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Today is your birthday. Perhaps not the anniversary of your birth, but a day when you are given the gift of another 24 hours to savor life. You wake up and slowly become aware of the pillow beneath your head, the quality of light streaming into the window, the absolute perfect positioning of your body. At the very second that your eyes open, thousands of people are closing theirs for the final time. As your eyes open fully, your gift is opened at the same time. The whole day spreads before you – long and lush for your pleasure.

How will you celebrate?  Will you throw off the general anesthesia that most of us operate under and be conscious of every small delight that crosses your path? That first fragrant sip of coffee, the sun glittering through the leaves, the fresh feeling of your skin after a shower—all sensual enchantments that are there for your pleasure, but are most often taken for granted. Knowing that the next minute brings uncertainty, it is wise to savor what arises in the present moment.  Let it soak into your being to sustain you for whatever may come next.

I know that the dreariness of our day often seems to be preordained. We slept poorly; a stressful day at work is waiting; we are anxious or irritated; we are sick or in pain. It is difficult to remember that, even in these times, we can experience satisfaction and enjoyment in life.

Whether or not we do so depend on where we direct our focus. William James said, “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but it does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.”

Perhaps you will celebrate by being especially conscious of the people precious to you. We can’t gauge the importance of those around us until we acknowledge that they are a gift, not an entitlement. Imagine how our relationships would change if, even for a day, we treated people as if it were their last day on earth. How would that affect what we said to them, the quality of time we spent with them, and even how we feel about ourselves and our own lives? It is, after all, the people we touch and visa-versa that determines the true meaning of our lives.

You might celebrate by living large—expanding beyond self-interest to do something wonderful for the world. Everyone should have a quest that fuels their passion and bolsters their sense of significance.  It doesn’t have to be a cause on a global scale. Think about one thing you would like to be remembered for and make that the intention that will guide your actions throughout the day. Every small decision, every minute action, can either reinforce our sense of obscurity or reaffirm our greatness. Given the choice, who wouldn’t want to invest their precious time on the latter?

This retreat is meant to take a little time today to savor and appreciate life. Enjoy!

Celebrating Nature Walk

Awe is the beginning of wisdom. ~Matthew Fox

One of the best ways to celebrate the day is to move away from the human-made world into an environment where awe is almost commonplace. Nature is a symphony for the senses. From the air gilded with the fragrance of living things – to the golden green glow of the trees – to the sounds of birds, water and wind – nature is a lush lullaby to the soul. Often, however, we are too distracted by the ceaseless roll of our thoughts to feast on this table laden with sensation.

Today, let your mind rest and relish instead the physical pleasures of being outdoors. Pay attention to how your body feels as you walk, the air and sun touching your face and your feet on the path. Sometimes, even with focusing on the body, it can be hard to shut off the mind. We need something to pull ourselves away from the addictive ramble of our brain. This exercise will give you prompts that allow you to focus on a particular sense in perhaps a different way than you are used to. By giving you this fresh perspective, it is easier to focus on our senses rather than our thoughts.

Take a stopwatch or smart phone and set the timer for two minutes. When it starts, focus on one particular sense and let the others fall into the background. For example, if it is smell, stop walking, close your eyes and bathe in all the smells around you. Can you smell the mustiness of the ground? The faint sweetness of grasses? If it is taste, explore what your mouth tastes like right now. Maybe nibble on a tiny piece of leaf. If it is touch, stroke your face with a leaf or just feel the sensation of the breeze. Run your hands through the dirt or feel the rough texture of tree bark. Indulge that particular sense for the full two minutes. When the timer goes off, set it again and focus on a different sense for two minutes until you have feasted on all five senses.

Celebrating Your Body Meditation

Learn to pay attention to your body with the relaxed attitude of gratitude, trust, curiosity and unconditional love rather than being pushed around by habit, fear, anxiety, social customs, other people’s schedules and other people’s ideas of what is good for you.  ~Wallace D. Wattles

We reside in a renewing miracle: our skin replaces itself once a month; our stomach lining every five days; our liver every six weeks; and our skeleton every three months. Every seven years we are literally born again.  Yet we generally keep a safe distance from our bodies—much like we would for anyone who vaguely annoys us.

Today you are going to celebrate your body, with all of its uniqueness and tireless commitment to your well-being. It is the most beautiful and miraculous thing you will ever own.

Start by sitting comfortably with your back straight, your feet on the floor and your hands resting on your lap. Close your eyes. Take a nice full breath in through your nose, exhaling with a sigh and releasing any thoughts cluttering your mind, leaving a clean, empty space.

With your next inhalation, imagine a soft, golden light starting to flicker in that dark space. As the light grows, feel a sense of gratitude growing with it until it fills your whole mind with the glow of gratitude. Feel gratitude for everything your mind does for you, the clarity and intelligence that serves you every second of your life.

With every breath, feel the golden light creep down your face. As it flows over your features, feel gratitude for that feature—the beauty that your eyes allow you to see; the aromas you nose allows you to smell; your jaw that allows you to talk and eat; the blessings of your teeth. As the light travels, relaxation also follows it.

Feel the light move down your neck and let it stop and sparkle on any tension, releasing it and softening the muscles. Do this whenever you encounter any tension as the light continues to travel down your body, filling you with gratitude and joy.

Move the light down the back of your body and, when you reach your feet, move the light up the front side of your body, pausing for a minute at your abdomen, where your emotional brain resides. Finally, stop at the heart and feel the light of gratitude glow outward to encompass all the people and things in life that have blessed you.

Celebrating Your Life Through Writing

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.  ~Oprah Winfrey

You are the author of your own story. If you’re stuck on the same page, remember that, at any moment, you have the power to write a new chapter.

Part of celebrating our life is reflecting on it, clarifying our values, and defining our path. Plato said, “The unexamined life is the wasted life.” In order to have a purposeful life, we must take the time to determine what is meaningful for us and be careful that those things always are in the forefront.

Below you will find several writing prompts. You don’t need to write long answers, nor do you need to answer all the questions. Find a beautiful, quiet space to write and reflect, then pick the ones that resonate with you.

What are you happy about this year that you would like to continue doing? It is easy to take ourselves for granted. Acknowledge your successes and motivate yourself to continue doing those things in the future.

Did you take anything for granted? Often our blessings are lost in the blur of our lives. By acknowledging them and showing gratitude, we set ourselves up for noticing more of them in the future and leading more contented lives.

Are you being 100 percent true to yourself? Do you feel like you are living up to your fullest potential? Why or why not?

Is your lifestyle 100 percent healthy? What can you do to improve it? It is actually impossible to be 100 percent healthy but try and pick one or two things that you can work on that would be easy to keep doing consistently.

Are there any negative thoughts that you need to get rid of? Of course, we all have negative thoughts, but is there one that seems to linger through your days, casting a pall on them?

What fears are holding you back? Is there a persistent fear that gets in the way of achieving your full potential?

What is one mistake that you made last year that you can learn from this year? Mistakes are natural and essential in the learning process. What is one that you can particularly benefit from?