Perhaps love is a resting place, a shelter from the storm.
Welcome to the Reflection for
This month of February has, indeed, been a very wintry month here in the Maritimes. It has been a month of sheltering through numerous storms. The world around us has been transformed with icicles hanging from roofs and a bluish-white blanket of snow covering the earth.
The snow has had me thinking of animals burrowed into dens and hollows in the earth, as they too, find shelter in these days.
This theme of finding shelter snuck up on me this month, I had actually spent much of the month researching an entirely different Spirit Garden Reflection. Then, the day I sat down to meditate before gathering my notes together, I felt this inner nudge that I needed to go in a different direction. I had the strongest sense that the loving-kindness many of us need right now is to find moments of shelter from the storms of life that are circling around us.
And so I offer you this Reflection on Sheltering Prayer this month. May you wrap yourself in a warm shawl, or blanket and take a moment to meditate upon what is providing you with shelter these days and how your presence might be offering shelter for others.
With sheltering blessings,
The audio file below offers a short reflection on the theme of Sheltering Prayers. The audio is followed by a handout with some questions that are intended to help you journal your own thoughts and experiences around this theme.
Please print these out before you listen to the audio file. You are invited to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and take some quiet time to listen to the reflection and then reflect upon the questions. May this be a nourishing and replenishing time of some soul tending for you.
Please click on the button below to download the reflection questions to go along with the reflection on Sheltering Prayer.
What image arises for you when you think of a sheltering, or encircling prayer?
Perhaps spend a moment reflecting on the image below.
A Song to Close Your Reflection
You may wish to close your reflection by listening to this song, Peace Before Us sung by Jessica Zdenek. The lyrics are reminiscent of an Encircling Prayer.
Spirit Garden Moments
Spirit Garden Moments offer a short pause in your day and an opportunity for reflection. Below are the Spirit Garden Moments that lift up how practicing appreciation and loving-kindness can enliven our souls during the month of February.
The Practice of Appreciation
As we step into the month of February, I have this feeling of standing at a doorway and looking into a room, wondering what gifts it might hold. Traditionally, I have found February to be one of the hardest months of the winter. It may be the shortest month on the calendar, but I found that it felt like the longest month of the year. We often get winter storms where I live and there can be a bleakness to the month of February that I used to dread.
A number of years ago, I found myself needing to find something to look forward to when February rolled around. I needed to change how I perceived this month of the year. After looking at what special days are celebrated in February, like Valentine’s Day and Random Acts of Kindness Week, I decided that February would become my month of Love. I made it a practice to look for love, in all its many expressions, during this month of February. Ever since I have made this shift, I find that February is one of my favourite months and I look forward to it coming around each year. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing outside, if I have my gaze focused on what creates, cultivates and grows love and kindness.
In the Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo expresses that kindness awakens us to our kinship with the world around us. Kindness brings us into relationship with one another and with all of creation. One way that we can cultivate kindness is to give expression to our appreciation for the people in our lives and for the natural world.
Lynne Twist is an author and educator that I greatly admire and she says that any form of appreciation creates a feeling of completeness and sufficiency within us. The act of expressing appreciation acknowledges wholeness and this makes appreciation a powerful practice.
Appreciation is a form of gratitude and it is also an act of kindness. When we practice appreciation, we move toward wholeness, oneness and kinship.
As we begin this new month together, I would invite you to join me in making this a month for practicing appreciation and spreading some kindness as you do so. Here are three Appreciation Practices that you might like to try:
- The practice of appreciating others in your life. You might choose to send a card to friends and family members, letting them know what you appreciate about them. Expressing our appreciation for others lets them know that we see who they are and we are grateful for them.
- The practice of appreciating the world around you. Perhaps when you go for a walk, you might notice what you appreciate about the trees, the sky, and the earth. Or when you look around your home, notice what you appreciate about it.
- Finally, practice appreciating yourself. At the end of each day, place a hand on your heart and name three things that you appreciate about yourself. You might express appreciation for your body and all it does for you, or appreciation for a meal you cooked. It may feel challenging to include ourselves in our practice of appreciation, but this practice can fill our inner well and enhance our sense of vitality.
As Brother David Steindl-Rast says, every form of gratitude provides access to transformation and living in a sea of goodness. As this month unfolds, may our practices of appreciation brighten our lives and the lives of those around us.
With February Blessings,
The Warmth of Kindness
One kind word can warm three winter months.
The proverb above came across my path yesterday as I was tucked into my home while freezing rain pelted the window of my office. The truth of these words resonated deeply in my heart as I sheltered through this winter storm.
One word or one act of kindness does, indeed, offer the kindling that warms the heart and nurtures the soul long after it is given. As I reflected on this, I was reminded of an act of kindness that my husband and I received at Christmas. Someone left a Secret Santa gift on our doorstep. When we opened it Christmas morning, there was a Santa Sack inside for each of us. Each sack was filled with little gifts of chocolates, candles, napkins and other stocking stuffer items.
The gift was done up with such care, we could feel the spirit of generosity and fun with which it was given. Months later, this anonymous gift of kindness still impacts our day and brings warmth to our hearts as we use the napkins and light the candles at our dinner table.
Have you ever received an unexpected gift like this, something that continues to nurture you long after it was given? Take a moment now to recall the words of kindness and the gifts of generosity that you have been blessed with. Notice what happens within you as you allow yourself to pause with this memory.
Acts of kindness warm our hearts and nourish our souls, whether we are the giver or the receiver of them.
In his book, Beauty, the inspiring Irish theologian and poet, John O’Donohue writes:
“Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness, there is beauty.”
“We feel most alive in the presence of the beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul.”
Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day and it also happens to be the first day of Lent. Traditionally, the 40 days of Lent was a time for giving something up, such as drinking coffee or eating chocolate. Over the years, I have adopted a practice held forth by many teachers to use these 40 days to incorporate a life-giving and nourishing practice into my life that supports loving-kindness.
So, on this Random Acts of Kindness Day, perhaps you would like to join me in a 40-day practice of appreciating and growing Beauty in our world by sharing a kind word or gesture with those around you, being sure to include yourself. In this way, may we make the remainder of this winter a little warmer for us all.
It is my hope that the Spirit Garden resources offered to you this month have warmed your heart and nourished your soul. I would love to hear how the practice of appreciation has brought you a sense of wholeness and what acts of kindness you have been motivated to do this month. Perhaps share a comment below and we can keep the warm flame of loving-kindness glowing for one another.
Connect & Share
Please share any comments about the course in the comments below. Make sure to check out what others are posting and encourage each other!