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And now let us welcome the New Year
Full of things that have never been.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
January, the month of new beginnings and cherished memories, beckons. Come, let winter weave her wondrous spell: cold, crisp, woolen-muffler days, long dark evenings of savory suppers, lively conversations, or solitary joys. Outside the temperature drops as the snow falls softly. All of nature is at peace. We should be, too. Draw hearthside. This is the month to dream, to look forward to the year ahead and the journey within.
A Transformative Year of Delight and Discovery
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
--Zora Neale Hurston
New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery.
Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change. What are your hopes for the future as you reflect on the years that have passed? Gradually, as you become curator of your own contentment, you will learn to embrace the gentle yearnings of your heart. But this year, instead of resolutions, write down your most private aspirations. Those longings you have kept tucked away until the time seems right. Trust that now is the time. Ask the questions. The Simple Abundance path brings confidence that the answers will come and we will discover--day by day--how to live them.
Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source--a Shower of Dreams--just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.
Loving the Questions
You only live once--but if you work it right, once is enough.
--Joe E. Lewis
How often in the past have you turned away from all that is unresolved in your heart because you feared questioning? But what if you knew that a year from today you could be living the most creative, joyous, and fulfilling life you could imagine? What would it be? What changes would you make? How and where would you begin? Do you see why the questions are so important?
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves," the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges us. "Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now...."
The answers to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking. Wait. Live your questions. Then ask. Become open to the changes that the answers will inevitably bring. This may take some time, but time is the New Year's bountiful blessing: three hundred sixty-five bright mornings and starlit evenings; fifty-two promising weeks; twelve transformative months full of beautiful possibilities; and four splendid seasons. A simply abundant year to be savored.
Simple Abundance: The Inner Journey
simple, adj. 1: without embellishment; 2: clarity of form and thought; 3:fundamental
abundance, n. 1: an ample quantity, profusion; 2: wealth; 3: plentifulness
simple abundance, 1: an inner journey; 2: a spiritual and practical course in creative living; 3: a tapestry of contentment
Today I want you to become aware that you already possess all the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity needed to make your dreams come true. This is hard for most of us to realize because the source of this unlimited personal power is buried so deeply beneath the bills, the car pool, the deadlines, the business trip, and the dirty laundry that we have difficulty accessing it in our daily lives. When we can't access our inner resources, we come to the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only from external events. That's because external events usually bring with them some sort of change. And so we've learned to rely on circumstances outside ourselves for forward or backward momentum as we hurtle through life. But we don't have to do that any longer. We can learn to be the catalysts for our own change.
At the heart of Simple Abundance is an authentic awakening, one that resonates within your soul: you already possess all you need to be genuinely happy. The way you reach that awareness is through an inner journey that brings about an emotional, psychological, and spiritual transformation. A deep inner shift in your reality occurs, aligning you with the creative energy of the Universe. Such change is possible when you invite Spirit to open up the eyes of your awareness to the abundance that is already yours.
There are six principles that will act as guides as we make our inner journey over the next year. These are the six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security. First there is gratitude. When we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed. Gratitude gives way to simplicity--the desire to clear out, pare down, and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well. Simplicity brings with it order, both internally and externally. A sense of order in our life brings us harmony. Harmony provides us with the inner peace we need to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each day, and beauty opens us to joy. But just as with any beautiful needlepoint tapestry, it is difficult to see where one stitch ends and another begins. So it is with Simple Abundance.
Pick up the needle with me and make the first stitch on the canvas of your life. Invite Spirit to open up the eyes of your inner awareness. Be still and wait expectantly, knowing that in the warp and woof of your daily life as it exists today are the golden threads of a simply abundant tomorrow.
This Isn't a Dress Rehearsal
When you perform ... you are out of yourself--larger and more
potent, more beautiful. You are for minutes heroic. This is power.
This is glory on earth. And it is yours, nightly.
--Agnes de Mille
You've probably heard the expression "life's not a dress rehearsal." Unfortunately, many of us unconsciously act as if it were. Like an actress just going through the motions in order to conserve her creative energy and focus for opening night, we hold back. Perhaps you save the pretty china for when company comes; perhaps you're like me and rarely dress up when you're home alone. If we're not playing to an audience, does it really matter?
That's a good question to ask ourselves as the New Year begins and we examine the quality of our real life journey. It does take more effort to set an inviting table, but it enhances our enjoyment of eating. We all feel better when we take those few extra minutes to fix our hair and put on makeup, but what's more, we act different. Every actress knows the magic power of props and costumes to create special moods both onstage and off.
None of us can be expected to perform every minute of our lives. But a lot of us might tap into the power, excitement, and glory of Real Life more frequently if we cast ourselves as the leading ladies in our own lives.
The Woman You Were Meant to Be
Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we
accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense that something
is missing in our lives and--fruitlessly--search "out there" for the
answers. What's often wrong is that we are disconnected from an
authentic sense of self.
Has this ever happened to you? You are washing your face, and suddenly you do not recognize the woman staring back at you. "Who is this?" you ask the mirror on the wall. No reply. She looks vaguely familiar but bears little resemblance to the woman you were expecting to see there. Psychologists call this phenomenon a "displacement of self," and it usually occurs during times of great stress (which for many of us is an everyday occurrence).
But what's wrong? What is this sadness we cannot name? Here is a question that deserves loving meditation. Perhaps the heart of our melancholy is that we miss the woman we were meant to be. We miss our authentic selves. But the good news is that even if you have ignored her overtures for decades ("Wear red ... Cut your hair ... Study art in Paris ... Learn the tango ..."), your authentic self has not abandoned you. Instead she has been waiting patiently for you to recognize her and reconnect. Turn away from the world this year and begin to listen. Listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Your silent companion has lit lanterns of love to illuminate the path to Wholeness. At long last, the journey you were destined to take has begun.
Standing Knee-Deep in a River and Dying of Thirst
The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the heart of
The first time I heard Kathy Mattea's beautiful rendition of the country song "Standing Knee-Deep in a River (Dying of Thirst)," I was on my way to my daughter's school to pick up the afternoon car pool. Suddenly I had to pull over because I was crying so much I couldn't see the road in front of me. Until then, it had been a busy but good day. I was not consciously aware of being sad or depressed. So why was I crying?
As Kathy sang of friends who had been taken for granted, sweethearts she had known, and a wonderful world full of strangers just waiting to make a connection with us (while we turn our eyes away), something deep within me stirred. There was so much I was taking for granted. I didn't want to continue to live unconsciously.
The revelation that we have everything we need in life to make us happy but simply lack the conscious awareness to appreciate it can be as refreshing as lemonade on a hot afternoon. Or it can be as startling as cold water being thrown in our face. How many of us go through our days parched and empty, thirsting after happiness, when we're really standing knee-deep in the river of abundance? Yet make no mistake about it. The Universe will get our attention one way or another--with a sip or a splash. Let's choose today to quench our thirst for "the good life" we think others lead by acknowledging the good that already exists in our own lives. We can then offer the Universe the gift of our grateful hearts.
How Happy Are You Right Now?
Perhaps if one really knew when one was happy one would know
the things that were necessary for one's life.
How happy are you right now? Do you even know? Most women know what makes their parents, partners, or children happy. But when it comes to an awareness about the little, specific things in life that bring a smile to our faces and contentment to our own hearts, we often come up short.
In 1926 a young Englishwoman, Joanna Field, began to feel that she was not living a truly authentic life, that she did not know what made her truly happy. To remedy this she kept a journal in order to discover what specifically triggered the feeling of delight in her daily life. The journal, "A Life of One's Own", was published in 1934. It was written, she confided, in the spirit of a detective who searches through the minutiae of the mundane in hopes of finding clues for what was missing in her life.
What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living. It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love. We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment. Experiment with a new cookie recipe. Take the time to slowly arrange a bouquet of flowers in order to appreciate their colors, fragrance, and beauty. Sip a cup of tea on the front stoop in the sunshine. Pause for five minutes to pet a purring cat. Simple pleasures waiting to be enjoyed. Simple pleasures often overlooked.
Joanna Field discovered that she delighted in red shoes, good food, sudden bursts of laughter, reading in French, answering letters, loitering in a crowd at a fair and "a new idea when first it is grasped."
Let us each grasp a new idea this year. Let us grasp the awareness of what it is that makes us truly happy. Let us consider our personal preferences and learn how to recognize, then embrace, moments of happiness that are uniquely our own.
The Underrated Duty
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
--Robert Louis Stevenson
Perhaps you think you'll be happy when you get a bigger kitchen, or a new job, or the perfect someone with whom to share your life. But don't you want to start making happiness a habit right now? Every morning when we wake up we've been given a wonderful gift--another day of life--so let's make the most of it. No one can do it for us. "Happiness is not a possession to be prized," Daphne du Maurier wrote in "Rebecca." "It is a quality of thought, a state of mind."
Let's adopt a new state of mind about happiness. Let's stop thinking that things outside our control will bring us happiness.
Admittedly, remodeling the kitchen, landing the job we've been dreaming of, or finding that special someone can make us feel--at least momentarily--happier. But the magic seeds of contentment are planted deep within us. Happiness that the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that's beautiful and alive. Happiness is a living emotion.
Your happiness is not a frivolous, expendable luxury. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. But we have to be willing to pursue it. Ultimately, genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives. This may be new behavior for some of us and a bit intimidating. Be gentle with yourself. It will all unfold. Today you may not be familiar with the happiness habit. But like any new behavior, happiness can be learned.
What Is It You Truly Need?
In my life's chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything
happened according to an inner need.
Do you have everything you need right now? What about your wants? Few of us have everything we want, and at times our wants can seem positively all-consuming. Our sensibilities become confused and overstimulated by a mass media that glorifies beautiful people and expensive objects. It's easy to lose clarity about what it is we need to live authentically. Most of us are hungering for something more in our lives. But do you really think the answer can be found in a glossy magazine or on the movie screen?
If we are to live happy, creative, and fulfilled lives, it is crucial to distinguish between our wants and our needs. Unfortunately, many women blur the distinction and then wonder why they feel so diminished.
Make peace with the knowledge that you can't have everything you want. Why? Because it's more important for us to get everything we need. Like infants, we feel contentment when our essential needs are met.
Be courageous. Ask yourself: what is it I truly need to make me happy? The deeply personal answers to this vital question will be different for each of us. Trust the loving wisdom of your heart. It is only after we acknowledge our inner needs that we can harness the creative energy necessary to manifest them in our lives. "It is inevitable when one has a great need of something, one finds it," Gertrude Stein reminds us. "What you need you attract like a lover."
Until It Is Carved in Stone
It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited
time on earth--and that we have no way of knowing when our
time is up--that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if
it was the only one we had.
Visiting old cemeteries can be very illuminating. They are so still and silent. So quiet. Old cemeteries remind us that until it is carved in stone, realizing our heart's desire is possible every day if we recognize what it is that makes us happy.
In Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" a deeply poignant scene takes place in a graveyard. Ghosts comfort the young heroine, who has recently died in childbirth. Emily, still longing for the life she has just left, wishes to revisit one ordinary, "unimportant" day in her life. When she gets her wish, she realizes how much the living take for granted.
Eventually her visit is too much for her to bear. "I didn't realize," she confesses mournfully, "all that was going on and we never noticed.... Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners ... Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking ... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths ... and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."
This is the season of Epiphany, when the renewal of light and revelation are celebrated in the liturgy of the Catholic, Episcopal, and Eastern Orthodox churches. On our new path we seek everyday epiphanies--occasions on which we can experience the Sacred in the ordinary--and come to the awakening, as Emily finally does, that we cannot longer afford to throw away even one "unimportant" day by not noticing the wonder of it all. We have to be willing to discover and then appreciate the authentic moments of happiness available to all of us every day.