Winter Feast For The Soul Newsletter
Winter Feast For The Soul


In this Issue:

-Letter From the Director
-Acts of Kindness
-A New Idea for Winter Feast
-Meditation and 60 Minutes
-What's Coming Next?
What nine months does for the embryo
Forty early mornings
Will do for your growing awareness
Jelaluddin Rumi

Letter From the Director

Dear friends,

Holiday and Winter greetings!  I hope you are having a wonderful December! December is the time of year when everyone celebrates something, and emotions run high. Whether you celebrate a religious holiday, the start of winter or the beginning of the new calendar year, I wish you joy, contentment and time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you every day.

Life is full in December, and we are bombarded with all kinds of emotional messages from ads, TV specials, catalogs, well-wishers and emails. It can be hard at times to maintain our own balance and serenity amid the chaos. If you have been able to continue your daily practice of stillness throughout the year, you may be feeling a special kind of joy this season—the kind that comes from inner peace and a feeling that all is as it should be. And if you have not been as successful as you intended to be, well, it is almost time for the start of the next Winter Feast!

The Winter Feast is a great time to put those intentions into practice again. As Valerie Skonie wrote last year, 40 is a metaphysically significant number. If we practice anything for 40 days, it becomes a habit. Starting January 15, we will offer 40 days of free, guided meditations to help you establish your own daily practice. I hope you will join us in this wonderful feast of knowledge, wisdom and guidance. The Sufi poet Jelalludin Rumi said,

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.”

Whether the 2015 Winter Feast is your first or your eighth, you are welcome. I hope you will make having a daily personal practice an intention for the New Year. Come again, and encourage your friends and family to join you.

Warm wishes and blessings,
Kaye Vivian



Acts of Kindness

A few years ago Winter Feast suggested that a wonderful daily practice is to do an act of kindness each day.  Perhaps you want to think about this as a daily practice for days when you are unable to get online and participate in a meditation, or feel too rushed to sit quietly and still your mind for 10 minutes. I’m not talking about any structured program or book to read or classes you need to attend.  I am talking about the small, quiet, private, one-on-one things we all have the opportunity do for someone else each day. It simply takes observation.

Most of us have seen a mother in the grocery store line, fumbling coupons and small bills and quickly calculating if she needs to put something back.  Why not give the cashier an extra $10 or whatever you can spare to quietly cover her shortages?  Or pay for some young person’s gasoline at a gas station? Or tell the next five people you see that they are beautiful? Or look into the eyes of a person getting into your elevator and smile at them?

You can go to a nursing home and sing hymns to an old person who has Alzheimer’s or children’s songs to a child in the hospital. Read a favorite story to your grandchildren, or to a neighbor’s child, or to a class at a local school. Befriend a teenager who needs a mentor to look up to. Help a neighbor put up their holiday lights (or take them down). Donate time and/or money to a worthwhile organization. Mow your neighbor’s half of the esplanade or shovel their sidewalk while they are at work. Let a car merge into your lane on the highway with a smile. Stop and talk to the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, and ask them about their day.

Kindness is free, and enriches the giver as well as the receiver. One of the best and easiest acts of kindness is to smile at people you see. Much of the time you won’t get a smile back, but if your smile comes from genuinely wishing them happiness in their life, it will get through their barriers and touch them. Maybe that small gesture will be enough to turn their day around or make them kinder to another person.

So if you want to participate in a Starbuck’s pay-it-forward customer line, or go to your local food bank and hand out groceries to the needy, go ahead. Those are indeed acts of kindness. But you may feel even better if you find your own, private way of giving back in honor of all you have been given. We don’t know what good an act of kindness will create in the world, but it will create joy in your own heart. That’s a pretty good daily practice, don’t you think?



A New Idea for Winter Feast

If you have participated in Winter Feast in the past, you know that we always offer a 40-day series of meditations from a variety of wise teachers and spiritual leaders.  In 2015, we will continue that practice, and add something new that a number of you have asked for. We will offer three concentrations or tracks that focus on aspects of our daily life.

The three tracks are:

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Overcoming

For each of the 40 days, you have an option to pursue one of these tracks, which will feature meditations from a variety of teachers and traditions on each concentration.

Joy.  If your life is filled with joy and contentment, or if you want to develop more of it in your daily life, there will be 40 meditations on how to create and maintain joy in your routine.  It will cover such things as the difference between joy and happiness, the source of all joy, living a joyful life, and bringing joy to others. This track may help you to experience inner joy that will spill over into contentment in your everyday life.

Peace. This is a dangerous time in the world, with a lot of unrest and suffering. It is a wonderful intention to help bring peace to the troubled world, and it starts with finding our own inner peace. This track will focus on finding inner peace and calm, peace and the healing of the planet, extending inner peace to your outer environment, and holding a concentration for peace that encompasses the planet.

Overcoming. We all face challenges and barriers in our lives.  Maybe it is the loss of someone dear or a difficult change in circumstances. Maybe it is self-doubt or fear or addiction or feelings of inadequacy or rage. Meditation helps to develop a calm, collected mind and enables us to overcome the obstacles that pop up to confront us daily. If you are experiencing hardship, this track may help you to rise above it.


Meditation Featured on 60 Minutes

Did you see the segment about meditation last Sunday night on the 60 Minutes news program? Meditation is mainstream for sure now! It is wonderful to see Anderson Cooper extolling the virtues of stillness based on his personal experience.  If you didn’t catch the story, you can watch it online here. There are several extra interviews on that page that you may also find interesting. 

Cooper participated in a weekend retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained scientist who's been practicing and teaching mindfulness for 47 years. Kabat-Zinn started by teaching meditation to seriously ill patients in hospitals. He comments on something that we all have experienced…the mind is constantly churning, and it is hard to calm the thoughts.  The mind drifts away, like the waves in the ocean, he says, yet if you drop below the waves, there is deep stillness and less distraction. We have to relearn how to be fully present every moment where we are.

The story also features Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio, who has been meditating since 2008. He is on the Congressional Budget Committee, and says that mindfulness keeps him calm in times of stress. If you have skeptics in your family, maybe this little story will help open them up to the possibility that mindfulness/stillness and meditation are a legitimate alternative to consider for their own lives.

In a related story by the Huffington Post, a new study of teachers finds that mindfulness meditation fights burnout.  You can watch that video here.



What's Coming Next

In our next newsletter around the end of December, we will announce:

  • Our new and continuing faculty for the 2015 Winter Feast. Many of your favorites will be offering new meditations this year.
  • A mini-series of meditations for first-timers and beginners, to help familiarize you with some of the terms and practices you may hear mentioned by various teachers and types of meditation and give you the experience for yourself
  • Opening ceremonies you might want to use alone or with a group to mark the beginning of the Winter Feast the night before it begins
  • Other special features of the 2015 Winter Feast

Year End Contributions

Finally, as we approach the close of the calendar year and the start of a new Winter Feast, I want to encourage you to consider making a donation to continue the Winter Feast. Our operational costs are modest, since our teachers generously donate their work and time, but we do need your help to cover our costs for printing, mailings, web site updates, and various other fees for services. We are a sponsored 501(c)3 charity, and all your donations are tax deductible.

Here is the link to our donations page. You can donate by credit card, check or PayPal. If a lump sum is difficult for you, please consider making a monthly pledge through PayPal. And don’t forget that many employers have a donation matching program. If your employer does, your donation can be doubled for us. We greatly appreciate your ongoing support and generosity!


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A Winter Feast for the Soul
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Hailey, Idaho 83333

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