Open yourself to the simple pleasures of the season

By Linda McFarland • Guest Columnist

Here we are in the holidays, the most sacred and profane time of year. When we yearn for simple pleasures and traditions, for celebrations which affirm connection and presence, how do we find meaning in the frenzy of consumption and excess?

Each year, for me, the challenge is to distill the essence of this season to determine what is good and nurturing, what really feeds our spirits and gives us hope, what is the proper antidote to the spiritual junk food that rains down on us, relentless and unbidden.

What I hear, in the silence, is:

Be more, do less. Be quiet. Turn off everything that makes noise and claims your attention. Listen to the stillness that ensues. Savor the silence. This is the time of the solstice, the time of long nights and darkness and mystery and introspection. Allow yourself to rest.

Be grateful. Notice all your blessings: life and breath and health, clean water, fresh air, food, shelter, warm clothes, people you love who love you, even those you don’t like very much but you tolerate and learn from, the stars that shine up there all the time even when you can’t see them, the presence of the Holy.

Be restless, unwilling to settle for anyone else’s idea of what this time looks like and means.

Be generous. Act on every impulse to do good, especially if no one else will know who did it.

Be attentive. Notice what is really going on, this minute, not what you expect to happen. Be playful. Do something different, daily, something “unlike you.” Have fun!

Be honest. Consider what is important to you, really worth your time and attention. Live that.

Be open to wonder, innocent, seeing with the eyes of a child.

Be tender. Pray for an open heart, and allow that to happen.

Be gentle with yourself. If you are the main creator of festivities in your circle, ask for help. Share the work and play. Most everything is more fun with a buddy. Be reasonable and relaxed.

Be excited with anticipation, as when a baby is expected. Something new and special is coming. Welcome it. Be willing to be surprised.

Be aware. Hold within your consciousness the contradictions — beauty and gaudiness, violence and peace, grief and joy, exhaustion and energy, poverty and abundance, darkness and radiance, the divine and the ordinary, “no room” and infinite space.

Rejoice! You have reclaimed the holiday season, infused it with meaning. Let it come to you!

Linda McFarland lives at Lake Junaluska.

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