gifts

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For Giving, Not For Getting

Published January 4, 2012 by Susan Woodward

Every year when I return to school after the winter break, I am asked, “Ms Woodward, what did you get for Christmas?” immediately followed by, “I got…” before I can open my mouth in reply.   The questions then gravitate toward other students as they enter the room (many even before they reach their desks) in a competition of who got what.  Then the one-up-manship begins as many try to outdo their classmates with their litany of loot accumulated over the holiday season.  It’s actually pretty painful to think that this is all that the winter break seemed to mean to a lot of my students.

By the fifth or sixth time a student asked me what I got, I turned the question around and asked, “So what did you give?”  When he began to tick off the presents he’d bought, I asked, “That’s nice, but what did you give of yourself?”  I figured this tactic would be a good diversion from the Litany of Loot, and since this was during a study hall, it wasn’t taking away from my lesson plans, so I pursued the question.  I asked him what he gave of himself to his family or friends.  He finally got around to saying that he’d helped his Dad clean out the garage (even though it was a grudgingly done chore), and I asked if he and his Dad talked about anything while they were cleaning.  He told me that they’d talked about football and school and things that his Dad wants to do with the house.  That’s when  I said, “Don’t you think your Dad appreciated that one-on-one time more than anything you could buy?  You gave him a gift of yourself.”   When another student smirked at the conversation we were having, the first student turned to the other and asked, “So what did YOU give, huh?”

It ended up being a pretty good half-hour of hearing how they spent time with family, especially younger cousins or siblings that they played with or put toys together for or taught to play a new game.  That was much better than the Litany of Loot.  I pointed out that the spirit of the season was more for giving and not for getting.

The phrase stuck in my mind the rest of the day like one of those songs that you just can’t quit humming unconsciously after hearing it on the radio…and it led me to ponder that old adage “forgive and forget”; however, I really liked “forgiving, not forgetting” better.   To forgive and forget seems, especially for those who have been in abusive situations, to produce a vicious circle.   While forgiving is the best thing to do to promote healing (especially self-healing), forgetting might open the door for repeat offenses.  I would rather forgive someone, but not forget about the lesson to be taken from the situation. 

For example, I can forgive my ex-fiance for his betrayal, but that does not mean that I will forget what he did.  I tried the “forgive and forget” thing the first few times he hurt me, and I took him back.  Three times.  Only he repeated the behavior because my “forgetting” seemed to give him permission to go ahead and do it again since there had been little consequence.  This time, though, I got off the merry-go-round and ended the cycle for good.   At this point,  I can forgive him, but I will not forget.  This will keep me from falling into similar patterns of behaviors in the future.  Forgive the offense, but never forget the lesson.

Funny how this all started with, “So what did you get for Christmas?”

I am getting a better sense of self-esteem.

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Using Your Gifts: A Hero’s Apotheosis

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.   You continue to sink down until you find yourself awakening after a satisfying rest.  You feel refreshed and ready to move forward on your journey.   The fire has died down and become a pile of smoldering ash, yet still offering warmth in the chill of the morning.  Sitting up, you see that you are alone.  Your companion has moved on to complete his/her own journey, but has left you a note on your satchel.  Pick it up and read it.  What does the note say?  How do you feel about being left to continue alone?

You also discover that your friend has left some food for you inside your satchel.  Take the time to eat before moving forward.  As you swallow, feel the nutrients feeding your body, preparing you for the last portion of your quest.

According to your map, you are very near your destination.  How do you feel about that?  Think about your goal that you have been striving to reach.  Describe how you plan to finally attain it now that you are so close.  Take inventory of the items in your satchel.  What things have you not had the opportunity to use yet?  How do you plan to make use of them?  What do you suppose they are for?  You also notice that your friend has added some items to your satchel.  What are they?  How can they be used?  Carefully return everything to your bag and prepare to leave.  Be sure to scoop dirt over the embers to make sure that they do not ignite and cause an uncontrollable fire.  Look around to be sure that you have not forgotten anything.

Taking a deep breath, face the direction in which you must move.  Where is the sun in relation to where you are facing?  How does that make you feel?  Allow the sun to shine down on you, bathing you in its warmth before embarking.  Close your eyes and feel the warmth penetrate your skin, energizing you and giving you the strength to move on.  Take one last breath and extend your right foot.  Begin that last long walk toward your goal.  This is what you’ve been working toward.  What feelings go through you now?

Start walking.  Along the way, be sure to pay attention to any animals, birds, or specific plants you notice.  They hold meaning for you and you will remember to contemplate on them later.  How significant is it that they happen to cross your path at this time?

You can see your destination in the distance.  Your heart begins to race in excitement, but there’s also a feeling of tension running through you.  What might you feel tense about?  Stop and look ahead, feeling the blood pumping through your body as your adrenalin increases.  What is it that you see?  Fully describe the scene in as much detail as possible.  Also, describe anything that you are feeling, whether it is physical feelings or emotional.  Prepare yourself to enter the realm of your dreams.

Begin moving forward once more.  Starting out slowly and tentatively at first, but your momentum picks up and your pace increases.  Your heart is pounding because now you are finally so close after coming so far.  Think about all you have experienced on your journey.  Remember your gift, the pit, the door, the cave, the river, the mentor, the adversary, the journey, the house, your friend, crossing the abyss, and the fire.  Everything you have gone through has been in preparation for this moment.  How does that make you feel?  How do you believe each step has prepared you for what is to come?  What is it you expect to face?

As you are moving along, you suddenly find that your path is blocked.  Trying to find a way around the block, you discover that the only way to continue is to somehow get through the blockade.  What is it that is blocking your path?  What tools might you have to deal with this?  Look in your satchel and see what you have in your inventory.  Aha!  You discover something that is just what you need to remove the blockade.  Describe what it is you have.  How are you using it?  What does it do to remove the block in your path?  What happens to whatever is in your way?  What feelings go through you as you see your path become visible once more?

You have passed the first test.

Move beyond the block and continue along on your path.  How does the temperature of the air seem around you?  What do you notice as you go along?  Pay attention to as much detail as you can and remember it all for later.

Your destination is much closer now.  You can hear sounds on the breeze coming from the place you are heading toward.  What do you hear?  How do these sounds make you feel?  What might be making them?  You become even more excited to move quickly onward now and you pick up your pace once again.

All of a sudden you find yourself in some sort of a trap.  What kind of trap is it?  How have you been captured?  Fortunately, you are not injured, but you become frustrated at being stopped once more.  Examine the trap carefully… it is not without an escape; however, it is up to you to figure out how to free yourself.  Again, search your satchel that is still on your back for anything that might help you solve the puzzle of getting free.  What do you have in there that can be of aid?  Ah!  You discover just what you need… and you had no idea what you have used it for when you’d picked it up in the cave!  Work through the secret of the trap until you are able to release yourself.  How did you do it?

What have you learned about yourself after making it through the second test?

By this time you are beginning to become impatient to reach the inner realm.  It has been so long, and you have been through so much.  Keep moving forward.  What do you see at this point?  Has anything changed about the scenery?  What about any sounds that you hear?  You stop and being listening intently.  Something has caught your attention, even though it is very subtle.

A whisper comes on a chilled wind.  “I told you we’d meet again!”  The chill moves down your spine as you recognize the voice of your adversary.  Even though a moment of fear runs through you, you have come too far to allow anyone to stop you now.  That thought gives you the courage that you will need to face your foe.

“I told you that there was nothing here for you.  Why didn’t you believe me?”  Your adversary appears before you after stepping out from behind a tree.  Describe what he/she looks like at this moment.  How do you feel as you come face to face with the one who wishes to stop you from entering the place you’ve worked so hard to get to?

Look your adversary in the eye.  Take stock of everything you notice about him/her.  As you look in his/her eye, you are able to see into his/her soul.  For just a few brief moments you are able to see his/her reason for trying to stop you, but astonishingly enough, their reason has nothing to do with you.  It is his/her own fears and insecurities that have been projected onto you that makes him/her wish to keep you back.  Keep looking into his/her eyes to learn the secret of his/her soul.  What do you see there?

He/She realizes what you are doing and breaks eye contact with a loud, angry curse.  He/She knows that you have seen his/her weakness.  How does that make you feel?  What is your attitude about this person now that you know the truth?

Your attitude only angers your adversary even more, and he/she lashes out at you.  Ducking behind a nearby tree, you frantically reach into your satchel to find something that can help.  When you pull out your hand from the bag, you realize that you are holding the gift that had been given to you at the beginning of the journey.  Now is the time to use it.  How?  How does it work?  What does it do?  How does it help you to overcome your adversary?  Fully describe the battle that wages between the two of you.

You emerge as the victor.  What has become of your adversary?  Describe what has happened to him/her.  How does this make you feel?  How do you feel about your victory?

Triumphant, yet exhausted after your ordeal, you must rest before entering the realm of your destination.  You have wounds to attend to, whether they are physical or emotional.  Take care of yourself first.  After coming this far, you must rest before entering.

Lie down upon a patch of soft grass nearby.  Its scent is sweet and intoxicating, making you more and more sleepy as you breathe deeply.  Look up at the sky to see the stars.  There are several constellations overhead; which ones can you see?  Why are these significant to you?

With the knowledge that you are completely safe in this place, stretch once more before curling into a comfortable position.  Take a deep breath and feel yourself drifting away into the darkness.  Soon you begin to feel yourself rising from your bed in the outdoors.  As you rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you think about the tests you have passed.  The feelings of pride from this experience will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.

When Presents Present Themselves: Supernatural Aid

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.   You continue to sink down until you find yourself nestling into a pile of soft cushions in a cavernous room.  The ceiling is very high, and you notice that the room is circular.  Surprisingly, you find the favorite comforts of your own world furnishing this place, giving it a safe, welcoming, familiar vibration.  Move around the room and examine these favorites.  What are you most surprised to find there?  Is it a favorite chair?  Your grandmother’s kitchen table?  A favorite painting that hangs in your best friend’s living room?  What items decorate this special place?

Among the articles in the room, you find your mirror which reflects your heroic archetype.  You are pleased that you remembered to bring it with you after leaving the forest, and you gently look to make sure that the previous crack has indeed healed.  Seeing that the mirror is whole, you smile and look at your reflection once more.  The hero is looking back, this time with a smile.  He/She still appears older than the first time you’d seen him/her, but the sadness has disappeared.  How do you feel as the hero smiles at you?

You sense a slight tingling sensation going through you as if the air were suddenly electrified.  It is not at all frightening, but it fills you with a sense of urgency to do something, as if you can’t manage to just sit still.  A staccato drumbeat plays faintly in the distance, but begins to increase in volume as the tingling sensation increases as well.  A sound of laughter, joyous and welcoming, comes from the mirror.  Looking at it, you see the hero not only smiling broadly, but actually laughing.  The sound of the drumbeat increases and the hero calls loudly, “Are you ready?!”  A vibration rises from the handle of the mirror, riding up your arm and permeating your entire body in sync with the beat of the drum.  In shock, you drop the mirror, shattering it to pieces.  The drum beat increases as the hero seems to rise from the place where the glass had been in the mirror.  You watch in fascination without fear as he/she continues to rise and then stands before you.  Still laughing, he/she puts his/her arms about you in a tight hug.  You welcome the embrace. The vibrating sensation increases as you and the hero merge into one.

A large mirror hangs on the wall, and as you look closely at your reflection, you notice that by softening your gaze, you can also see your heroic archetype as well.  He/She has always been a part of you, but you are now absolutely aware of that inner presence.  How does this make you feel?

Once the merging has taken place, the sound of the drum begins to lessen and fade.  The tingling in your body also begins to dissipate, yet the feeling of urgency to do something still remains.   After a few moments, you notice that the drum beat had been replaced by the sound of someone knocking on a door.  You feel a bit disoriented after your experience, yet the knocking continues.  A voice from deep within whispers, “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.”   What does this mean to you?  How does that idea make you feel?

Looking around the room, you suddenly notice that a door has appeared where there had been none previously.  You are startled at its sudden appearance, and you hesitate to move toward it, even though the knocking is becoming more insistent.  Again, the voice from deep within whispers, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  What feelings are going through you now?

Gathering your courage, you move toward the door.  As you do so, the knocking stops.  As soon as you hesitate, however, the knocking begins again.  Trusting your inner voice, you again head toward the door, and the knocking ceases once more.  Someone knows you are coming.  Who do you suppose is on the other side of that door?  Who do you hope it is?  Who do you fear it is?

Take a deep breath and grasp the door handle.  Opening it boldly, you find that the stoop is vacant.  In place of a person that you expected to see (because, of course, someone must have been knocking), you find a large, beautifully gift-wrapped package.  You look out into the darkness for a glimpse of the person who was knocking, but there is no one there.  Picking up the package, you discover that there is a tag on the gift.  It has your name on it.  Looking about one last time before closing the door, you carry the gift to the center of the room.  Setting it down on the floor, you sit cross-legged in front of the package to get a better look at it.  Fully describe the package.  How is it decorated?  Are there any ribbons or bows?  What color is the gift-wrap?  How do you feel as you sit and gaze at it?

After looking at it for some time, your curiosity gets the better of you, and you decide that it’s time to open the gift.  Because you sense its importance, you open it slowly, with purpose.  When you finally open the gift, what do you find?  What do you think you are supposed to do with it?  Is it something you already know how to use, or is it something you will have to learn to utilize?  How does this gift make you feel?  Who do you suppose sent it?

It will take you some time to think about the importance of the gift, and so you decide to set it in a special place in this room.  Where is that special place?  The gift will be safe because as you look around you, you notice that the door has disappeared once more, and the room is once again a continuous circle.

Lie back down upon the soft cushions, and think about the events of this visit.  Your inner hero still whispers to you.  What is he/she saying?  While you are listening, you find yourself becoming more and more drowsy. A rest will do you good now that you have decided to follow through with your call.  Curling into a comfortable position, you soon you begin to feel yourself rising from the cushions.  As you rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you remember the gift in your special place, an image that will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.

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