I love Christmas: I love simple, personal presents. I love cozyness, and world-quieting white snow, which slows us all down and makes even bustling cities feel like they were Norman Rockwell 1940s landscapes. I love fires, and dinners, and parties with old and new friends and children and elders, people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to talk with much. I don’t see my family, these days, they’re all spread about the US, and money is tight, and that always tinges this time with emptiness. But I love sadness, as my mom’s Buddhist teacher said it’s the most genuine of human emotions though we’re not to covet it. I love, at this darkest time of the year, remembering that life is short, and it progresses quickly, and memory fades and all that really matters is being a good person, and making the better of two iffy choices every step along the way. It’s a wonderful life, after all. So let’s put the ‘holy‘ back in the Holidays. Let’s buy gifts that better the world, and support good people doing good things. Let’s put away our phones and laptops and TVs—if only briefly—and make some eye contact, and say the obvious: ‘I love you, and this is why.’ Or, ‘I’m sorry things have been funny between us. Let’s be genuine, and have a good talk.’ Because, before you know it, one third of your friends will have divorced moved away lost their hair become old people or even died of accidents or dis-ease or, you know, life. I’m still only 35, but I lose a friend a year, whether in China to an avalanche or right here at home, just a month ago, an only-recently-perfectly lovely healthy powerful friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage IV. In Buddhism we say: this precious human birth is fragile. Make good use of it. Think about others as much as you do yourself and you yourself will find that elusive happiness. Meditate a few minutes, at least, each morning, before the ephemeral to-do lists that seem so important, the lusts and the anxieties, clutter up your snowy peaceful dozy mind. Don’t chase after the fast food of life: sex, bad food, money, big houses, cool cars. They don’t make you happy, the only thing that makes you happy is you sorting yourself out…..Waylon Lewis
may we find a few deeply quiet moments today……may we fill the well with this divine comfort, this rest in the spirit of hope…..may we hold all that we love close, and then let them go so that we may heal and hold others…..Merry Christmas……
The first and most important step in getting through this season with more joy is to embrace it as a spiritual practice. We know from yoga and meditation that often the most fulfilling activities in life require sacrifice and self-discipline. You may not always feel like plopping down on that cushion for some quiet time, but you do it because you believe it will benefit you over the long term.
So why not look at your ‘home for the holidays’ trip in a similar way? Instead of expecting it to go smoothly, or poorly, accept that it is what it is. Whatever happens will teach you a lesson. Annoyed? Breathe into a more relaxed state. Bored? Take a moment to meditate. Insulted? Let-it-go ….Look at this experience as one that will take some spiritual work, but ultimately will help you build patience, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness — all of which will serve you for a lifetime. What if, in addition to the wrapped packages, you viewed yourself, your presence, as the most important present of all? I find this reframing of the holidays exceptionally powerful, because it makes your time at home about them rather than about you.
This will also help you let go when things don’t go your way — like going to the religious service you feel forced to attend. Instead of getting bent out of shape and thinking, ‘Why do I have to put up with this?’ you might instead ask yourself, ‘How can I best be of service?’ Suddenly that thing you didn’t want to do is something you can do to make someone else happy. That energy, that intention, that level of devotion to your loved ones, will have a more lasting and profound positive impact on them than any gift you could possibly procure. And isn’t that what the holidays are truly about?…..MeiMei Fox
I am turning just now to all who do not have family and community during this season of light and darkness. The great quiet joy of Upaya is a treasure and I always wish to share it with as many as possible. I pray for peace in the coming year, for all beings.
Recalling the words of Shantideva:
For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
…..Roshi Joan Halifax