The deep of winter, when the season is at its coldest, when the days are dark and short–and the nights longer appears to be the natural time for reflection. American artist Andrew Wyeth captured both the season’s barrenness and our instinctual awareness that–at this time of year– ‘something waits’ to unfold:
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it…Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
Winter is a natural time to think and dream–about things and people; about how we want to “walk through the world” in the coming year. Whether we’re ready or not, winter nudges us, reminding us to slow down, reflect, and seek peace in our lives.
So what is peace?
It’s obvious you can’t become peaceful if you’re not sure what the word really means. At its most basic, we can describe the word as the absence of conflict; conflict not only between nations, but conflict within ourselves. A peaceful person is one who is tranquil, harmonious and serene.
Each of the world’s four major religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism – asks followers to seek peace. Biblical scripture advises “They must…do good; they must seek peace and pursue it” (Peter 3:11). Peace, according to the Jewish sages, is the ultimate purpose of Hebrew scriptures, the Torah: “All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace.” (Tanhuma Shoftim: 18). In Islam, the ideal society, Dar as-Salam, literally, means “the house of peace”. Buddhists cultivate inner peace, following the assertion that true peace comes from within, not from without. As the Dalai Lama XIV recently said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
Winter is the Time to Find Peace… Within
Real inner peace; that elusive sense of contentment–that all’s right with your world–must come from within. It’s fairly obvious we cannot change or control the world around us; but it is possible to change and control the world within us. And most simple way to do just that is meditation. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think.
You don’t have to spend hours sitting on the floor in meditation; less than 5 minutes a day can shift your world view – even in the dark days of winter.
Start by Smiling
“Peace begins,” said Mother Teresa, “with a smile…” Try it for yourself: sit quietly in a comfortable chair, place your hands on your lap, and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes, take two natural breaths; then slowly turn your mouth into a gentle smile, in imitation of the Buddha.
Remain smiling, filling your mind with loving compassionate and peaceful thoughts about yourself, others; the world. You can also recite one of the following mantras (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation):
May the entire universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free. In some way, may I contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.
Continue to breathe. When you’re ready to end your meditation session, open your eyes. But don’t stand up right away; instead remain seated for a few more minutes. This is the time your brain fully integrates the changes you’ve made in establishing peace as a foundation for your day-to-day life.
Here in the deep of winter, for many, literary giant Edith Sitwell’s words ring true: “winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
As you settle into winter, gather with friends or family to celebrate your chosen holiday–whether secular or religious, we wish you peace.
Copyright © 2017 Funeral Innovations, All rights reserved.
There’s something interesting about how we react to New Year’s: part of us is apprehensive about what’s ahead, while another part of our brain feels a small spark of excitement at the possibilities in our future. There’s conflict built right into the celebration; after all, New Year’s Eve marks the time of letting go. New Year’s Day is set aside for reflection and looking forward. It’s a push/pull situation, especially for someone who has experienced a significant loss during the last 12 months.
(It doesn’t always have to be the death of someone dear to you; there are many significant losses– the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, the foreclosure of your home, the end of a friendship–each ‘rocks your world’ to its foundation. And, it’s a hard truth: as we age, rarely a year goes by without multiple losses.)
So, here you are, in the dark of winter and in sadness, caught in the space between wanting to hang on to the past and needing to move forward into the New Year with (some measure) of enthusiasm. You do that by opening your mind, heart and spirit to happiness. Oh yes, you also have to….
Trust in the “Magic of Beginnings”
Those aren’t our words; they belong to the 14th century German theologian Meister Eckhart, who captured the kernel of anticipation we can feel when there’s the promise of change:
“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
Can you still feel the ‘magic’ in this time of beginnings? If you can, one morning, step outside to watch the sun rise. The joy in witnessing the magical transition between dark and light is what you’re looking for; hang on to it.
Can you trust in yourself to begin living in a new way? Chances are you’ve been compelled to re-invent yourself before. Yes, it can be a challenge, but you’re up to the task. Just remember, big changes don’t happen overnight.
Set both Resolutions and Goals
All by themselves, resolutions can be nasty, disappointing things. In 2015, the folks over at Statistics Brain determined that almost half of all Americans make a resolution at New Year’s and, of that number, 24% of them fail in the effort. That’s because there wasn’t a related goal attached to it. Here’s an example: you’ve set the resolution to “try something new” in the coming year. But what’s your plan? What “new things” do you want to try – and when?
As Melody Beattie wrote, in The Language of Letting Go, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” This is the time of year to ask yourself what you’d like to happen in your life this coming year. Write it down. Then make the next decision: what one thing can you do right now to get started?
Before we go, we’d like to share these 14 words from poet Alfred Tennyson which, for us, captures the magic and promise of the New Year:
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Wishing you peace and joy,
The Cress Family and Staff
To everything there is a season
A time of love, a time of sharing and a time of memories
In each season, let yesterday’s memories lead you
In every time of need
Count your blessings as well as your tears.
Fill your heart with the best of the past
And hope will come to you
Keep your eyes on the good times
And feel the love surrounding you
There will always be times of trial
But for every sorrow, there is hope
For every tear there is love.
As you work your way through your valley of sadness
May strong and lasting memories be your comfort
As you journey down this road of many branching paths
Let’s walk together.
As the Christmas rituals and festivities envelope us in their presence, I want to dedicate this blog post to those members of our communities who are in the midst of experiencing an impending loss and also to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Those dear people for whom the lights of the season won’t shine as brightly for, the numerous Christmas carols may ring hollow and the family gatherings too sad with an empty space in the circle of the family. Each person’s grief journey is a unique and singular experience. Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed by emotion or perhaps you quietly tuck your sadness inside and walk along in silence, buffeted by the jostling crowds and the frenetic activity. Please know that all of us at Cress stand alongside you on your sacred journey.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about my career as a funeral director are the stories I get to hear. I am allowed to be present to people who are deep in the pain of loss, and I have learned something very important from each family I am called to serve. I have learned that the stories of our departed loved ones matter. They impact us as we journey forward in our life and they speak to us from beyond the grave. Part of the process of learning to live again after a loss is to find a small joy each day. Something that is simple. Something that touches your heart and allows for even a moment of relief, of inspiration, of a chance to smile.
Unlike the popular holiday song, the Christmas season is not always ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. For those who are experiencing the death of a loved one, it is indeed a very difficult time. A time of uncertainty, uneasiness, loneliness, and sadness, among other emotions.
My wish this Christmas season is that everyone who is on a journey of grief may find comfort in the stories their loved ones leave behind; that you may find peace in your heart; that you may be surrounded with people in your life who bring you joy and a respite from loneliness; and that you may, in your own unique way, find the faith and courage to put one foot in front of the other, to continue on your journey thorough this life. It is indeed a life with sorrow, but also with much joy. May you carry the spirit and memory of your loved one close to your heart, for it is there that they will never be far from you.
All of us at Cress wish you the peace and tranquility this season provides. We are honored to walk alongside you on your journey, before, during, and after the loss of a loved one. May we all be a source of strength for you and together offer you a shoulder to lean on, a steady hand to guide you when the path twists and turns, and a calm voice to comfort you and let you know that you are not alone.
“Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased. Nor is it etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever.”
~ Rumi ~
The Cress Family and Staff Members
Written by ~ Justin Panske, Funeral Director and Certified Celebrant
Darrin Kolka Deb Wood Brown Heather Holy
Reach out to us with your Advance Planning questions and we will make sure you have the correct information to help you make a plan for your family!
Info@cressfuneralservice.com or 608-238-3434
The Opening Gala is hosted by the Stoughton, Oregon & McFarland American Cancer Society Relay For Life at the Stoughton Cress Funeral Home. Just the beginning to a wonderful and fun-filled weekend in downtown Stoughton!
Opening Gala is Friday, December 2, 2016 from 6pm – 10pm
at the Cress Funeral Home, 206 W. Prospect, Stoughton
Come and enjoy the sophisticated vintage music of Second Swing Around, a beautiful assortment of hors d’oeuvres as well as a wine and beer bar.
The silent auction of themed baskets is sure to be jaw-dropping, and all proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Stoughton, Oregon & McFarland.
For a $5 suggested donation at the door, you will not want to miss this fun event!
Then the weekend continues in downtown Stoughton where you take a step back in time to celebrate the holidays the old-fashioned way! A weekend full of family-friendly activities, entertainment and shopping is in store for this 23rd annual Victorian Holiday Weekend.
Here is a sampling of what you and your family can do during the Victorian Holiday Weekend:
Horse Drawn Carriage Rides! Santa’s Workshop, Arts and Crafts Show, Illuminated Fire Truck Parade, Breakfast with Santa, Performances of A Christmas Carol, Holiday Lights Tree Display, Carolers roaming Main Street, A Dickens of a Run & Walk 5K and 1 mile, bake sale, holiday gift shopping and so much more!