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The 12 Birds of Christmas

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is joyful for some people and stressful for others. If you begin to feel pressured by a need to give just the right gift or the perfect holiday meal, perhaps these commonsensical birds of Christmas will re-mind you to peaceful balance.

So often we forget that the real gift of the season is each and every one of us--which means you!

1. Fly like an eagle to the heights of inspiration and soar into the Spirit of the holidays. Winging along the currents of joy inspires an effortless flow of creative ideas. From the eagle's higher perspective, with our hearts as big as the world, we see the divine right solution to any question or challenge. Don't let the ducks of trivia peck at your feet. Soar like the eagle that you are!

2. While gathering gifts, duck the holiday rush by floating on the waters of your creativity. Why not give your loved ones a basket of goodies filled with valued photographs, a card written from the heart, a jar of homemade jam, movie tickets, a life-changing book from your library? Creative fun makes this gift sing. You could also duck crowded malls (unless you like them!) by ordering children's gifts from catalogues. Let your (webbed) fingers do the walking by searching online for creative toys that will make a difference in the lives of the children you love.

3. Laugh like a cuckoo bird. My grandson, at age 3, said, "Granny! I love to laugh. Let's laugh!" and we laughed crazily at absolutely nothing--which, of course, was funny in itself. We had a rollicking good time and felt great afterward. You will, too.

4. Aware that anger and hurt distort our perceptual abilities, goose yourself when the going gets rough--especially during gatherings of friends and family. This is the Buddhist art of "stopping." Simply notice what upset you and later on, when you are calm, determine how to address or remedy the problem. A stitch in time...uh, makes a good feather bed.

5. Be like the great blue heron and fish in the deep waters of meditation for the food of life--comfort and companionship--when you feel hungry, angry, lonely or tired (indicators that it's time to HALT). Catching moods before they become attitudes will help you tolerate the pace and avoid Scroogeness.

6. Jonathan Livingston Seagull pointed out that every negative thought becomes an energetic chain around our necks and part of who we are. To break the chain, join a happy flock of seagulls at a church or spiritual study group with a clear focus on the "reason for the season." AA and NA groups also celebrate the holidays with personal and spiritual clarity.

7. The bright red cardinal cheers everyone with his color and verve. Be a light unto the world and you will attract light to yourself as well.

8. Love the little chickadees running and shrieking with holiday abandon. This is easier to appreciate if you sit on Santa's lap and pull his/her beard. Empathy opens to love for these little birds, who are typically small, busy and cute.

9. Shy away like a tender sparrow from family gossip. Your quick, bright optimism will shift the conversation to happier themes and teach your children well.

10. The four-and-twenty blackbirds sang when the pie was opened--not when the cook put them in it! Sweets and overeating are customary, but too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Be in your body, with every bite, and put down your fork when it's time to do so. Eat healthy and well!

11. When people are clucking like chickens about the state of the world, don't embroil yourself in barnyard pecking. Walk between the positive and negative worlds of duality by being the rooster crowing at the dawn of awakening on our planet. It is as real as you make it.

12. The dove of peace is only a meditation away, especially as the year comes to a close. Remember to spend quiet time reviewing the events of 2003 and to set your intentions for 2004, in order to materialize what you want and need to feel happy, whole and free (which, technically, you already are). It's not just the Nov. 8-23 Harmonic Concordance that brings us to light, it's also the new birth celebrated at Christmastime and on December 31. May you soar on golden wings of light through this and every year!

Judith Pennington, a scientific mystic living in the hills of Bethelehem, Pa., is a writer, workshop leader and author of The Voice of the Soul, a trail-blazing search for truth and meaning that revolutionizes the way we perceive the soul and consciousness. She publishes a free monthly e-newsletter, "The Still, Small Voice," and a subscription e-zine, "OneWorld," from her website, www.eaglelife.com.

Judith Pennington