Holiday Season

So much has been written about the Holiday Season, and this year I decided to deeply ponder and think about what the Christmas spirit means to me. There are the decorations, and I love to decorate our home, the parties, get-togethers, and giving and receiving. But what is the deeper meaning of the Holiday Spirit?

I was raised as a Catholic, my mother’s birthday was on Christmas Eve, and our customs were deeply influenced by religion. During my childhood, most of our Christmas activities were related to the church and charities. When my mother died, I was a teenager, Christmas became a harrowing time for me, filled with sorrow and a deep feeling of loss. As a young adult, I started studying metaphysics and philosophy, and with time I was able to enjoy Christmas again. I no longer had to travel to places in the world where Christmas wasn’t celebrated, although I once met a Santa Clause on a camel in North Africa, and a blond, curly-headed Santa in India.

During my various introspections and meditations this year, which focused on the meaning of Christmas, I realized the deep meaning of this holiday, and I want to share it with you.

Christmas is about unconditional love, and looking at the nativity scene, it became evident to me. There is a woman, a man, and a baby, surrounded by shepherds, representing the general population, the three wise men, portraying the elite of different ethnic backgrounds, animals, which we should respect and treat kindly, and a star in the sky showing that this birth of love is unconditional, universal and available to all. Mary and Joseph make us aware of rejection and judgment when the innkeeper didn’t let them stay in the inn and sent them to a stable. But love was not eliminated by this cruel and insensitive treatment, and the birth of Jesus symbolizes that all is good as long as there is love. No judgment or criticism can change this. We can bury this message, but we cannot eliminate it. The bright star will go on shining.

This message of love doesn’t have to be limited to Christianity. It is open to everyone – look at the wise men! It is universal, and we can include it in our lives if we wish. It also is not limited in time, and we can make it a permanent part of our life. I have decided to include unconditional love into my daily life, and when a struggle comes my way, I’ll recall this bright star and the love it symbolizes. As it guided the wise men, it will guide me as well.

Wishing you an uplifting and fulfilling Holiday Season.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Happy Thanksgiving

Where did this year go? If the saying is true that life’s speed increases with age, and thinking of this year, I must be “really” old!

I am so grateful and excited that we will be able to again celebrate Thanksgiving with dear friends, an event which has become a tradition over the last few years. I felt the urge this year to decorate our home for this holiday, and it is impressive how the autumn leaves, pilgrims and Indian squaw, all lit by candles, bring peace into my heart. The simplest things can bring so much joy!

Since my immigration to the US, I have enjoyed making Thanksgiving a special event. For me, it is a celebration of family and friendship, cherished memories of loved ones now gone, and gratitude for my life in general. It is also an excellent opportunity to pause and think of our many blessings. There were and are so many people in our lives who have influenced who we are and who we have become. We couldn’t have done it alone, and although we might have forgotten their names, we might want to include them in our gratitude prayer.

I fondly remember cooking and preparing Thanksgiving feasts for family and friends over the years, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Seeing their contented smiles while savoring the various dishes, each prepared with love, I always knew that my work was received in the same spirit. By the end of the meal, I was already looking forward to our next gathering. Times have changed, and I am not the healthy and energetic person I once was. I can no longer enjoy the preparation of the Thanksgiving feast, but I feel love and gratitude for our friends who allow us to celebrate with them. Thanksgiving is a time for me to give my gratitude prayer, and I’ll include our veterans and all the women and men serving at this time, who sacrifice so much so that we can continue to enjoy our freedom.

I hope you can find a quiet moment during the hustle and bustle of your holiday, so you can think of all the Thanksgivings you have celebrated. Send a loving thought to the people who come into your awareness, and who might no longer be with you. Feel the love and warmth and know that you were always loved. Feel your blessings, love yourself and know that you are special.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

Being Conflicted and Fearful

Remaining balanced is a challenge in these troubled times. We struggle to sort out what we are hearing and feeling, and fear can easily invade our minds. More than ever we need to remain focused on positive things, so we don’t get conflicted and create more fertile ground for fear to grow.

My message today is not intended to be political but geared to assist you in overcoming the fear and conflicted thinking that result from intense emotions. Being able to step back and regroup is a significant step towards getting out of emotional turmoil.

Fear is the lowest emotion on the Emotional Guidance Scale by Abraham-Hicks, published in ‘Ask and it is Given’ p. 114. Fear is paralyzing, and as long as we stay with this emotion, there cannot be genuine happiness and joy. The future looks glum, and there seems to be little hope. We feel depressed and powerless. It is not a place we want to remain for long.

Hence, the question is: “What can I do when the news is full of hatred and uncertainties day after day, and I cannot detect anything that gives me hope?” Most likely you will not be able to affect the big picture by yourself, but you can bring change into your own life. For example, watch less news and do so with a different mindset. Instead of fearing what you hear, put yourself in a neutral place and believe that good will prevail. Love will always conquer hatred, although it might take a little while. You might think I am an incurable optimist, and you would be correct. I believe that love is stronger than hate, and history shows it clearly. Mahatma Gandhi is a shining example having achieved India’s independence with a non-violent movement based on love and respect.

To conquer fear, you need to move up the emotional scale. Feeling anger is already an improvement to fear, but don’t stay there. Find hope, optimism, and if you can, reach for joy, empowerment, freedom, and love. Choosing better feeling emotions doesn’t mean you offer a blind eye to the sorrow and pain in the world. On the contrary, you feel the suffering acutely. Being fearful and without hope doesn’t help anyone, you included. Like Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I want to add, that you cannot reach that point if you are stuck in fear. If you look for a world filled with love, then you need to start with yourself.

Be fearless and focus on positive things. When you leave fear and hopelessness behind, you will be able to see the selflessness and beauty surrounding you. Your heart will fill with love, and healing will begin.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Sunshine

With 284 sunny days, there is no shortage of sunshine in Tucson. It is a blessing, and I am grateful for it. Brief sunbath sessions in our backyard help me with one of the symptoms of my health challenge. It doesn’t take it away for long, but I enjoy the benefits as long as they last. And Romeo, our little Yorkie, adores the sun. Just mentioning the word “sunbath” brings him to the door waiting to join me. It has become a cherished ritual, and I look forward to it as much as he does.

Sunshine affects moods and mental attitude as well as physical health. Too much sun can be damaging, though, and moderation is a given, as we know now. This wasn’t always a known and accepted fact, and in my younger years, extended sessions in the sun and a fabulous tan were requisites for a great vacation. Living in Belgium with many overcast and dreary days, I felt compelled to spend my holidays in sunny countries, and Africa and the Middle East always attracted me. Beirut was a beautiful place to spend a vacation, and I understood why it was called “The Paris of the Middle East.” The yogi I worked with had one of his schools in Dakar, Senegal, and I liked to spend a week or two practicing yoga and exploring the surroundings.  We didn’t know much then about skin cancer, and fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with any unwanted consequences.

Sunshine is vital to all life. We often take it for granted but making it a focal point makes us aware of the blessings the sun bestows on us. Being part of a sunrise is an exceptional experience. Try sitting quietly and let the serenity enter your mind and heart. A new day, a new beginning!  It is a perfect moment for a meditation and a gratitude prayer. And don’t miss the sunset, with its pallet of incredible colors while the sun slowly disappears. Listening to the animals, some getting ready for the night, others preparing for their hunt, is a unique experience. A sunset meditation brings peace and harmony.

The spiritual meaning of the sun is multifold, and one can find it in many religions and teachings. For me, the sun is an integral part of life, and the beauty of a sunset and the promise of a sunrise fill me with gratitude.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Loving Yourself

Does the following scenario seem familiar? You get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and tell yourself, “Another wrinkle, look at those puffy eyes, what is happening to me?” If this rings a bell, you will agree with me that we are our own worst critics, and rarely give ourselves a break. We only focus on what is wrong, not what is right!

The question then arises: How can we love ourselves while being so harsh and unforgiving? And how can we love others when we harbor so much criticism and judgment for ourselves?

Love comes from within, and it starts with feeling good about ourselves. No matter how low you think you have fallen, there will always be something to discover, which will lift your spirits and make you feel better. And then, when looking in the mirror in the morning, you might tell yourself that you have beautiful hair, appealing eyes (a little tired, maybe?), that the wrinkles signify character and wisdom, and that you have earned them. Finding something positive to dwell on, to be grateful for, allows your mood to improve. Then the love for yourself will grow and expand to others and the world around you. Not only will you feel better and more cheerful, but everyone around you will benefit as well.

Loving ourselves and others radiate understanding, compassion and empathy, tolerance and forgiving, and most of all, respect and acceptance. Judging and criticizing have no space in a loving heart. That doesn’t mean that we always have to agree. We can have very different ideas, but we don’t have to convince others that we are right, and they are wrong. In reality, there is no right or wrong; there is only diversity, and we can love being different.

Loving yourself is the first step to an incredible journey. No matter what is happening, you can always look in the mirror and congratulate yourself for doing your best, and for being you. Self-love is tolerant, and it guides you gently back onto the road you wish to travel. Loving others also means that there will be friends and companions taking you by the arm and helping you find the strength to get over life’s hurdles. Love is the key, and it all begins with loving yourself.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

 

 

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