In my weekly feature called, “Mindful Monday,” I like to share my journey on the road to becoming more ‘mindful.’ This encompasses the act of being watchful, aware, wary, heedful, alert, careful, or attentive, in whatever area in my life I feel it applies to.
Welcome to Mindful Monday. I’m happy to see you.
Hello, and welcome to another week on Mindful Monday. Are you busy with the holiday season? Are you running around frazzled trying to have the “perfect” holiday for you and your family?
As many of you know, as a Buddhist, I don’t celebrate Christmas, even though I was raised with the tradition. However, Christmas was a strange event in the home I was raised in. For me, Christmas was, and still is a Christian tradition. As a child, the holiday I knew, was about attending church services, singing in the choir, and having dinner with my stepmother’s grandmother and her father in law from her first marriage. I did not grow up with my siblings who were many years older than me, and I did not see them until I was a teenager. It was an unusual existence.
My step mother did not have children, and she did not like them – myself included. One year, after the novelty of having a stepdaughter wore off, my stepmother changed my perception of the holidays which has colored my entire life’s attitudes about Christmas.
One year, there simply was no Christmas. The tree was decorated (only by my stepmother) and stood at its place of honor in front of the living room window. Yes, there were presents wrapped and placed under the tree. Instead of a holiday celebration, my father and stepmother had a terrible fight. I hid in my bedroom, as usual, eavesdropping as children usually do. I believe I was ten years old at the time.
The fight raged for hours, and I knew once they started, it would not quit anytime soon. Eventually, I remember going to bed and falling asleep. When I awakened in the morning nothing was said about Christmas. The presents were gone, having vanished into the night. I never did find out what happened to them and never asked. Children were seen and not heard at my stepmother’s house.
I remember returning to school after the holiday and listening to everyone talk about what they got for Christmas. I never said a word. Instead, I buried that pain deep inside, never wanting to deal with those feelings of rejection from my parents. From then on, Christmas was stressful. I always waited for the same thing to happen again. It didn’t, but for holiday seasons for years to come; I tip-toed around afraid to know if there would be a Christmas or not.
Years later, when I had my children, the memory of that one Christmas still haunted me. I celebrated Christmas with my kids the best I could, but I was always uncomfortable with the custom. I did succeed in making Christmas a joyful event for them. We didn’t have much, but we had many fun traditions, like baking and decorating cookies, playing games together, and just living in the moment of that time together. We always had a Christmas tree and as many presents as we could afford. In fact, I don’t know that any of our five children even know this story from my past. Maybe I should have told them. Our blended family lives all over the United States, and we haven’t celebrated a holiday together in many years…
Here is the crux of my story. Christmas is not about presents or the things you get from friends and family. It is not about sacrificing your peace of mind while trying to make the perfect day for your family. It is not about Christmas trees, decorations, or any of the countless other ways we have of spending money to celebrate this day.
Christmas is about living in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. It is about traditions and the celebration of family. It is also about reflecting on the year that you and your family just soldiered your way through. It is a celebration of your triumphs and the acknowledgment of gratitude for your life.
It is also about letting go of old traditions and starting anew…
So, Ron and I have decided to start a new tradition. Instead of Christmas, we are going to celebrate the Winter Solstice (The Yule, or wheel) on December 21st, much like our ancestors of old, where fires were lit to represent the life-giving forces of the returning sun. The imagery of “the wheel” fits perfectly with the precept of the Buddhist Wheel of Life and our beliefs.
We will honor the new solar year with light, candles to be exact. My plan is to do a Solstice Eve ceremony where I meditate in darkness followed by the lighting of a single candle to represent the birth of the new sun, expressing our hope in the future. We don’t have an indoor or outdoor fireplace where we can burn a Yule log, but I am going to improvise with pine scented incense.
Image credit: Pixabay.com
My thoughts will center on letting go of that old pain from that Christmas long ago. It is time to cut those threads that have bound me to that bit of suffering I couldn’t seem to let go of. In my meditation, I want to visualize that pain tied up in a knot. Slowly, my plan is to mentally unravel those tangled threads so they can float away into the nothingness, and be gone. It is time to start anew. Ron and I have each other, and we are our family.
After my meditation and later in the day, we plan on celebrating by feasting on a fabulous dinner of baked bread and a delicious and wholesome beef stew. I am making a celebratory red velvet cake with peppermint frosting for dessert. There will be many toasts to the new solar year. This is a time of renewal and for recognizing the blessings of the new year to come. It will be about us spending time together and enjoying the fact we are alive and together.
Yet, I don’t want to lose sight of what Christmas means for everyone else. So here are my suggestions for living mindfully on Christmas day:
Relax and slow down. Pay attention to your breath. Focus on your conversations and put your cell phones, tablets, and computers away. When it comes time to enjoy your dinner, sit together as a family. Take your time as you eat and savor each moment. Think about what is vital to you on this day. Stop worrying about things out of your control. Live in the moment and enjoy. Let the love of your family wrap you in a joyful embrace.
Remember, this is not a challenge. This is an offering of support. If you would like to join in with your own Mindful Monday goals, you can do so in the comments, or on a separate post of your own making. If you want to link back to my post, please feel free to do so, however, it is not necessary. My main aim here is to give and get support to become more mindful of the things I take for granted in my life. Thank you for taking this journey with me.
Namaste. What are your mindful goals for this week?
Peace and joy to you all during this holiday season. ❤