Before I get lost in the to-do list. Before I jot down lists of presents to buy. Before I stock my pantry in anticipation of Christmas baking. Before I get out ornaments and lights.
I need to take a breath.
I need to take another breath.
I need to pull out my journal and sit myself down on my couch.
Then, I ask: What is my question for this Christmas season?
* * *
The practice of finding my question has transformed my relationship with Christmas. It steadies me. It focuses my heart on what is truly important. The extra stuff will get done. A tree will go up, and we will light candles. We’ll make the season cozy and magical for our kids. I will buy presents and wrap presents and bake cookies and make caramels to give away to our neighbors. We will send greetings to friends we haven’t seen in years.
But I long for something deeper in this season of dark and hope. I long for connection with God and soul and others. This contemplative soul longs for a contemplative Christmas.
This is difficult in the frenzied muchness of December. So before I jump in to December merriment or craziness, I choose a question. This question makes space for my heart and soul to celebrate the season in a way that fits who I am and who I am created to be.
Last year, my question was: How do I want to be this season?
The year before, my question was: How does God want to be born in me today?
This year, the question that I landed on is:
“What does my soul need this Christmas season?”
What do you need soul?
This is a good question any day, but it seems especially important in the holiday season.
I ask this question without any preconceived notions of what will emerge. I make space to listen. Sometimes what emerges takes only a matter of minutes to discover. Sometimes, I wait as the answer comes slowly and partially.
After a pause to listen, words started flowing from my pen. My soul needs:
to tend to light
to tend to hope
to offer kindness
to walk in peace
to seek justice and mercy
and love out
That all sounds lovely. But what does it mean? How do I go about doing that? What will this look like today? What might it look like next week?
I find myself praying: Show me how . . .
And in the space that follows, comes another nudge, an idea that I’m really looking forward to practicing. It embodies the desires my soul articulated. It will give shape to the next month and will allow me to celebrate this season in a meaningful way for me.
I love the practice of finding and asking questions. Listening for the next steps and the invitations that follow keep me moving and growing and living open-heartedly.
* * *
Have you tried the practice of finding your question? Have you ever asked your soul: What do you need?
Because we are all unique, the way that I listen to my soul may not work for you. Maybe you need to ask your question and go for a run. Maybe you need to ask your question and sleep on it. Give yourself space and time to ask your question and to listen for your answer.
How do we pay attention to what our soul is saying?
Again, this is unique to each person. That’s why it’s important to practice asking questions and make room for listening for your response. Journaling–free writing– is one helpful tool in listening to what emerges from your soul. Sometimes, you’ll just know. Sometimes it might be a word, image, or song that lands on your heart. Sometimes, you’ll find a quote that resonates deeply and then you’ll see the quote in another place or the idea written in another way: the same message appearing a number of times in a short amount of time. Pay attention when that happens.
How can we trust what we’re hearing?
I know that not every internal message is one I need to follow. Some internal messages will lead me in a direction that I don’t want to go. This is why we need to practice discerning which “messages” or “voices” we can trust. For example, fear and stress responses will do their best to “protect” me when I may not need protecting after all.
Are you experiencing more life, more love, deeper connection? I think you can trust that which leads you toward Love, Life, and Connection.
Listening is a practice. It takes practice to listen well.
Whether you are a question-asker or not, may you live into the invitations that are yours to discover in this holiday season and in the days to come.