Monthly Archives: December 2011

Finding Your Place in the Family of Things


The other day, it surprised me to hear the sound of geese in the distance. I thought most had left Minnesota, but this flock was just starting their journey South. Their flight reminded me of my life path recently–a little surprising and just starting.

Their journey also made me think about Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese,” which still inspires healing and reflection for me during the Winter season when I read it. I hope you, too, find it worthwhile.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees.

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

Love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

Are moving across landscapes

Over the prairies and the deep trees,

The mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

Are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

The world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–

Over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

– MARY OLIVER, “Wild Geese”

Reflection: Each season of life presents new challenges and offers more opportunities to develop wisdom about ourselves and the world around us. Like the wild geese mentioned in the poem, as a new season approaches where do you place yourself “in the family of things”? Are you satisfied with your place? If not, what resistance do you have to your place? Are you lonely? If yes, what is your current relationship to nature, people and the world around you? Where do you feel connected and where do you feel disconnected? Do you love what you love in life and really mean it?

Gifts for the Mind, Body, Spirit & World


It’s the time of year many people are thinking, worrying and procrastinating about gifts. For a small percentage of you, you are already done purchasing your gifts. If that is you, please share with us how you do it. For the rest of you, Mandala Reflections would like to post some thoughtful, health-related gift ideas. Make this holiday season the perfect time to empower a loved one to take care of their health.



Forever an advocate for and appreciator of education and learning, I will never tire of this gift suggestion. Do some research and look up a class or classes that might inspire and nourish your loved one’s mind. This could be as large as offering to pay for a class in graphic design at a local community college or as resourceful as buying a little stitch by numbers kit for a friend who shows an appreciation for embroidery. Because schedules are hard to predict, sometimes the best thing to do is buy a gift card to the desired place. Also, remember to think outside of the box. Education comes in all shapes and sizes; this could be a gift card for a sewing, cooking or woodworking class. The options are endless.

Low on cash? Do you know something your friend would like to know? Offer your own workshop for your friend. A friend of mine recently taught me how to bind a book over a series of three classes. This was an amazing experience and the coolest gift ever. Just be sure if you decide to teach that you come prepared and have a lot of patience.

Lectures/Talks/Live Performances

Does your loved one have a hero or person that they admire, maybe even more than you? Check around and see what events are happening in your neighborhood and you will be surprised at what you may find. A friend of mine recently received tickets to see the Dalai Lama speak in Minnesota. Talk about a cool present. Maya Angelou, a personal hero of mine was here in St. Paul just last year, and I was lucky enough to snag some tickets and bask in her presence. Think about it.



Yes, that’s right. Get that body moving. If the person you are looking for is health-focused, chances are they know and appreciate  what exercise does for the body. Whether they have a regular routine or sit thinking at home about how they should be exercising, you can find a fun class to peak their interest and their heart rate. Kettle bell classes, yoga classes, personal training packages, tai chi sessions, dance lessons, water aerobics…the possibilities are endless. Pick an option that fits the person. Also, I think this goes without saying, but make sure you know the person would enjoy the class and not be offended by your suggestion. For class listings check out your local gym, fitness center, yoga center or community education catalog. If you live in a smaller town you might need to be more creative, maybe it means making an outing to the nearest ski hill for a day. If you want to make sure the gift is used and appreciated, one way to make it more fun is to take the class with your friend. You can be active together. Also, if the person is a homebody, you could always gift an exercise DVD and put a date on the calendar to workout together.

Winter Wear

If your runner friend or dog lover hasn’t already thought of it, a perfect gift might be some winter traction for their running/walking shoe. For the right person, this gift is practical and affordable.

If you have extra money to spend and have a loved one who enjoys walking off the beaten path, a pair of nice winter boots or snowshoes might be more useful. Because there are many choices buy a gift card to your local outfitter and let your friend decide from there.

Meatless  Mondays for a Month

Their “body is a temple,” so why not take care of it? Does your friend enjoy eating? What about gifting your friend one month of Meatless Monday meals? This means you preparing 3-4 vegetarian dishes for your friend during the month of their choice. You can really be creative with this gift. If you want you can bring the dish over, or you could prepare the meal together. You could gift them a vegetarian cookbook. If you do, be sure to check out any Moosewood Cookbook, one word: FABULOUS. If you want to be more political, you could watch a series of food-related documentaries after dinner (if your relationship is strong enough). Remember you are providing a gift–not trying to change or upset someone. Therefore if your person loves meat, perhaps you make a top of the line steak meal. Whatever works for the person you have in mind. However, to keep with the spirit of health and wellness, the meals you share, meat or no meat, should have some sort of health-related theme. Perhaps one evening you focus on the Mediterranean diet and another month you look up a recipe using anti-inflammatory foods. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to learn something new. You don’t have to be a good cook to make this gift a fun experience.

Strapped for cash? Do one meal. Gifting anyone a home-cooked meal is golden and makes them feel special. One is plenty.

Does healthy cooking sound boring to you? Well that’s okay, because simply cooking and sharing a meal is a healthy practice.


Book on topic of Poetry/Meditation/Nature/Spirituality

There are many ways to uplift the spirit by way of books. Depending on the person you can gift very intellectually driven, informative books about spirituality or you could buy a book of poetry that may carry spiritual meaning. For some it might be a book about the wonders of nature. For others it might be about art or it might be the essential writings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Is the person you are looking for passionate about their heritage? Maybe you would like to provide a book about the spirituality of your giftee’s ancestors.

Feel like the book idea would be too hard or too pushy? Gift them a lovely journal and let them decide how to fill the pages.

Musical or Meditative CDs

Maybe the person you are buying for does not enjoy reading or isn’t even that spiritual. Picking out a CD with their favorite music or with a relaxation or guided imagery/meditation component might be the best thing you could give them to uplift their spirit. Better yet, make a CD for your friend. Homemade mixes are always appreciated.

Trinkets/Art/Home Decor

A kitschy trinket that holds spiritual meaning can sometimes be the best gift ever. Symbols are so important in understanding and living spirituality. If your giftee would like a daily reminder that is aesthetically pleasing, this kind of gift might be the right route for you–whether it is a candle, singing bowl, little labyrinth soap dish or a set of beautiful stationery.  This kind of gift is not for everyone though, so be sure you know who you are shopping for before you suggest planting a giant fairy in their backyard. One place I like to idea shop for ornamental trinkets of spirituality is the Isabella Catalog. Etsy is another good place to search for random, spiritually inspired art.



Giving is so good for our health. Donate to your friend’s favorite organization in their name, or buy products from organizations that donate to various causes. A good compilation of places to shop can be found on the “Top Ten People’s Choice for Green Gifts list.” If your friend is picky be sure to do your research in this arena to understand how much of your donation will actually be used; for example, some places only donate a small percentage to the said cause. Also, make sure you trust the work of the organization. Unfortunately some groups have come under heat for not using the money properly, so be sure you feel comfortable making the purchase.


Recycle, reduce, reuse. This year with my husband’s family we are trying to make or “re-gift” our presents. I know one of the most meaningful gifts I have received was a bracelet of my friend’s that I simply admired. To her it was meaningful, but not as meaningful as it would be to give it to a friend. Someday when I am ready, I will re-gift this bracelet to a special someone, too. Art work, home decor, jewelry, maybe a favorite sweater–depending on how much your friend liked it and what shape it’s in–all would be appropriate and easy re-gifts. Surprise a friend with something they like of yours.


Support local businesses. Buy gift certificates to places that help out the neighborhood economy and your giftee, whether it’s a gift card to the local barbershop, a favorite family owned restaurant or a piece of work by a local artisan.