Mindfulness at Christmas
I like the word “mindfulness.” I tried very hard to be mindful of it and to practice it as Christmas Day drew near, especially when everything out there seemed so chaotic and the “T” word (traffic) was on everyone’s lips. (I commanded myself to screech to a full stop on Dec. 18.)
A composite definition of mindfulness: It is a state of active, open attention to the present; it is living in the moment and awakening to experience. Mindfulness should be a few steps away from contemplation, which is “a long, loving look at reality.”
Many people now do mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness should help one to see more clearly, make good choices, and take the right, meaningful steps.
Alas, Christmas now almost rhymes with “harassed.” Do you feel harassed, stressed, strained, worn-out, pressured, beleaguered? If the words describe the state of affairs in your life, it might be your own fault. Who told you to get mired in endless shopping, gift-wrapping, decorating, cooking, partying, etc.?
All of a sudden and before you knew it, a beautiful Christmas morning has broken but you have a throbbing headache, a bug in your tummy, the beginning of a cold and a hint of lumbago. You can’t even shampoo your hair.
Is it now in the Christmas tradition to get caught in a whirlwind of bone-crushing activities that make scrooges out of people? Is Christmas a roller coaster ride? What price Christmas?
Those who call for the secularization of the December feast (by deleting the word “Christmas” and insisting on “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” instead and getting the crèche out of sight) in order for it to be less Christian and “more inclusive” don’t have to work hard at it.
Christmas is now a most cruel season. This is the time people feel worse than worst when they are at their worst. Meaning, the season aggravates whatever it is they are already suffering from. The poor feel poorest, the hungry feel hungriest, the lonely feel loneliest, the sad feel saddest, the abandoned feel like abandoning the world. Wounds bleed. Ask the rejected, the betrayed, the bereaved.
This is because the Christmas season has been programmed to be a season of only joy, peace and plenty(?), a time for togetherness, sharing and reaching out. You don’t have one or all of the above during Christmas, you’re out, eat the dust. You don’t have all of them during Lent, you don’t feel as bad. Holy Week and Easter are more soothing to the worn-out and weary.
And so in trying to make it all happen so that Christmas would turn out to be “happy,” people pay the price with their health. Some suffer from the so-called Christmas Syndrome, which mimics a heart attack.
People who have the means and power to make it all happen—that is, create the trappings of joy and peace and plenty—live it up, even to the point of flaunting it. You see photos of tables groaning with food on Facebook.
The media help dictate the ingredients of a happy Christmas. They conjure up images of what it should be—food and gifts galore, good looks, well-lit homes, complete families. If that is what it is, a happy Christmas seems to be beyond the reach of many.
And so you hear people sigh in the wake of the Christmas season, “Hay, nakaraos din.” Like, by the grace of God, they survived it. Like it was such a hurdle. But indeed it is a hurdle, for those who think they can hardly measure up.
Nakaraos. They survived the shopping rush in the malls and bazaars, the snarled traffic, preparing for the guests and the reunions, making both ends meet and, most of all, the emptiness. They even survived the horrendous, distracted crowd in church and the priest’s endless reminders.
I’d like to see a “Christmas Movement” that would encourage people to go back to where Christmas all began, to unlock the simplicity that it stood for and the joy that included all.
I know people who are trying to have an “alternative Christmas” by doing away with the excessive external trimmings and carousing that daunt those who can’t keep up, by making quiet efforts to really reach out to those who are in pain or are extremely needy, not just during the Christmas season but beyond it.
Come to think of it, why call it “alternative” when that is what Christmas is supposed to be—a giving season? Not a mindless exchange-gifts season but a truly giving season. Not just among family, friends, colleagues and demanding gift collectors at the gate but with families who need a real boost in order to cross the poverty line.
Until she was disabled, a good friend of mine used to send simple cards every year to tell her friends that the money for gifts she intended to give them had instead been channeled to a needy community. A representative of the community cosigned the card to validate her message and to give thanks.
Four days before Christmas Day, Sr. Regina Kuizon RGS, provincial superior of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, took a day’s leave from her convent duties and quietly slipped out to personally deliver gifts. She showed up at my gate with a little native basket with Good Shepherd goodies. Surprised, I quoted to her the words of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation: “Who am I that…” And we had a good laugh.
Thanks, too, to Sr. Guada Bautista RGS, for my free yearly supply of guava jelly. (I already shared some of it.) This means that after last year’s crazy weather, the wild guava trees in her hometown in Isabela have bloomed again and yielded much fruit. Using a handed-down family recipe, she turns the guavas into nicely bottled River Valley jelly and gives them away—her way of sharing the gifts of the wilderness.
Always with you in spirit, dear Sisters.
All ye readers who still have time to read, hold on to the quiet glow of Christmas and soak in its wondrous meaning. Maligayang Pasko!
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