I sigh a bit of relief having made it through yet another Christmas holiday season. In our American culture, this holiday has been hijacked by materialism and the pressure to buy perfect gifts for everyone. The high expectations for perfect gifts saturate this time of year and create anxiety rather than offer the "peace and comfort" of the season. It is nearly impossible to escape the craziness because it is everywhere. Yet...yet... this year my intention was to extract the good, meaningful and truly WONDERful things this season can bring. I love getting a Christmas tree and decorating it with tiny white lights and ornaments that have been collected since I and my husband were children. Each was a gift from someone. Each has its own story and reminds me of the friendships and relationships that have endured the passing of time. The evergreen tree in the living room also reminds me of the continuity of love. It reminds me of the light that is coming as we pass the winter solstice and daylight time begins to get longer. I put lots of tiny candles all over the house. year round, I light one candle in the morning and this time of year I light several in the evening. They remind me to keep my own flame of hope alive and to share my own brightness and warmth with others. It's hard for me to wake up in the morning and not see the sun until several hours later, and then to have darkness come by late afternoon. I love the sun, and don't see much of it around here in the winter. Yet... I have also learned to love the darkness and have gratitude for what it offers. Even though the shopping malls and holiday craze would like me to do otherwise, the darkness invites me to slow down and reflect on my life and my relationships. I spend time writing and reading. I send photos and cards to friends near and far and tape up the ones we receive from others. The best thing I do this time of year is spend time with close friends and relatives, sharing meals, talking, playing games with kids and adults together. I prefer to celebrate the abundance we already have, not in material things, but in each other, in each life and in the love and joy that each person brings. I celebrate and give thanks to this beautiful planet earth which was designed to feed and nurture everyone, in body and in spirit. I think about new things to come, new ways in which I could support abundant communities everywhere. I think of the power of birth and rebirth, the ability to change and grow, and the way the seasons and nature around us tell us what to do. I've learned that, for me at least, this is not the right time to be too busy, to be driving all over the city, stuck in traffic jams and crowded shopping malls. It is meant to be a slow and simple time for friends and family to BE present for one another, as opposed to buying presents for one another. This was once the time of rest for the northern hemisphere of the earth and all her inhabitants. So this year I also found more meaningful and less complicated ways to give gifts to friends and family, like simply inviting them over for dinner or giving them prints or calendars of my photos. I was delighted to receive these simple gifts, too - like my friend's invitation for our family to join them for a special dinner and film viewing at their house. I have learned that the darkness of this time of year holds many simple but precious gifts that are easy to share with those I love. To all my friends on World Pulse - PulseWire, May This New Year Be Filled With True Peace and Abundant Joy for You and Your Loved Ones. Keep Shining Your Own Beautiful Light All Over the World!