The first snowflakes of the season have swirled down out of a gray sky and come to rest on the ruffled purple heads of late-flowering chrysanthemums. Chattering wrens, sparrows and chickadees fatten their tiny bodies at the birdfeeder outside my kitchen window. Squirrels leap from treetop to rooftop to earth and back again, gathering acorns to stash in their wild, oversized nests high in the bare branches. The sage and lavender in my garden have cast their final tender blooms to the ground and curled leaves around stems in a protective pose. The dawn arrives later and dusk falls earlier. It is December, once again.

A year ago at this time, I decided to go on a “technology fast” for the month of December, giving myself time to savor the approaching holidays, prepare for celebrations with family and friends, and reflect on the year just passed and the new year ahead. My decision was prompted by something I read by Thomas Merton that grabbed me by the heart. It was so profound that I want to repeat here the reflections I wrote about it last year.

Merton wrote,

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.”

The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” ~ from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”

This notion of frenzied busy-ness as a form of “violence” is disturbing, yet it seems intuitively true. And I continue to see the wisdom of following nature’s rhythms as an antidote.

The trees and perennials in my little city garden are once again entering a period of “quiescence” (defined as “tranquil rest”), slowing their growth in response to environmental cues such as the colder temperatures and reduced daylight. This cycle of “tranquil rest” lets the plants develop stress-resistant seeds and buds that will reemerge, strong and healthy, and blossom again in the spring.

In his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives”, ordained minister and therapist Wayne Muller writes:

“If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us.”

So, again this year, with the turn of the calendar page, I have decided to consecrate this month of December as a time of soul-nourishing quiescence, before the season of rebirth and renewal that follows winter solstice and the beginning of a new year.

Once again, I’ll be on a “technology fast” – limiting my time on email, voice mail and social media. I will admit that last year, I struggled a bit to turn off the ubiquitous electronic connections in my life. But as strange as it felt, it was also a time of deep peace and re-connection with the things that REALLY matter – time with family and friends (the face-to-face kind!), time for quiet reflection, time to appreciate nature and the many blessings and miracles in my life.

Wishing you, and those you love, abundant joy and tranquility throughout this season of miracles,

Question of the Day

How might you create for yourself times of soul-nourishing rest throughout this holiday season, whether for an hour or two at a time, for an afternoon, a day, or longer? Consider making that a gift to yourself this holiday season.

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