Friday, January 29, 2016

Celebrate! ...

Life should not only be lived,
it should be celebrated!


Hi Everyone!

So this week I reached one of those BIG birthdays and I've be feted, gifted and feasted all week. There's a bouquet of cards on the mantle piece, one of spring flowers on the kitchen table and a small grouping of gifts, waiting for new homes, sitting on a chair in the dining room. And it's not over yet. Tomorrow, my middle sister will host a Scottish Afternoon Tea for me and sixteen of my closest friends. My heart overflows with happiness and gratitude in the face of all this celebration. I feel loved and supported and energized for the next decade.

The Oxford English dictionary defines celebration as publicly acknowledging a significant or happy day or event with a social gathering or social activity. So it's not just a matter of feeling happy and grateful in your own heart, it's a matter of sharing that happiness with others in some public way. (Or, perhaps, sharing a more complex emotional experience like grief or hope.)

Throughout history, we've created gatherings, ceremonies and rituals to celebrate any number of situations  - births, deaths, survival, defining our identities and acknowledging to whom we belong, changing seasons, planting and harvest, anniversaries, welcomes and leave-takings, establishing relationships and ending them, and marking developmental milestones and life transitions.

In times past, more formal celebrations have centered around our religious institutions. Today, as these institutions are less central to life in neighbourhoods and communities, people known as celebrants can help us to plan individualized celebrations.

Why should we go to all the trouble of celebrating ? Because it's good for us. It allows us to connect with our emotions and with our fellow human beings. It builds our strength. It reinforces positive aspects of our culture and spirituality. It roots us in the rhythms of Nature and of Life itself. 

I think it is important for those of us who care for others, at home or at work, to intentionally find things to celebrate. Celebrating builds energy. It binds teams and communities together. It builds hope and motivates us to keep moving forward. Sometimes, when we face obstacles or when progress is achingly, frustratingly slow or when, in fact, the situation is actually deteriorating, it can seem as though there's little or nothing to celebrate and we become saddened and discouraged. 

These are the times when we most need to find something to celebrate or commemorate with others. These are the times when we can look to the ordinary stuff of life - having learned a new skill, feeling healthy, getting through a rough week, having a time of respite, acknowledging acts of synchronicity or unexpected blessing, the love and support of family or friends  - for something to celebrate. One of my favourite celebrations for helpers is the Blessing of Hands , often held during Nurses Week in this country. There is something uplifting and sustaining about having such (extra)ordinary things as one's hands blessed so they can continue to be a blessing for others.

Celtic poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, has written a blessing to remind us of the importance of celebration. You'll find it in his well-loved book, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings:

Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here. 

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

May each of you find something, small or large, to celebrate this week!

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