By: Rev. Mary Grigolia (Copyright 2008)
12 Questions, 12 Days
Dec. 21: Who am I?
Dec. 22: What do I value?
Dec. 23: What do I say?
Dec. 24: Where is home?
Dec. 25: What do I create?
Dec. 26: What do I serve?
Dec. 27: Whom do I love?
Dec. 28: What dies in me?
Dec. 29: What do I believe?
Dec. 30: Am I in the world?
Dec. 31: Do I create peace?
Jan. 1: How must I live?
How do you actually do the 12 Days practice?
Focus on the question of the day. You may do so in many different ways– through journaling, blogging, engaging friends or family in conversation or reflection, yoga, dance, singing, drawing, sculpting (and we hope you’ll be sharing your thoughts, creations, or discoveries on the Deep Roots Wellness Facebook page). Experiment and find what works for you.
Decide how long you will focus. A general suggestion is to allow at least 20 minutes per day. If you do the practice with children, you’ll have to adjust for their attention span and for set up and clean up, of course. When my children were young, The 12 Days was an afternoon activity everyday. It filled whatever time we set for it. And the children loved showing their handy work at dinner to whoever appeared.
When? Designate a special time. Many people fold it into a daily meditation or devotional time : first focus of the morning or last focus of the night. One year I sat and watched the sun set and sat with the questions during sunset. It was a beautiful way to end the day. And it made me aware that my spiritual practice honored this celestial dance going on around us. I also noticed that the neighbor’s cat would jump up on the roof every night and watch the sun set, too. I felt both a sense of companionship and humility.
Another year, I tried to wake up and be outside when the sun arose. I walked with the questions, noticing where on the horizon the sun appeared.
On several occasions, I’ve been working during the 12 Days and have taken time in the morning or afternoon to do my journaling. Both worked well.
Where? Designate a special place to practice. It may help to have the same place, so that the body learns and remembers to open to your deepest, wisest self when you sit or draw or write or walk there.
Mark the spot in some intentional way.
Create an altar with objects that symbolize your intention for the practice and for this stage of your life.
Rearrange the furniture conducive to the practice..
If you enjoy sitting with music, choose a recording (or an instrument).
Create comfortable seating or a surface for laying down and becoming aware.
But your life may or may not support the same place, the same time, everyday. Go with the flow. And you may want to mix it up a little. Discover what places are most conducive to opening deeply to your inner voices of guidance (and humor).
Please don’t practice when you drive unless you’re willing to pull over!
The 12 Days is a doorway to the American winter holiday cycle. The key to the door is YOU! You decide how you’ll practice. This is your practice, for your own individuation.
Although 12 Days starts on December 21, start preparing yourself in advance as a witness of the shift in the pattern of light. If you’re home at sunrise, notice where on the horizon you first see the sun. Pay attention to how the rising point shifts as we approach the solstice. Imagine the long line of men and women who have watched the solstice, bearing witness to the shift within as well as the shift in the patterns of light. At the heart of this practice is awareness of the relationship of the earth and the sun, the length of the day versus the length of the night, the weather patterns resulting from the “gathering darkness.” Ask yourself “Who watches?” with compassion and curiosity.
Using the Questions as Meditation (or Prayer) Prompts
No matter what style of meditation (or prayer) you practice, start your practice with a short relaxation meditation.
RELAX: For those unfamiliar with relaxation meditations, here’s an example:
Sitting Meditation: Sit in a comfortable chair or meditation cushion or lie on your back on a firm surface. Let your back be supported. Have adequate blankets so you are comfortable. Take several deep, cleansing breaths, to release any tension and bring your self into the moment. Close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. Watch the flow of the breath through the body. Starting with the soles of your feet, imagine that you can bring your breath and awareness to the soles of your feet, releasing any tension down into the earth. With each exhalation, let the feet become more and more relaxed and heavy, connected with the energy of the earth. Then imagine that as you inhale, you draw energy up through your feet, into your legs, calves, knees, and thighs. Let your legs be heavy as you exhale, releasing all their holding. When you’re ready, imagine drawing energy up through your feet and legs into your hips and belly. As you exhale, release any holding from the belly, down through the legs and feet. Then, as you inhale, draw the breath up through the legs into the torso, and into the heart and chest. Exhale all unnecessary holding. Letting the breath move freely with every inhalation, the body becomes more and more relaxed with every exhalation. Breathing in spaciousness to your shoulders, exhale as you let gravity relax the arms and hands. Let your jaw be soft, and lips be gently parted. As you inhale, let the back of the neck grow long.
Spend several minutes allowing the body to release all its holding as you watch the passage of breath and give yourself permission to let go, to relax, and to be fully present in this very moment.
Moving Meditation: If you have an aversion to sitting still (or lying still), you adapt the relaxation meditation using yoga or dance stretching. Take your time, breathing into every part of the body, with an affirmation of being relaxed, at peace, aware. (How about dancing to your favorite holiday music)?
Editor’s Note: Once you are relaxed and focused, take time to focus or pray on the main question and sub-questions of the day (which will be posted daily), and document your thoughts through art, journaling, etc. And don’t forget to share your discoveries on the Deep Roots Wellness Facebook page!