Tag Archives: Christmas

A Different Christmas Tree

The wonders of Christmas represented through lit up Christmas trees are a delight for children and adults. Yet the reality is that the festive season is also a time of great distress for hard pressed parents and children in need.  To dissipate the angst felt by many at Christmas this simple meditation works well.

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A simple exercise for children (and parents) who are overwhelmed is to think of a tall tree being hit by a violent storm.  The winds make the tree top sway dangerously and branches may break off.  Yet low down on the tree trunk there is very little movement.  The lower trunk of the tree remains steady, in spite of the violent storm.  Dear young friend, now think of yourself as that tree and the violent storm as the upset and despair that overwhelms you at times.  If you stay in the tree top with your mind and your reactions, then surely something will break.  This is dangerous.  You will lose it, say and do things that can harm others and yourself.  Now remember the lower trunk of the tree that remains steady in the midst of the violent storm.

Place your two hands flat on your belly, below your navel.  As you breathe in, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing in deeply to my belly.”

As you breathe out, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing out slowly from my belly.”

Do this for ten to twenty breaths and feel the calm settle in, and notice that the storm of strong emotion or frustration is not so strong.  You are now in a position NOT to act with violence and malice towards others or yourself.  Do try this the next time you feel overwhelmed.  Do NOT then take the step to bring harm to yourself or to others.  Stop. Chill.  Put your hands on your lower belly and breathe in and out with awareness that your hands are placed on the lower trunk of you, as a tree.

 

Christmas Gifts and Consumerist Madness

The Christmas season is upon us, following Thanksgiving and Black Friday. All three occasions provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. It is mostly the worst that emerges – greed, selfishness, consumer madness. With the festive season now going full blast, let us all begin a reassessment that all of us can do.  It is time to move on from being so self-absorbed and distracted. Let us find the opportunities to locate ourselves in something bigger – a cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous.

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How about examining our habit energies around gift giving and learn to give gifts that really make a difference? Why not begin by participating less in the expected excess of mindless consumerism of Christmas buying? I have taken that small step and no longer buy Christmas gifts. Instead, I present donations and gift certificates in the name of family, grand-children and friends to provide education for a girl in Afghanistan, rebuild forests in Haiti, provide literacy packs and mosquito nets where most needed, support Habitat for Humanity building houses for the destitute and so on. Our gifts then become bigger than our self-absorbed egos and can lead to creating happiness for less fortunate people. My grand-children proudly take their Christmas certificates to school for Show-and-Tell periods. They are very articulate as they play it forward with their class mates and teachers.

This then leads to the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises. If you do not realize the crises staring us in the face – Climate Change, anarchy, rise of fascism etc – please wake up! The gift to search for at Christmas is Freedom and it involves stepping firmly onto the Bodhisattva path made clear by the Buddha and other great teachers.

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to be rooted in our own sovereignty and deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that presently lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. “Enter the Bodhisattva” is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task. Nelson Mandela thought so. His 1994 inaugural speech laid out the territory clearly when he opened with:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

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