Merry Mindful Christmas
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Christmas is not a time or season,
but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill,
to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
– Calvin Coolidge
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. In fact, though, there is no historical records of the exact date of Jesus’ birth. December 25 was selected simply because it coincided with the very popular pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, allowing the Christians to coopt the celebration that they were unable to stop. Regardless of this history though Christmas has become a major celebration worldwide.
The Christian religions teach that this celebrates the birth of the savior, who came to earth to redeem us and save us from suffering. This event did not occur in a past. It occurred in the eternal present moment. We can also give birth to a savior. We can allow a personal mindfulness, a present moment awareness, to be born. If we do it can similarly be a savior. It can save us from much suffering. The suffering that we impose on ourselves.
The present moment contains only what is. Regrets and problems of the past don’t exist. Worries about the future don’t exist. If we accept it as it is and don’t constantly try to change it, it can bring us a relief of our worries and our woes. It can let us see the wonders of life and the happiness that is always present right here and right now. This surely would be a miraculous birth.
In our modern world Christmas has been commercialized and presents have become the focus. But as nice as it is to give and receive presents the joy is short-lived and can be followed almost immediately with disappointment and depression. In fact, this is the time of year when depression is rampant and the highest suicide rates of the year occurs.
The celebration would be much better if presence was the focus. The great sage Thich Nhat Hahn has said that the greatest gift that you can give another person is your presence. It is also true that the greatest gift that you can get is the presence of others. We’re not talking of simply being physically present, but being totally and deeply engaged with others; seeing, hearing, and interacting with them with full attention and caring. This produces a joy that lasts and warms from the inside. Indeed, the good feeling produced can last a lifetime.
In giving them our presence, we deeply observe and listen to them. We see all their non-verbal signals and attune our attention on what they are telling us. Without doing anything else this produces a very positive experience. How many times have we heard people tell us that they don’t feel noticed, that they don’t feel heard, and that they are not appreciated. Our presence is an antidote. We can satisfy these deep and often ignored deep needs. We can do this simply just by being there for them.
We may do this with the idea that we’re giving to others. But it quickly becomes obvious that this deeply affects us. The warmth radiates affecting all. Seeing the happiness in those we care about is deeply satisfying and a source of great happiness. So, in being present for others we bring them happiness and this, in turn, brings us happiness. This can produce an upward spiral of good feelings.
Celebrating a Christmas mindfully can amplify the good feelings and joy of the occasion. It can save us from our own self-produced suffering. It can help alleviate the suffering of others. It can bond us to others and them to us. It can make this holiday truly special.
So, merry mindful Christmas.
“The way to a perfectly happy Christmas is to expect less and appreciate more!” – Marie Bloomfield
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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