Archive for December, 2009
I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere celebrating Christmas, in a very Catholic family, with wonderful days of warm summer – not exactly your typical White Christmas. In a house full of boys, five of us, and one baby girl, I looked forward the end of the school year, which runs March through December. What a better way to celebrate than with Christmas! The 24th was the big event. It usually involved the opening of presents after a sumptuous dinner and champagne at midnight – I am not sure toasting was so much the preferred way of baby Jesus…but I digress. We also prayed, gave thanks, placed the baby Jesus on the Nativity Scene, ate turkey and mashed potatoes, dried fruits, and other delicacies my mom made from scratch. Understandably, I was more interested and expectant for the presents! Can’t forget the tree; it was a feature of our family tradition, our very own, very green, very plastic (now over 40 year old) tree! My mom decided one year she would organize scavenger hunts for clues for each present. It started with clues hanging on our tree. She did that for each and every one of us! This also made the search of each present, not as many as we wish or they could afford, a much more exciting and longer lasting ceremony. After the commotion of presents, way past midnight, it was the time for firecrackers. They were as dangerous as they were fun! Bedtime was very delayed in this very special day, and not a very silent night.
One of my early Christmases, I recall, money was tighter than usual. The economy, a large family, harsh job conditions, made this year quite scarce. My parents still managed our traditional dinner, slim but complete. However, that night, we went to bed without our scavenger hunt. We were old enough to understand not to expect much, but young enough to still wish it. As we woke up the next morning we found a single present at the foot of our bed. That was the best neon green machine gun I had ever not wanted. It truly meant so much that my parents gave me a toy, when we were all hurting. I was moved because I recognized how much love and sacrifice that “machine gun” symbolized.
Christmas was never the same since. I think that experienced changed me. It helped me realized that it is the intent behind the gift, the emotion and thought behind the giving. It was not so much about material presents but about rescuing the significance of the celebration. I realized then that it was the daily presents – food, clothing, but most importantly their biggest investment, education – their demonstration of their constant love, and not a one day event.
As I started my quest for a spiritual practice, this season became the time to find rebirth, and stayed away from the single-present mindset. Many years I traveled to different countries to spend the time from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day in retreat. Thus, the holidays became a time of introspection. It meant fasting from solid food, complete silence, and whole days in mantra meditation – just so much fun!
It is not surprising now, over three decades later after my green machine gun, that I find myself in an ashram for the holidays. I truly find this time of pausing a process of cleansing the old mirror of my mind. The more peacefulness I surround it with, the more it reflects my deeper Self. The cleaning part is the hard part; there is so much to clean! There are so many skeletons, so many challenges, so many things to forgive and heal. However, it is harder ignoring it. It is just like trying to ignore washing the car – it just does not get any cleaner, not even if it rains!
I find, however, as much as I believe for many of us, the most important part is just showing up – getting here and surrender to the process. It is like jumping on the yoga mat. It is a way to rediscover what is important, that love is, truly what we all look for. Although this may seem escapist, really it is here, at this ashram, that I am finding ways to still be of seva (service). I love others by doing service. St. Francis says, it is in giving that we receive. I do believe that is what I am here to do, as all of us.
However, it is never easy, and I do not expect it to be. We do simply need to pick up the clues along the way; the presents are there to be found. Just trust.
I simply want to use these days, these few hours to be holly, real holidays.
May we all find love.
We are getting ready to one of the most important events in the year on our western world. We are coming to the end of the calendar year. These days can be so important physically and emotionally, but certainly spiritually. ‘Tis the season for giving, celebrating, and welcoming new beginnings!
Yes, even in my older days these days are still full of significance. In Christmas, Hanukah, etc, is all the symbolism of a spiritual rebirth. Our western traditions pushes us to celebrate this rebirth. We think of giving, sharing with loved ones, saying good bye to the old, and welcoming the new.
It is a special time of the year. It is special because we think of all the many ways we can give thanks to the people we love. It is the time of the year when we can take the time to plan out a special present, moment to show our gratitude towards the ones around us. This is the time of the year where we extend our eyes beyond our family and friends to generously provide for others in need. And this year has been a difficult year for many of us or around us. Let’s give generously – from our heart.
“What to give?” becomes our quest! Simply, let us give time. Should we start with ourselves? Our inspiration and sincerity will become clear when our body and mind are connected, when we are in tune with who we are. Take the time to stop, breath, reconnect. Thus, our time with our loved ones, family or friends, will also be more significant. Let’s give more of our time. Real time. Time is love. Love is in demand. We forget to be present, rather than to give presents. It is the experiences shared in that time, not the price tag, the true gift. Gifts are important, but maybe there is a most effective route to demonstrate our love. A smile, a small note, a hand held, a time to listen, those are the memories that become gifts.
I was recently reminded that love is the best healing gift you can offer to someone. When we are able to spend time, to sit, and lovingly listen, then magical things happen. God, Providence, Spirit, Mother Nature, Winter always, all ways invites us to tap into listening. The entire city was invited to experience the beautiful and intriguing phenomenon of snow. It only took a few minutes for me to be outside and just stand in awe…and listen. I could truly listen through the silence of Nature. It was in that moments that I experienced that internal conversation. Those seconds were sufficient to become aware of that internal fire inside of me – that strength that gives, welcomes, experiences, forgives, empathizes, celebrates. It is in that spirit that we find our fortitude to offer that peace to someone else. I had to turn to a total stranger and share the moment of snow, quietness, joy!
We are always reminded, ‘Tis the season to give; to give of one Self.
Inspiration. Don’t we all need to be inspired by something to be able to create and be moved to do. We all need that drive inside of us that awakens us. We all would like to look at life inspired, every day. We all have experienced this at one moment or another in our lives. We all have been moved to action by an incredible song, speech, story, a book, a personal hero, an experience in life.
We all have our heroes and moments and places we go for inspiration. Although, there is always that moment where we do not seem to find inspiration. I know I have been in places where I need that extra push, and do not find my Self. It is a lonely and difficult place to be. Life at that moment seems that sinks in altogether and at once. All loses perspective, and the world loses its natural brightness. Only then is when we are able to look inside and ask…humbly. Those “dark” moments are the most important movements in our lives, because from that place is when we are prone to grow, to change.
All great saints in history have had those moments. Imagine what about us simple mortals! St. Francis of Assisi called those his dark nights. The great Queen Kunti, from the Hindu tradition, used to pray to Krishna that He brought her moments on difficulty, because those were the only times she would sincerely not forget Him. So those dark nights are not a negative thing, they are our inspiration too.
Inspired, as I have heard from the author and teacher Wayne Dyer is to be “in-spirit”. We all need to remember our spirit. And it does not matter what we call that spirit, atman, soul, energy, chi. We all need to reconnect to that constantly. We do forget that we are a soul living the experience in this body. It is easier to identify ourselves with our limited exterior. We think we are our body, jobs, our bank account, our thoughts. Those are limited sources of inspiration. We have to remember, to re-member, or become members again, to reconnect to our spiritual source. There lies the source of our inspiration. Meditation, prayer, breath, silence, contemplation, etc., all these are tools to reconnect. Yoga has been the inspiration of my life, and still is. It is my moving meditation, my communication with my atman. It is through this practice that I find my inspiration to be of service to others. Be inspired…do not forget.
God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.