Just because Christmas has past doesn't mean you need to stop celebrating and embracing the sacred in your life. Part of the reason people feel so deflated and let down after Christmas ends is because they feel there's no reason to celebrate any longer and it's back to their same old hum-drum life. The magic is gone and since we're adults now, we have to stop believing that something spectacular is going to occur in our lives.
But the month of January is the perfect time to create your own sacred rituals around the ordinary flow of your day. When you look up the word ordinary in the dictionary, the definition is "with no special or distinctive features; normal" and "common - usual - regular - normal - habitual - customary." ORDINARY sounds completely boring and uninspired and anyone would feel depressed looking at life that way!
One of the most revered lessons I ever received was when I was going to Weight Watchers. I was desperate to lose the extra 20 pounds I had gained. Food seemed a challenge, I was bored out of my mind with the daily grind of waking up, going to work, coming home, fixing dinner, and sitting and watching TV till it was time to go to bed. I had no magic, nothing to look forward to, and a marriage that clearly was sliding into decay. I had a few close girlfriends, but rarely saw them because I was so tired at the end of the day. There seemed to be nothing to look forward to and no end in sight.
I decided to join Weight Watchers right after Christmas because I saw being surrounded by a community of like-minded women (yes, there were no men there, not because they weren't welcome, just because none signed up!) who could support my goal was exactly what I needed to get some focus back into my life.
The first meeting I went to, I sat huddled in the back, frighted and nervous that someone might notice me. All the women were excited about sharing their successes for the week and strategies that worked; I listened intently and took notes.
You never know when you're going to run into something that will change your life, but when it hits you, you know. It's like the whole world suddenly slows down, and for a moment, everything feels "right" and very clear.
As I hid in the background, furiously writing down all the tips and treasures these women were sharing, that's exactly what happened to me. A single lady talked about how she decided to extend her holiday season and celebrate the food she was eating by continuing to use her best china. She would arrange her food beautifully on the plate, as if she was getting ready for company. She put out a place mat, poured herself a glass of sparkling water into a wine glass, and lit a candle. She played soft music as she ate.
She pretended that she was at a fancy dinner and ate each bite of food with reverence and thankfulness, enjoying the colors, the china, the candles, music and place settings, celebrating every detail of her meal as if she were at the most wonderful party. She shared that by enjoying her meal in this sacred, celebratory manner, it allowed her to fully appreciate the food she was putting into her body. It allowed her soul to be nourished fully, and she didn't even notice that she was eating half the amount of food she was used to shoveling into her mouth.
The sacredness of that simple act of celebrating the food she was eating was like a miracle for her, and she lost 10 pounds very quickly, feeling no deprivation at all, instead feeling blessed and delighted with the beauty of the meal she had created for herself.
That story has stayed with me all these years, and as I slide into the new year, frustrated at the cold weather, the early arrival of the dark, the sadness of taking down my sparkly Christmas decorations, I remember that I can still find sacredness and celebration in the ordinary tasks of my day, like preparing a meal.
I am grateful for the cold weather because I can cook delicious rich hearty soups and stews that I only cook during the winter months. I allow my soul to be nourished by appreciating the beauty of root vegetables floating in a rich brown gravy surrounded by buttery chunks of beef. I celebrate the ordinary act of eating as I lovingly slurp up spoonfuls of stew. I silently gaze at the lovely picture a bowl of stew makes in my favorite soup bowl. I embrace this necessary part of my day as a sacred act and celebration of being alive.
In the famous play "Our Town", the heroine, who has died and is looking back at her life, mourns the loss of "ordinary" things like the smell of a fresh-brewed pot of coffee, the taste of cinnamon rolls, the ticking of a clock. She begs for one more day back on earth as a living being, so she can celebrate and embrace the sacred in the ordinary pulse of her day. In death she realized how much she had taken her days for granted.
In this season of dark and cold, take some time to observe where you can create sacred rituals and celebrations out of ordinary moments. As you embrace the beauty in the ordinary, notice how much more magical and delightful you days become. It's impossible to remain depressed when you open up to the richness and color and ordinary has to offer.