M.M. Note: Adapted from the CSC's Holiday e-newsletter.
How are you doing with your holidays, my friend? ... My own tendency is to get excited early on, and then as the calendar starts counting down toward Christmas Day, I start to feel a bit stressed out!
With two young children in our family, hopes run high. And this year, my father, Roger Mills (co-founder of our non-profit) will not be with us--he'll be singing carols with the angels. He was a huge Christmas fan, a bedrock of our traditions. It won't be the same, for sure.
Then there are money concerns, holiday "Thank You's" to be paid out to teachers, housekeepers, the postman ... How much? ... Send Holiday cards or not? Use wrapping or newspaper? And, let's see, Christmas Eve dinner planning, shopping, special events for the children ... If you are Jewish, Muslim--or otherwise inclined--perhaps you are feeling quite relieved by now!
I recall a very old recording of a Sydney Banks talk, on which Syd described the feelings of contentment and gratitude that are a marker for deeper wisdom to come, for mental health and understanding. He used the analogy of Christmas. "You know that feeling that just hits you when you're walking down the street? Like, Geez, it's Christmas!"
Our holiday gift to you, no matter what holiday you celebrate (or don't), is the simple reminder that holiday spirit is a feeling that comes from within. Already, our family has failed on a number of "external" holiday "agenda items": We have given up on having beautiful and elaborate lights like our neighbors, our Christmas tree is not color coordinated, nor well lit, and has large, empty green patches. Holiday cards have not yet gone out, my husband may be working Christmas Eve, and we have not found a soup kitchen or other wonderful cause to participate in to teach our children important lessons in charity and giving.
Nonetheless, as I give up on these items, one by one, I see that my children are still thrilled with the holiday. They love singing the songs. They love Santa---the whole idea of Christmas. And when I am simply present with what is, the holidays are very pleasant, and spirited, indeed. A few nights ago, carols on the car radio inspired us to drive around our neighborhood admiring the holiday lights, with the children singing at the top of their lungs.
And as John Lennon sung: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
The best gift is the gift we each already have within us--the capacity to enter into a deeper feeling about life at any time: the richness, the guidance, the love, the "holiness" that comes from nowhere else, but from within ourselves. The present of Presence.
Here's hoping that no matter what you celebrate, or don't, you enjoy the quiet moments between "doings," and even during "doings" that are nourishment for our souls, our families, our lives.