(the kisses are an addition to this post from my one year old niece Neve, a little one who truly looks on life with an abundance of love, joy and compassion - it’s too much of a fitting coincidence to delete).
As Christmas rolls around, nights lit up by magical lights, houses decorated with a cosy glow, the roads get busier and people bustle through the streets searching anxiously for their next purchase. Yet we are so ready to slow down and enjoy the time of year which is very much associated with love, compassion and happiness. If this is so, if we are so ready to slow down, why do so many of us approach Christmas with a manic air, not really ready to enjoy the joy that this time of year is open to bring? It seems a very good time to reflect upon Happiness, and what Happiness truly is.
The truth of reflection is that it isn’t easy. It’s not easy to look at ourselves truthfully and be honest about what we see. Usually, when we look within what we find is so much different to the image of ourselves that we send out to others, for whatever reason, many of us now seem to think that projecting a somewhat perfect image of our lives is more important than actually living our lives in a way that will bring true satisfaction. When we come to the end of the year there is so much talk about New Years resolutions and wonder about what the next year will bring.
The unknown also brings an element of fear, and when we are fearful we aren’t open to life and what it has to offer. We close off and try to control things that cannot be controlled, often leaving us feeling more empty, confused and lost. For the big money makers and corporations, Christmas is the perfect time to play on our insecurities, distract us with gifts a plenty to purchase, always wanting something bigger and better, making lists in our heads of what we want…but the reality is, what we want, isn’t what we truly need. What we usually need at this time of year, is to actually slow down, make time for introspection and reflection, and be positive about the many lessons we have learnt over the year, whether the lessons were difficult to learn or not.
When I look back on my childhood and memories of Christmas, the less I received, in the form of gifts and toys, the genuinely happier I was. As long as I had my family around me and I was surrounded with the light of love, I was happy. I was content. I didn’t want or need for anything more. The older I got and the more confused I became about what Christmas was about, hearing that Father Christmas wasn’t real and becoming wiser to the stress that surrounded buying presents (something that can be beautiful and meaningful when done without pressure), when I opened my gifts, I didn’t feel happy. The more I got, the more manic I would become, opening presents and not reading who they were from, it became about me and what I could get out of it, and from a young age, it just didn’t feel right.
When I reflect upon happiness and it’s true meaning, it’s depth and it’s beauty is that it is so simple. It’s the distractions that take us away from pure happiness. It’s our minds being absorbed by adverts and sale items and offers, thinking that we can purchase happiness, that we can give happiness in the form of a material gift. However, if we take the time to look within, to find space and stillness, then it will soon become clear to us what happiness is.
We live in a magical world, filled with magnificent creatures, we are life and we have the opportunity to live life to the fullest. The reality is that life isn’t as easy for some as it is for others. We all know that. We can chose to ignore it or do things to help. Instead off running around aimlessly we can give time for ourselves to heal and then we are able to give our time freely to others. We can chose to be conscious about our planet and all of it’s beings by the actions we take. Or, of course, we can chose to be distracted by nonsense, buying into things which really don’t hold any meaning at all, and which ultimately cause destruction, for our planet and our own state of being.
The greatest gift of all is love. If we all give and receive love for Christmas and for the rest of our days, then the world would be a pretty perfect place to live. We would live with an abundance of joy, approaching the tough times with a higher knowledge that love conquers all. In my mind, it couldn’t get any more simpler than that. The difficulty arises in honest reflection. But once we are honest, it doesn’t seem as bad as we thought, we feel lighter and are able to move beyond it and grow. It doesn’t have to be serious; relax, have a laugh or plenty, let the tension melt away, and move into the New Year a little lighter and with more space for love.
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year… with time for gentle reflection, space, and opportunity for growth.
“Sometimes when I meet old friends, it reminds me how quickly time passes. And it makes me wonder if we've utilized our time properly or not. Proper utilization of time is so important. While we have this body, and especially this amazing human brain, I think every minute is something precious. Our day-to-day existence is very much alive with hope, although there is no guarantee of our future. There is no guarantee that tomorrow at this time we will be here. But we are working for that purely on the basis of hope. So, we need to make the best use of our time. I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.
So, let us reflect what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren't born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.”
The Art of Happiness
Dalai Lama (the 14th)