Home for the Holidays
I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks to God.
She thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth she's unusually competent.
Brave too, able to face unpleasantness.
We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling over it.
I'm always moved by disaster, always eager to oppose vitality
But timid also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
According to nature.
For my sake she intervened
Brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down
Across the road.
My friend says I shut my eyes to God, that nothing else explains
My aversion to reality.
She says I'm like the child who
Buries her head in the pillow
So as not to see, the child who tells herself
That light causes sadness-
My friend is like the mother.
Patient, urging me
To wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person-
In my dreams, my friend reproaches me.
On the same road, except it's winter now;
She's telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial music:
Look up, she says.
When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
Like brides leaping to a great height-
In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
From time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It's this moment we're trying to explain, the fact
That we're at ease with death, with solitude.
We're very quiet.
It's peaceful sitting here, not speaking,
Fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
Going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering-
It's this stillness we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.
We come to the end of another year.
Endings seem to have particular flavors – flavors of rest, celebration, contemplation, transition, renewal...
But what does a year ending actually mean? A journey of 584 million miles around the sun, who we’ve become, what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve left undone, what we look forward to?
Tradition marks this arbitrary passage of time through space with the observance of the holidays.
A holiday or “holy day” used to be a special time set aside to contemplate the divine, welcome a new season or commemorate a passing phase of life. Was there ever a time when an occasion for peace, love and joy was untainted by egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate?
For many conditioned humans, the holidays are fraught with anxiety, depression, frustration, dissatisfaction, irritation, disappointment and guilt. Celebration takes a back seat to surviving the karmic crucible of family, travel and tradition.
It is perhaps for this reason that Zen Practice does not set aside holy days or seasons of celebration.
We are training to be here, to be present, to be in life, for whatever it is, not for how “I” think it should be, how “I” want to feel, or how “I” want it to go. The attitude of mind we cultivate is that every day is holy, every season is a cause for celebration, every moment is an opportunity to witness the sacred.
We practice learning not to shut our eyes, to notice without judgment, to see with unconditional acceptance and let go without effort that which stands in the way of “loving the world.”
Nothing authentic wants a holiday from existence. Awareness is always joyfully “on.” Why miss the glorious experience of Life unfolding through an instant of inattention?
If we bring awareness to the “longing for a holiday,” we would see that what we really want is respite from the noisy, incessant and persistent conversation in conditioned mind. Without egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, Life would be a holiday in the true sense of the word.
Perhaps this holiday season it is time to reclaim the holy. Instead of seeking relief from the “voices in conditioned mind” through behaviors that cause us to go unconscious, let’s practice giving Life the best possible gift – the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.
A Recipe for Presence
Prep Time: Now
- A sprinkle of laughter
- A touch of the sacred
- A dash of joy
- A taste of kindness
- A bit of compassion
- A pinch of glee
- Mix with gratitude
- Garnish with celebration
As this year comes to an end, practice
- Sitting peacefully in the love of stillness
- Celebrating your love of Life
- Dancing to celestial music
- Offering a gift of lovingkindness
- Serving a recipe for presence
Record and listen to what arises.