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What Does Cozy Mean?
I know, stupid question, right? Cozy obviously means… well cozy. A cozy winter is fireplaces, blankets, purring cats, twinkle lights, hot chocolate. And all those things are wonderful, but I think they fall short. As with so much of our lives there is the surface, and then the deeper things.
At it’s heart to be cozy means to be safe. You could have all those “cozy” things above if you were in danger, afraid, or mourning they wouldn’t mean a whole lot. A fireplace is a matter of survival to many, it is cozy only when our basic needs for safety and warmth are met first. Which might seem odd since I’m talking to you: modern humans reading stuff on the internet. Of course you are safe! Except maybe you aren’t.
Where It Starts
There are many ways to be safe. Do you worry about making your pay check stretch to cover your bills? How about this: is everyone in your family healthy? Or, are your closest relationships stable and healthy? What about this: do you feel that you can be who you feel called to be without ridicule or judgement?
Safety can be about your country being at peace, your neighborhood not being torn by violent crime, and an absence of natural disaster. But it goes deeper. When we end safety with basic physical well being we treat human beings as animals, simply surviving. Even animals need more than that to thrive.
Creating Safe Space
Spirituality and safe space go hand in hand. When you are in fear for your life you might pray desperately for help, but you likely have little bandwidth for anything else. And so far as spirituality and creativity are linked, you need safe space to express what bubbles up from your soul.
Safe space, cozy space, will look different for all of us. But it will have some things in common. My invitation to you this winter is to begin to create safe, cozy space for yourself and those around you. I think you’ll be surprised what it does for your whole life.
First, let me say that if you are not physically safe where you are right now please reach out and get help. You can find resources at LifeWire or by calling 1-800-799-7233. You can also find more resources here. No one deserves to be unsafe in their own home. Period.
If you are physically safe in that your home is free of violence, structurally sound, etc you may still need a little more physical “safety” for your flourishing. That can mean different things and it is OK to do what you need for yourself. I cannot share an office with my husband because our ideas of “neat and tidy” are so different I wouldn’t be able to function.
I’m an introvert and need quiet to create, write, or even just recharge. So for me the physical safety of a space that goes beyond the basic involves having a space that is mine and mine alone. I get to control what does or doesn’t go into it (IE no mess and clutter!) I get to control the volume there (no loud music/talking). It’s my little nest where I have control over my environment. For you that might be about temperature, sound, scent (love my scented candles, my husband needs scent free), light, etc.
Think about the physical space in which you spend your time. What about it do you love, what about it really isn’t fulfilling your needs? Take a simple step or two to make your space into what you need to thrive. Even if that just means claiming one corner of the living room, or getting a lap desk and noise canceling headphones so you can snuggle up in bed undisturbed. (Obviously noise is a big thing for me!) You don’t have to spend a ton of money, just prioritize the things you can change to make your space better for you.
While you’re at it, get curious (a seriously important spiritual discipline) about what the people you live with need for their well being. It might be different than you expect…
This one is huge for me. I’m a nester, making physical space is easy (and I’ve got an indulgent husband, a patient dog, and no kids). But mental space is hard. I suspect that I’m not alone in this one. Again, absolutely no one gets to make your mental space unsafe. No one. That includes you dear ones. I am my own worst critic. I have general anxiety (yay meds!) but still find myself far too easily falling into a spiral of worry and dooms day thinking.
All the horrible mistakes I’ve ever made (which umm, aren’t even that horrible) tend to play on repeat over and over in my head. And that critical little voice picks apart how I failed. It’s not fun living with your own movie critic. I mean I’ll take Rotten Tomatoes rating my life any day over me. Creating safe mental space, cozy mental space ain’t easy. First, it requires that we acknowledge what’s going on, and make a conscious decision that we will no longer allow anyone to treat us that way, even ourselves.
For me making safe mental space has involved a huge variety of things. I took the step of going to my doctor and getting medication for my anxiety (and getting diagnosed in the first place instead of just worrying I was having a heart attack 24 hours a day 7 days a week.) It took a few tries but we found something that didn’t have horrible side effects and helps.
I stole a trick from my mother and went out and got myself a worry bracelet (my Mom made me one in elementary school and I’ve no idea why I ever gave it up). It’s hugely reassuring to have something to fiddle with, spin, and slide. And I make sure that if I’m awake, I’ve got that puppy on.
And when my inner critic starts playing disaster movies in my head, or reliving a mistake I made months or years ago I catch myself, I tell the little bastard to shut the hell up, and I move on. Even if it takes 10 tries.
Now things get interesting. It could be you were raised without a shred of religious or spiritual background and you’ve started from a blank slate. But for that really to be true you’d have to have been raised in Antarctica. Because we all grew up in the cultural stew of wherever we live and it’s filled with history and baggage. For example, if you were raised in the United States then you were raised in a culture that assumes God exists and that God is male. God is father, and/or Son. God is never female. God is King, Lord, and warrior.
Even if your household wasn’t religious that is the religious assumption of the culture around you. We don’t have to like it, we just have to acknowledge it. Slowly (very) that’s changing, but it’ll take generations until there is a new cultural truth. So as we create spiritual safe space it is important to acknowledge the baggage we all carry.
For me that has meant giving myself permission to feel conflicted about the religion of my youth, to push back against the things that it really needs to change, and to embrace the ways it loved and cared for me. I love my tradition, which means I want it to be the best it can be. And I love myself, which means I nurture and care for my soul as she needs. For me that has meant connecting to the Divine Feminine, finding new language and new imagery for my experience of the Divine. For me it means sharing those images with people in my tradition, widening understanding, opening up new doors.
But making safe space sometimes means leaving unsafe space behind. There is no shame in taking yourself out of a tradition, religion, or community that is doing damage to your soul because of it’s teachings or theology. Life is too short, and you are too precious. Making safe spiritual space isn’t something that will happen overnight for most of us. We will slowly chip away at our assumptions and culture, and as we do we’ll discover the things that no longer work.
Be brave, step out into the new and the Holy. The wild, diverse, utterly unconstrained Divine is waiting.
Now We’re Cozy
Doesn’t that feel better? Of course that’s a little flippant. The work of creating safe spaces for ourself and others isn’t something we do in the course of reading one little blog post and call done. It’s ongoing work, inside and out. But the rewards are worth it. Spend some time today meditating on what a cozy winter would look like for you. What needs to be made safer, less drafty, for you to really settle into the resting that winter offers us. A cozy winter space gives us the chance to turn inward, to do the quiet work of the seed in the ground. Slowly, ever so slowly, we prepare for the season of growth and abundance ahead by doing the hard work of planting now.