Happiest Friday! It's a cold one here in DC but I feel like the sunshine brings some promise of a less-bundled life soon. I was thinking this morning of how particularly hard these cold months have felt to me and made a little map of all the things that have kept me warm in the midst. My MVP of the season is the rice-filled bean bag my dear Julie gave me for my birthday. I put it in the microwave for two minutes each night, fall asleep with warm feet and praise its miraculous simplicity. Also important are the l.l. bean shearling slippers my brother gave me for Christmas. It was the first present he gave me in 5 years--because they are that good, he said. Another is the faux-fur lined winter coat I bought for 50% off last month, after many of the coldest days were already behind me. It was a chilly evening in Georgetown and with the encouragement of sweet friend, I bought this coat that is both incredibly warm and feels 100% luxurious. An extra bonus is that the fur-lining is the same color as Poncho so I am able to more fully live out my dream of being dog and owner look-alike.

I think about all of this and it makes me feel more festive and connected. Despite being cold down to my bones often, I made the best of the polar winds and the deep inward drive of winter. It's right for nature to wind down another cycle and I'm learning that it's also okay for me to take a deep pause. Today is Shivaratri, the Hindu festival of honoring Lord Shiva. He the holder of both stillness and movement and the keeper of consciousness itself. I think of him each dark morning when I sit to meditate. It always begins the same way. I light incense and say a prayer for my personal evolution and that it might help those who are suffering. I feel my body and breath--so terribly, consistently present--and then my mind wanders and then I notice it's wandering and then I'm conscious of body and breath again and then I forget and then I can remember. I see now that it's all the dance of Shiva. I forget so that I can have the joy of remembering. It's held in the container of the present moment, which I often cannot see because of the plans I am making, all that I want to fix about myself and the world. When I pause though--usually out of a desperate need to see past some suffering--the moment is there and it's full and I'm dazzled by it.

In honesty, I have a crush on Shiva. He is powerful, the river Ganges dripping from his dreadlocks and a the snake--representing the unconscious sphere--wrapped around his neck. To me he represents the ability to hold whatever arises with absolute strength. He is the transformer, the one who breaks down who we think we are so that our true nature can arise. His super power is alchemy. Instead of destroying the poison of the world, he transforms it to nectar and sends it back out to those who need it. What was dangerous becomes useful, what is dead is reborn, and the cycle of consciousness goes on unbroken.

Maybe I have some dreams of living in warmer climates and maybe they will some day come true. For now though, I am feeling strong enough to wrestle everything I want to resist--the cold, the inward pull, the loneliness knocking and the poison that arises from just being a human being. The more I practice, the more I see that the path of practice is so very challenging. It's hard to see so many things about myself that I want to develop and habitual patterns that I want to cast away and yet still be gentle and grateful for all that I am. I have things to help--warm things, meditation practice, people I care about and even sexy deities that I get to celebrate once a year. Most importantly though, I have this moment, right here, and when I get really still, I feel a truth that nothing is really wrong within it.