Resting in The Midst of Christmas
For some people, the coming weeks of the holiday season might feel hectic, chaotic even. While others might find that this is the loneliest time of year, or alternatively, that the weeks to come are a time of joyful peace that is welcomed and thoroughly celebrated. For myself, it is usually a mixture of all of these emotions and states of mind.
I can still remember one Christmas when I was hosting a party for my friends and family and the excitement, anticipation and chaos of preparing for people to arrive was palpable. Everyone in the house had jobs and tasks and were caught up in the busy. Christmas carols were blaring, cats were sneaking in open doors trying to catch a chance at stealing a treat, children were arguing over who was going to hoover the stairs and I was hoping and praying that there was enough food to eat.
After everyone had arrived, been fed and were enjoying the party, I found myself sitting on a chair watching the scene as if I were watching a movie. The whirlwind of the planning, cooking, cleaning and waiting for everyone to arrive had created a separation of sorts from the actual socializing. As a hostess, I felt disengaged from the merriment. It was almost a moment of lonely. However, in that moment, I realized that this was OK, this lonely position of ‘working’ the role of hostess. It was the first time that entire week, that my mind had a moment to rest. Amongst the chatter, and the background sounds of Bing Crosby singing, the laughter and the pounding of the upstairs floor boards, where the children had assembled, I noticed that I had this deep desire to rest. And I did. I listened to what my body and thoughts were saying and I sat in a silent reverie. I then happily joined the party and enjoyed myself.
After that night, I promised myself that I would really try to notice what was happening in my body and my mind as a means of knowing, or discernment, in regards to my needs at this extraordinary time of year. And to really give myself permission to listen to the needs of my mind and my body.
This ‘listening’ or paying attention came in handy the next year, when I found myself feeling really low and separated from my extended family who live in Canada. Instead, of being inspired to throw a party, I kept hearing my bed calling. Each time I heard the carol ‘White Christmas’ and the line ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one’s I used to know’, tears would well up in my eyes. I started to notice the sluggish heavy limbed energy that had somehow invaded my body. So, I dropped the question into my practice: “How can I be kind to myself in this moment?”
My answer came to me as an instruction to share with my family how I was feeling. I told my children that I was missing my homeland. That this Christmas was feeling hard. And they listened. They ran the bath. They lit the fire. We watched our favourite Christmas movies and laughed about our memories from the last time we were with our Canadian family. This sharing was my act of kindness to myself. I felt less isolated and soon found myself sitting and resting in reverie, once again. The sadness was still there, but as I allowed it to be present, it was transformed and I soon realized that there were other things present, too. Like the warmth of the cup of tea made for me, with love from my youngest.
The holiday season can be hard. It can be joyful. It can be manically crazy and it can be quietly calm. Each year brings something different. What I have learned through my practice and over the years is the importance of finding those moments of silence, and those moments of resting amidst all of the incredible emotions that the season can bring. Just as I come to rest on my meditation cushion, I can carve out a moment or two to sit and watch the parade of emotions and thoughts that make up my ‘Christmas-time’ mind. This can happen in the throes of a party or in a moment of sadness on my own. What has and always astounds me is that there is never simply happiness and joy or despair and sorrow. Thankfully, if I look a little closer, there is usually more to the story in my mind: with happiness, comes a bit of sadness and with sadness, comes a bit of joy. I simply have to rest in the midst of it all and keep a watchful eye. In this way, I can know what it is that I need and give it to myself.
For this Christmas/holiday season, and those to come, I would like to wish everyone a moment of silent watching as we go about our days. Perhaps, we can all come to rest amidst our experience and really give ourselves the best present of all- permission to listen to our needs and to be kind to ourselves.