Holiday Thoughts

by Charles Hastings
This holiday season is an ideal opportunity to make use of our meditation in the context of our daily lives.  whether you’re sitting around the fire in the cold of Europe or North America or enjoying the sunshine and the beach in Australia, it’s a season where bringing joy to others and generosity are universally appreciated.
Definitely it will help to start the day with a few minutes of meditation and, above all, start with a positive motivation, with the determination that what we are going to do today will be aimed at creating happiness for others.
In the midst of our activities we can try not to lose our mindfulness. In the maelstrom of last-minute shopping we can spare a moment to appreciate the simple humanness of everyone milling around in the stores. I am often amazed by the cheerfulness that the cashiers manage to show even in the midst of the pressure. We can contribute to their day by showing our understanding with a simple smile.
One might have an ideal of being kind and creating happiness around us but the practicalities can be quite challenging. We can do our best but it will not be perfect. To have ideals is fine but we have to start from the place where we are now and not from an imaginary ideal place where we think we should be.
It can be lovely to  share happy times with friends and family, but sometimes there are overwhelming expectations. People find themselves together and everything is supposed to be great but maybe they don’t get on very well, or maybe someone is just sad and has difficulty taking part in an atmosphere of bonhomie. We can gently be aware of the difficulties and, combining kindness with a measure of diplomacy, try to subtly transform the situation.
Of course the sad person might be you, or you might feel suddenly exhausted and unable to participate. Maybe you could withdraw for a few minutes and just sit peacefully being aware of  your breathing in order to recenter and refresh your mindfulness.
It’s important in the midst of our holidays or celebrations to not forget those who may be lonely or experiencing very difficult circumstances when we are full of exuberance and joy. Maybe we can do something for them, by participating in a project or simply through a small act of kindness.
With our practice of mindfulness we can learn not to get lost in moments of elation or moments of sadness. Beginners sometimes tend to try too hard and become rather rigid, and of course it’s so easy to forget one’s mindfulness completely. On the basis of our practice of sitting meditation, we can remember that thoughts and emotions arise all the time and constantly change. When our mind starts to get overheated by strong emotions, even very pleasant ones, we can try to relax and maintain our clarity. When we feel sad or angry, we can let our mind settle and try to let go of the sad or angry feelings as they arise. In meditation, as in daily life, the art is to combine a sense of freedom and relaxation with a continuity of mindfulness and clarity.
Maybe through various circumstances you’re alone at Christmas yourself. For some people this can be a pleasure and a relief but it can also be a time of loneliness and despair. Encourage yourself. You naturally possess the basic human tenderness which is our greatest treasure. Your simple meditation and simple good heart can be a gift both for yourself and for the world. If we can relax and relate to that tenderness within ourselves with a few kind thoughts, we can expand that feeling of kindness and compassion on an ever vaster scale. Developing intense love and compassion in solitude has been a core practice for countless meditators for centuries. Try to find your inner core of good heart and feel your love radiating to the whole world. To do that even for a moment is so precious.
My best wishes to everyone for the holiday season, with the hope that our clarity and compassion will grow and grow all the year round.

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