I confess, I’m late to the party – I’m posting this the day after Christmas. But I believe that Christmas poses the same challenges and rewards that we face every day of our lives.
As a child and as an adult, I’ve always adored the end-of-year holidays, especially Christmas, and all the related social and spiritual engagements.
I’ll happily admit it – I’m a Christmas fanboy. At this time of the year the quality of the sunlight actually changes for me – it’s clearer, and more subtly sparkly. People’s eyes shine. Interchanges seem more imbued with kindness and friendship. There’s a positive, uplifted spirit in the air.
Growing up amidst relatives and friends from unusually diverse backgrounds, I recognized that many of them didn’t feel as I did. Some even said they hated the holidays. When I asked why, they would respond variously. I’ll list some of their comments, and my responses.
Reason1: “I prefer to work. I get bored taking time off during the holidays – there’s nothing I care to be doing.”
My Response: OMG, get a life!
Reason 2: “It’s too commercial. It’s become an excuse for giant corporations to rake in the dough. If the point of the holidays is religious, why do we spend a ridiculous amount of money on gifts that have no inherent meaning?”
My Response: No argument. Christmas offers businesses a major commercial opportunity. But commercialism is external. It has nothing to do with the spiritual blessings that are strong at this holy time, or the uplifted response of individual hearts. In our house, giving gifts is a way to show our hearts’ appreciation. Completely apart from the “inherent value” of the gifts, we relish the opportunity to bask in the spirit of generosity that fills the air at this time.
Reason 3: “I have rotten childhood memories of the holidays.”
My Response: Sadly, yes, many feel as you do. But if you’re still hemming-in your experience of life in response to your childhood experiences, maybe it’s time for a change. You could start by turning off the soundtracks that you’ve been playing since you were a kid, and replacing them with something more life-affirming and helpful to your search for happiness.
Reason 4: “I’m an atheist.”
My Response: My first reaction is, “You poor dear, you simply don’t know what you’re missing.” But I’m aware that it sounds like the reaction of a blockheaded fundamentalist. Let me ask you instead – are you being truly scientific in your atheism? Have you tested the tools of prayer and meditation in the laboratory of your heart, mind, body, and soul? Have you tested the scientifically verifiable, reproducible, and proven results of expansive spiritual attitudes of kindness and compassion? And have you savored the results of your investigations, which the world’s spiritual scientists – the saints – all tell us come in the form of an ever-expanding consciousness of love and joy? That’s the challenge that I would pose to you. The true role of spiritual practice is not to narrow our hearts, but to open them in gratitude, kindness, compassion, and love. Be honest – is your atheism based on sound, scientific inquiry? Are you truly happy living with the results of your atheism?
Reason 5: “The food is terrible – alcohol, fat, and sugar are the main nutritional fare.”
My Response: Eat healthy, and serve nourishing, energizing, delicious foods to your loved ones. Don’t blame your experience on external circumstances that you’ve been unwilling to change.
Reason 6: “I’m single and alone without family or close friends. I have no one to celebrate with.”
My Response: Being alone is often a choice. If the circumstances of your life have brought you to this point, ask yourself: is it time to start breaking the pattern, and reach out to explore your options for connection? Many service organizations, churches, and clubs offer opportunities for sharing the joy of giving. Dr. Connie and I have attended the Ananda Christmas Eve service for decades. We celebrate the descent of a great avatar’s consciousness on earth to help all people find greater happiness and freedom from suffering. (See HERE for information about this Christmas Eve event, which has opened the hearts and transformed the lives of countless souls.)
Reason 7: “I agree with Scrooge and the Grinch – Bah, humbug!”
My Response: Maybe it’s time for therapy. Aren’t you forgetting that Scrooge found joy in the end, and that the Grinch is a caricature?
In summary: your consciousness creates your reality. If you want to be sad, angry, disillusioned, and depressed at Christmastime, I’m sure you’ll find it terribly easy. But if you want to be joyful and feel the inner transformation that Christmas offers, you’ll need to direct your energies into experiences that will expand your sense of self and make room for joy to enter. Consider dropping your guard and letting go of attitudes that may be keeping you separated. Recognize that transformation most often comes with the help of others. Surround yourself with people and teachers who are walking the path in earnest, and who demonstrate spiritual qualities in their manner, and in their lives. Recognize that the possibilities for finding joy are limitless. Awake and be wise and strong!
For more on Dr. Marcel’s work click HERE.