The 2021 Holiday Message December 20th, 2021
I can’t believe it’s been a year since I was writing the Holiday Message in December of 2020 as we were fumbling through a very scary and weird time.
And here we are a year later and it oddly feels like Groundhog’s Day.
Perhaps that’s the best way to think about this year’s Holiday Message. That externally things appear to be the same, but inwardly – where it matters the most – remembering that each of us have evolved and grown; transformed and overcome.
Oftentimes in an ever-increasing, physically-obsessed world, we look to see confirmation and justification of our inner transformations outwardly. Likes, thumbs up’s, views, shares, acknowledgments, praise. But the actualization of our inner work often doesn’t happen that quickly (partly because it’s an ever-ongoing process) and it never looks as if we thought it would.
In our self-made-media-saturated world, everything seems to be changing and happening to everyone else at such an accelerated speed that when we compare our more glacial pace, we feel like we’re failing and accomplishing nothing.
Not comparing your life to the fictional presentation (and interpretation!) of someone else’s glamorous pictorial photo spread is important for many reasons, but two of the most important to remember: First, to protect our mental health and second, to not diminish the things you have achieved.
Not all things are quantifiable, nor are they achievements of the physical world. They’re private accomplishments, sacred realizations or spiritual transformations that don’t have a catchy Tik Tok dance move to accompany them or an instagram filter to herald their achievement.
You know what they are. That’s all that matters. You know what you’ve endured, overcame and grown through. And that knowing is the real reason we are here. Your realizations can be the fuel for outer accomplishment. They can be the source of creativity and self-expression. They can be the seed that ends with the fulfillment of a lifelong goal, but the genesis of all things comes from the inner.
It’s ironic we spend so much time celebrating the outer with all it’s accoutrements, when the inner transformation is what’s producing the representation of them outwardly.
It seems difficult to find space for the inner nowadays. We’re constantly bombarded with ways to dis-connect. We can watch a million streaming services or play
hundreds of video games or scroll until our eyes bleed. There are even countless apps to remind us to create space for the inner, turn off our devices and breathe.
Repose. Dare I say, even boredom and ennui are a part of the artist’s journey. It’s a part of being alive. We weren’t designed to be stimulated 24/7. I love when people say they’re going to “unplug” as if removing themselves from one singular platform, simultaneously obliterates our access to hundreds of others.
Perhaps, during the height of the pandemic, we were reminded of the essential and necessary. Slowing down. Spending time in nature. Getting quiet. Going inside. Tending to our inner journey, since the outer ones seemed to be derailed by a pandemic.
As things reopened, there was a great push to get us back to “where we used to be”. As if going back were not only possible but also something preferred to where we are now.
There is no going back. There is only an unsteady, always changing, mostly uncomfortable evolving forward.
A student recently posted something I said years ago about living on the edge. And it made me think about the meaning of that more than ever. Partly because when catastrophic events occur and our lives (and habitual way of living them) are upended, we are forced to move beyond our comfort zones and live along the edges, the margins, the more fuzzy areas of life. It can be scary and confrontive, but it’s also a wonderful wake-up call to actually being much more present to life.
In my post from years ago I talked about how living on the edge represents the unknown and the mysterious. The foreign and very unfamiliar. I mentioned that if you weren’t on the edge you were taking up too much space. That’s because it’s not crowded on the edge and most people don’t want to go there. It feels lonely and strange and most people would like to stay in the center. The known. Where the crowds congregate. The safe and “cool” place to be because everyone is there.
The edge is still those things. But a pandemic also reminds us that the edge isn’t just a destination, or a place to lean into. It’s an essential part of being alive. Being human already is inherently edgy. It’s already infused with risk and wildness and the temporary. Sometimes we get comfortable or stuck or rely on the conveniences of a … well… convenient life, and forget that we are the edge. We are the margins. We are wild.
Sometimes, it takes a pandemic to shake us out of our sleep, to wake us up to the aliveness of it all. Not just awareness of existence but that actual wild freedom of being alive. In our laser-sharp focus to accomplish things and pursue our goals and promote ourselves and be seen and make ourselves feel relevant, we forget about what we’re really after.
That feeling of being truly alive.
We end up walking around in a somnambulistic state searching through all these other outer things to capture the feeling we already possess.
The edge is inner. Always. It’s a movement toward something. An idea. An epiphany. A healing. A forgiveness. A dream. A fear. A realization. An acceptance. A surrender.
So almost two years in, we still give thanks to Covid. Not for the heartache or pain or the ravages it has caused (but maybe also, for those things too as they’re also a part of life), but for the reminder. The wake-up call. That it’s all unstable. It’s all transitory. It’s all alive and changing and wild and we can learn to exist within that chaos without being scared. (Sort of reminds you of the technique of class, doesn’t it? To exist within a framework and find freedom within it that is also, simultaneously, meant to transcend the structure.)
That’s what life is calling us to do too. I hope during this Holidays you are able to reflect upon this most wondrous of gifts and keep inching toward living in that space more and more. It isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it. We all have a number of devices that make it harder and harder to go there. But let us try.
The phone can’t take us there. It can only start from within each of us. The edge gives way to new vistas not seen before. New horizons. New hopes. Let’s try and discover them. There is no other reason to be here. Now.