It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday of the year because it is a holiday for everyone, regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation, nationality or heritage, gender or race. It’s a time to pause and reflect on what we are grateful for. At this Thanksgiving season, I’m feeling great gratitude for what sustains me.
It’s been a very full year. As I write, I’m in Poland on my last of seven international working trips this year. During the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what it is that sustains me. What is it about my life and work that fills me up rather than drains me – that gives me sustenance even when challenges or an overbooked schedule seem overwhelming?
As I sat down to write, the first word to come to me was creativity, followed right away by beauty, familiarity, nature, contemplative practice, freedom, empty space in my schedule, and unconditional deep heart relationships. I wouldn’t say that those words appeared in a particular priority order, yet it was interesting to me to observe the flow.
Creativity and creative expression are at the heart of my being. I see how they have been a thread through my life, first as a professional singer, and now as a writer, teacher, speaker, and coach. Opening to be a conduit through which a greater wisdom can flow has always been one of my primary ways of learning. Whether I am writing, teaching, speaking, or coaching, there are moments of incredible connection when words and concepts that I didn’t know before come flowing out of me. Perhaps you’ve had similar experiences. To me, it feels like tapping into the greater Consciousness or the quantum field and partnering with the ideas and potential waiting to be expressed. This is one of the greatest blessings of my work.
Creative expression is like oxygen for me. It is life-blood. It energizes and enlivens my being. Without it, I quickly lose a sense of meaning and purpose. And without meaning and purpose, life is not sustainable.
Beauty also sustains me. More specifically, it is simple yet elegant beauty that feeds my spirit. There is something life giving about the beauty of a flower or an elegantly simple design. Whether in a physical space or in a work of art, simple and soothing lines, shapes, colors, and flow bring rest and rejuvenation to my soul.
Being in nature, feeling the warmth of the sun, absorbing the green color of grass and trees, and sensing the caress of a gentle breeze on my skin also nurtures my spirit. The beauty and wonder of nature ignites my creative spark, often bringing deeper insight and understanding about a concept I am writing about or preparing to teach.
In the last few years, I’ve increasingly come to appreciate familiarity as well. I love travel and discovering new cultures and natural wonders in different parts of the world. Yet I’ve also come to appreciate the restful and reassuring feeling I get from being in familiar places where I know the people, and where I feel held and embraced in a space that I know. Because I travel so much, I am constantly meeting new people and experiencing new places, cultures, and practices. That’s wonderful, yet at the same time, it costs energy to take it all in and learn how to navigate those new places and cultures. So for balance, I also need time in familiar spaces where I know how things and relationships work. For sustenance, I need the challenge and excitement of new learning and discovery as well as periods of time where I can rest in the familiar.
If creativity and creative expression are at the heart of my being, contemplative practice is a major source for that creative expression. For me, contemplative practice includes daily morning meditation, for sure. Yet there is so much more. It also includes daily walks with my dogs, sitting in the sunroom with coffee in the mornings and watching the birds and squirrels in the old hickory tree just outside the windows. Or sitting on the deck of our house in the late afternoon with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and enjoying the lush nature of our gardens. It’s time spent on airplanes gazing out the window at the cloudscapes, or playing the piano at the end of the day. It’s making sure that there is empty space in my schedule. Contemplative practice can take many forms. Sustenance comes from the inner stillness that is nurtured and supported through these contemplative activities.
The sense of freedom that comes from being my own man also sustains me – standing in integrity and making my own choices for how I move in the world. Knowing who I am and who I am called to be and living into that calling gives me life.
Finally, there are the unconditional deep heart relationships in my life – with my partner Johnathon and with our two dachshunds, Toby and Matty, as well as with many special people around the world. In those deep heart relationships, we can rest in one another. We feel held and supported by one another unconditionally. We are there for each other, no matter what is happening. We serve as witnesses for one another’s growth and evolution and embrace one another in times of celebration as well as in challenge. We are held and nurtured in the love we share.
Gratitude is an extraordinary thing. Just sitting down to write this article has been a great gift – to actually name that which sustains me in my life and work, and to say thank you to those things from deep in my heart. In this Thanksgiving week, may you find some time to reflect on what brings sustenance to your life. May you take time to say thank you for the gifts and blessings of your days.
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