I write this article while Christmas carols are playing on the radio (really; it helps us get in the “Christmas spirit”), the little white plastic Christmas tree beautifully shining with colored lights in the corner, already a small mountain of gifts underneath and around it and more to come. Nikki is making the traditional (Harmony) party mix (organic and with olive oil… it’s yummy :), and the rest of the family is enjoying the rare chilling out time with nothing else to do, singing along with the songs we know and like (me, too, so excuse any song lyrics that show up here:) And we have already watched 4 or 5 Christmas movies, which we enjoy doing as a family.
I figure many of the people reading this celebrate what I call “the commercial Christmas,” as we do. It’s fun, we think of sharing and surprising each other with fun stuff… and when else will I have the opportunity to express huge amounts of joy and excitement about receiving new socks or underwear?
The kids, of course, especially get the “goods.” “Santa Claus is coming to town,” as Bruce Springsteen is singing so enthusiastically, though we never taught the Santa Claus lie, but we did and do teach the Santa Claus magic to our kids.
Both Nikki and I grew up in strongly Christian situations and we both consider Jesus as our first Guru. That means we both have respect and are grateful for Jesus Christ as Teacher and Spirit, who was born in a human body, and who is dedicated to helping people realize the True/God/Love/Peace (whatever you choose to call it). India has a millennia old tradition of seeing enlightened beings as one with God and of Avatars, those who are enlightened from birth and are seen as God purposely incarnated as a human being. Jesus, we assume, was the first in the West to realize his True Nature, or to be born knowing it, or at least the first with some marketing to follow.
Whatever you believe about Jesus, we know he didn’t come to give a message of shopping and giving presents to family and friends, nor even to extoll the virtues of family, which for some is a mixed reality at best, nor just to give people hope for after death (though anything that helps us be at peace in that transitional process is probably a good thing), but to remind us of to serve the poor, sick and needy, and to waken us to a Larger Possibility, even saying that his followers would do greater things than he did. Forest (almost 10 year old), just a few minutes ago, asked, “If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, shouldn’t Jesus be Santa Claus?” I said that Jesus has so much better things to give than just stuff, so he has to have his helper do that part.
With that background, some thoughts on how to get the Spirit/Divine at least a little back in Christmas. Coopted from the Pagans, the Christmas tree symbolizes our (energetic) spine and the subtle nerves in the spiritual body that emanate from it; the star or angel at the top symbolizes when the dormant spiritual energy in us “wakes up” and rises to the top of the head, the crown chakra (energy center), and we realize our True Nature. We decorate our inner “tree”, with all the divine virtues that we can cultivate eg. love, truth, harmlessness, contentment, joy, compassion, etc., and we make offerings to the Process of Awakening of selfless service and good deeds, spiritual practices, meditation, dedication, surrender, etc. I like to gaze at the Christmas tree from time to time, kind of “embodying” the tree, feeling it inside and thinking what I am decorating it with and giving as presents. I believe if you try that even for a moment in the festivities, you will experience an inner shift happening, an opening to a larger possibility and greater peace, and a growing beyond being stuck in the material and the limited self as I have when I’ve done it.
We might also think about Jesus being born in bad circumstances and with someone trying to kill him right off the bat. The Divine Spirit/Light/Love/Energy was born in us, seemingly not the best place in which to flourish with materialism and negativities all around (just watch the news) and with plenty of people and circumstances in our life trying to kill the goodness in us and have the negativities to abound and go unchecked. Nonetheless, God the Protector kept him safe and led him to fulfill his purpose in Life. I think if we look closely, we will see that even in the low times and in the times when we were allowing, or purposely choosing, to
indulge the lower parts of ourselves, that there was some Greater Force (call it “Life” if you want) that was overseeing us and nurturing us to the place where we find ourself now. It is this Force, the Infinite Potential inside that I feel compelled to realize, that I choose to celebrate this season. (and it goes well with the return of the Light symbolized by the solstice and the miracle [even, the “victory”] of Light of Hanukkah).
For that reason, my personal favorite thing about Christmas day is getting up very early, in the dark hours of the morning, to do all of my sadhana (spiritual practice) before the Christmas morning yoga class, one of my favorite classes each year. Getting up so early that day is a necessity since there is no time later in the day for me to do it, given the fun of opening presents and making and eating food with family and friends, but I LOVE doing it and look forward to it because the atmosphere is SO QUIET that morning and is so great for meditation and exploring the inner world. Then I have a beautiful bike ride to teach, and even when I had to drive a few miles, often I would see no or only a couple of cars on the road. Teaching is great that day, getting to share yoga practice and meditation with folks who are so happy to be there.
Anyway, the point of this writing is really to encourage you to not lose the deepest possibility of the celebration. Let’s nurture our Spirit in whatever way feeds your’s, go DEEP, and remember the Love and let’s let it expand till we finally realize that the whole world is one family and we know ourselves AS Love.