It hasn’t escaped my notice that the end of the calendar year is upon us. In most cultures, it’s a time of renewal, of celebration, of gathering, and of joy. How we perceive the activities of the season will vary widely, depending on our personal situations, our historical associations, our energy levels, and other factors.
It’s a perfect time to think deeply, and on a personal level, about merit, purification, and ending grasping. Human nature is made so that when we release clinging, there is a pleasant feeling of lightness and freedom – sometimes even relief. When we give an appropriate gift, when we contact someone who didn’t expect our attention, when we speak kind words to those we meet, each of these can be an experience of liberation – wholesome and happy moments.
When we are kind to ourselves, when we move towards feeling compassion (for ourselves and for others) rather than frustration or sadness, there is peace, there is joy.
Each time we “make merit” by acting with intentional kindness or generosity, we are removing fuel from our inherent greed and aversion. Our hearts move in a different pattern, and it feels good. Often we don’t recognize these feelings of freedom because they can be subtle, or we may be “in a hurry”. But this is the real work and reward of the holiday period.
Often in this season, there is more togetherness than we normally experience and that can create pressure – pressure to have a good time, to have meaningful exchanges, to somehow mark this time as special. For many people, it can become uncomfortable, but these situations are perfect invitations to mindfulness. The only time we’ve got is NOW. We can acknowledge, mostly to ourselves, how we’re feeling as we move through our activities and contacts with other people. In this way, we remain true to ourselves and genuine towards others.
A key to maintaining mindfulness is to be aware of and manage our own energy. Not rushing is always an option, often an underutilized one. Finding time to rest is important. Short, intimate contacts may be preferable to long periods with large numbers of people. What activities bring us joy? Cooking or baking for others? Shopping? Dancing? Writing cards? Talking on the phone or by other media? Visiting in person? Do we know what supports our joy and what we find draining? Which people make us feel happier and which leave us with less energy? Checking in frequently with our physical and mental state will give us the information we need to keep our balance and move in wholesome directions.
Mindfulness can be practiced in any situation, to our benefit, and usually to the benefit of others. Let’s make this our gift to ourselves: renewing again and again our intention to maintain mindfulness now.