, lonely, and needy; to be active in my church or other community; to celebrate with friends; to relax and be renewed.  (Add other values you might have that are not listed.)

Write out a quick vision of your own deeply satisfying holiday celebration.

Create a Christmas plan with two or three goals to help transform your celebration to be in greater harmony with your values. Usually after we have evaluated our own values and desires in comparison to what we are actually doing at Christmas, it becomes evident what tasks need to be eliminated, delegated, or simplified.

Instead of baking a kitchen full of Christmas treats, for example, we could select a couple of our favorites.  We could have a talk with family and friends and reduce expectations about gifts or time spent in celebrations that have little meaning for us.  Involve other family members in helping. Own your right to say no.

BLACK-FRIDAYCommercialization has had a huge impact on the Christmas holiday.  Thirty years ago Christmas was a $20-billion-dollar-a-year industry.  This year $12.3 billion was spent on holiday shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday alone.  $1.2 billion was spent online on Black Friday. In 2012 $586 billion was spent over the total holiday in the U.S.

“Christmas  has turned into a celebration of gift giving,” Jo said,  “no matter how great a gift is, in just a little while it is nothing.  To see all the energy pointed towards what you are going to get for Christmas is not healthy. It’s not good for our kids.”

She notes that we have become so busy ‘doing’ during the holidays that we lose the time and energy to spend time with the children in our lives.  Jo and Jean’s research showed that the things children long for most during the season, despite what they ask for, is to have time with their parents and other important adults.

We can create a Christmas we love, starting right now by crossing a few things off the list that we are NOT going to do, because they are not the things that matter. It may require some sacrifice, by sacrifice is just giving up some of lesser value for something of greater value.  As we let go of those things that matter least, we create a space in our live to experience the depth of satisfaction that comes from being true to our own values.

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Making the Holidays Holy vs. Harried

“December’s gifts – custom, ceremony, celebration, consecration – come to us wrapped up, not in tissue and ribbons, but in cherished memories. This is the month of miracles … the oil that burns for eight days, the royal son born in a stable, the inexplicable return of Light on the longest, darkest night of the year. . .  Days we once called common, we now call holy.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

In-2011-consumers-are-starting-their-Christmas-shopping-earlier-than-ever-as-Black-Friday-websites-already-launched-their-offersThe Christmas season is complicated. It teems with unrealistic expectations and extra tasks; an over- abundance of social obligations and the burden of financial pressure. Add to that the left-over dreams and un-granted wishes from childhood and the pressure to buy, starting with the dash for Christmas deals that now start on Thanksgiving!

And it can also be a time of gladness, wonder, beauty, celebration, service, and love.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dicken’s classic novella, is an important commentary on Christmas, its message still relevant 170 years after it was written. It tells of the poverty and misery of the lower class, the struggle just to survive.  Bob Cratchit — overworked, underpaid, living in poverty with great difficulties — nonetheless approaches life with cheery hope, despite his despairing circumstances.

A-Christmas-Carol-001Scrooge, Cratchit’s employer, is struggling in his own way. But he is wealthy and tight-fisted, bitter, and downright mean to his fellow beings.

His nephew, Fred, a good-willed man who seeks to bring Scrooge into the fold of family and celebration visits Scrooge’s office to invite his Uncle to Christmas lunch.  Scrooge is angry and annoyed. “What right have you to be merry?” he challenges the nephew.  “Much good it [Christmas] has ever done you.”

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time . . . as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time . . . in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore . . .  I believe it has done me good and will do me good,” Fred tells him.

I cherish the message of the Christmas Carol and having been watching one of the movie renditions of it every holiday since I was 20.  I am enthralled by its transformation story as we witness  Scrooge’s journey through his past, present and future led by a ‘ghost’(messenger) from each of these points in time.

Scrooge revisits his own suffering as a child and young man as he views the tragedy of his past.  He is shown the present which affords him to see the truth and consequences of his own closed heart – the abject poverty the Cratchits live in; their handicapped son Tiny Tim who can’t be helped because of the pauper’s wages his father receives from Scrooge. He is also shown the possibility of the present with its opportunity to reclaim the joy of living that was lost to him by sad circumstances and foolish choices. He is shown the gayety in the market place, and the glad celebration at his nephew’s house. The ghost of the future shows him the fate that awaits him and others in his circle of influence if he continues a life rife with stinginess, a closed heart, and his disdain for his fellow humans. The outcome is terrifying and he awakes clinging to the bed-sheets, drenched in sweat and terror. But he is soon laughing because he has truly “awakened” to the wonder and possibility of Christmas, of life.

Dickens wrote his timeless novella to address poverty, injustice, and the inhumane treatment of poor children in Great Britain at the time.  A Christmas Carol has never been out of print since it was first published Dec. 17, 1843.

Your-Two-Cents-Room-Your-Holiday-Budget-CharityHis words still apply.  Despite the abundance in the United States, poverty is ever present. Millions of people are still unemployed; many more who are working are underpaid, barely making a living wage; social services are understaffed and face a continual tide of need and abuse that is overwhelming in its urgency to be addressed.

As I unpacked our boxes of Christmas decorations this past Saturday with my first child–red-headed, joyful Annie, who was born four days before Christmas, and her darling red-headed daughter Summer–a contemplation was awakened in me about Christmas and its broader meaning.  I had been reading Dicken’s book and I felt its truths calling to me, still ringing clear and true.

digital-christmas-treeI love to go shopping and buy gifts.  I love decorating.  I love the celebrating.  And like most women in America I am aware of the unspoken mandate we bear as “the Christmas magicians” most of the responsibility falling on us to clean, cook, create parties, shop, wrap, decorate, and deliver.

But what if a new view of Christmas were entertained, even welcomed?  Imagine a Christmas where we could still hold onto cherished traditions, but perhaps with a will to ease the burden of busyness we bear at this time of year. What if we simplified? What if we stepped back from over-doing? What if we said ‘no’ to the stuff that doesn’t really matter? What if we embraced the wonder of the season?

white-lights-magicWhat if Christmas became a time to nurture a quiet awareness of other’s lack, with gift giving and simple gestures quietly made to relieve someone else’s pressing need?

Consider new gloves for a friend or relative who works outside and whose clothing is threadbare; a gift-card to a grocery store for a family who is struggling to make ends meet; a place set at the table for someone who has nowhere to go on Christmas Day.

And if we ourselves are suffering, struggling, what if we took direction from the Cratchit’s gratitude for what they did have and their simple sense of Christmas cheer?

What if we made room for our own reflection on the lessons of our past and the present, imaging where the choices we are currently making will lead to in the future?

Christmas can be a time of joy, change, renewal, and meditation on what really matters.  It calls for getting clear about our values then having the courage to honor them. It can be a time of reflection and expressed appreciation for all the gifts the passing year has offered: great blessings, important lessons learned from life’s hardships; a renewed cherishing of a loved one.

christmas-in-leavenworthChristmas can aid in recapturing a sense of wonder in life – the excitement of children, the opportunity to be a secret Santa,  the mysterious kaleidoscope glow of lights covering trees, houses, mail boxes; the unexpected holiday greeting from a long lost friend or relative; the delight of seeing children singing in the school program or a church Christmas pageant.

Christmas offers us the gifts of peace, joy, and love as we find small ways to make each day simple versus strained, holy versus harried.

Dicken’s words make it clear that Scrooge’s transformation was permanent.  The kindness, generosity, and compassion that bloomed within him lived on, “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well . . .” And there-in was found a miracle!

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