Travel in time and space – no Tardis needed. (The Tardis is the fictional machine from BBC TV’s Dr Who that transports its occupants through time and space.)
The lead-up to Christmas this year has seemed busier than usual – a lot of unfinished desk work, a range of people to communicate with, and managing the emotions of the season and missing my children. (Just to explain – I pre-write my blog posts and although this is going out on Christmas eve, I wrote it earlier, whilst still in the midst of the busy time. I hope by day this flies out on the internet that things will be calmer at my end!)
No matter our heartbreak at our losses, and no matter the craziness of this time of year, Christmas can give us something. If you’ve been busy as I have been, it might not feel like such a spiritual time of year, but perhaps it depends on our definition of spiritual. For Christians, it’s when we celebrate the birth of hope, thinking about the birth of the Saviour. Whatever your religious views, this season is generally a time of love, of visiting with friends and family, of thoughtfully choosing gifts that will be enjoyed by the recipients. It’s treating ourselves and those around us, and perhaps some strangers too, with little acts of kindness.
The day I’m writing this is sunny, and my act of kindness today will be for myself. A nice walk in the countryside, to a spot where there is no phone signal, so I won’t be tempted to continuously check my emails or the unfolding political dramas of our world. I will walk by a slow moving canal that runs parallel to a small river, and hope to see some waterbirds and enjoy studying the intricate shapes of the trees whose branches are bare of leaves. I’ll probably navigate some puddles and muddy patches. Maybe I’ll pocket a few pine cones or something to bring home. The air will be cold – maybe the temperature will get up to 5 degrees? I will take deep breaths of that cool air and it will smell of leaves and of the canal. The drinking water in my bottle will be cool and very refreshing. I’ll wrap up warm; it’s time for winter boots, gloves and scarves, and it might be time for my wooly hat too, though I don’t like wearing hats. I’ll have a snack in my pocket.
This is a familiar route so I am familiar with what I might see. There’s a valley. There are gentle hills in the distance. The sheep will be somewhere in the picture. There’s a low lying field that often fills with water after heavy rain, and a flock of ducks or geese might be grazing there. There’s at least one herd of cows, and hopefully they will be behind their hedge, as walking amongst cows is not my favourite thing. It’s a weekday, so the little steam train that sometimes runs through the valley won’t be passing in the distance – although as it’s the week before Christmas, they’re running it as a Santa train, so I suppose it might be there.
Bu mostly it will be very very quiet.
I’m pretty sure I’ll see some or hear some wood pigeons. There may be some robins and blackbirds getting the last pickings of berries off the bushes.
I might pass the occasional dog walker. There will be at least one fisherman on the canal (John) but I will leave him at the waterside trying for fish, as I am looking forward to an almost silent walk, as that’s what I need at this moment.
And you know what? Even if I don’t make it out of the door today (at the time of writing, it isn’t sure, as some things need to be taken care of), just picturing this walk has brought me a few unexpected moments of peace. I’ve done a mindful walk without even leaving the house.
If you feeling overwhelmed by everyone else’s high spirits when yours are low at this moment, if you’re missing your loved ones, or just wishing that you were in a different time or space, I invite you to try something similar.
Sit comfortably. Switch off your phone for 10 minutes (but if you’re reading this on your phone, maybe keep it on a bit longer!)
Just imagine a place you’ve been, a favourite place to walk, or a pub you like to sit for a drink, or even a favourite art gallery or museum. Maybe a beach. Somewhere you know quite well and most importantly, somewhere you enjoy.
Close your eyes and visit this place, using your memories and all five senses.
What can you see? Is it the wide expanse of the sea, the warmth of old wooden furniture in the pub, the long galleries of pictures, or – what’s in your place?
What can you hear? What’s the soundscape of this place? The crunch of pebbles underfoot, the swish of the waves, the chatter of the other pub-goers, the quietness of the gallery – or what’s to listen to where you are?
What can you smell? The saltiness of the ocean, the mix of beers and wines and people, the particular clean smell in the gallery – or what’s to smell where you are?
What tastes do you associate with this place? An ice cream on a sunny day at the beach; beer, wine or cider; a speciality coffee in the gallery cafe – or something else?
What do you touch? The rough sand between your toes, the stickiness of the pub table, the cool and smooth brass handrail in the gallery – or something else?
Breathe deeply as you recall these varied sensations that you associate with this place.
When you’re ready, open your eyes. If you like, spend a minute finding something around you to keep in touch with those memories – pebbles you brought back from the beach, have a glass of beer or a coffee, look through postcards or pictures. Anything.
Did you enjoy that? I hope it brought you a moment of peace, at least. Sometimes a moment is all we can manage, but a moment of peace today can encourage us that we’ll also find a moment like that tomorrow.
Getting through our life moment by moment is sometimes the strategy we need.
Read and experience more
In case you didn’t already read this.
Last year’s post. Sometimes we don’t manage to do everything or be everything at Christmas, and this is a reflection on that topic.
- Listen: A series of Bible-based guided meditations on the theme of Dwelling with God, from the website “Pray as you go”
Personally I’ve been enjoying listening to these, as something different and quite reflective.
My own Spotify playlist: Almost 300 songs in a variety of styles, all conveying the meaning of Christmas in one form or another. From classic to contemporary, from chilled out to lively, reggae included. Includes lots of traditional carols in a variety of arrangements and some songs I stumbled upon that you might have never heard before. The playlist runs for over 16 hours.
PS. Later that day I managed my country walk – from Cheddleton to Froghall in Staffordshire. It was much as I imagined, though with a few surprises such as the ice on the canal, and the fact that my winter gloves are both left-handed (!), but it wasn’t too cold so I didn’t need them once I got going. There was quite a soundtrack – not from the train (not running) – but vast amounts of birds – crows, ducks, robins, field sparrows and many more. A pheasant rose up in panic when a dog passed, but mostly the birds were heard up in the branches and not so visible. Here are a few pictures.
A moment of peace today can encourage us
that we’ll also find a moment like that tomorrow.
I wish you peace this Christmas, in this moment and the days to come.