It’s Christmas week now and all month long I have been encouraging yoga students to reflect on what it means to be in the Christmas spirit. I believe that great teachers do their best to practice what they teach so I too have spent a great deal of time pondering the spirit of Christmas and living the positive aspects of the season. Let me reiterate “doing my best” because as I will soon detail it is not always easy to be in the “loving” spirit of Christmas.
I finished teaching a yoga class and as a bit of research for this entry I asked my students to please share with me what the “Spirit of Christmas” means to them. I think their responses covered it all. Here is what they said, “First and foremost Jesus birthday”, “Love and sharing”, “Charity, some give more now then at any other time of year to charities”, “Gratitude”, “Time off, from work and from school and also time to get everything done”, “Family, friends and good times”, “Simplifying, giving but not too much (setting some boundaries)”, “Too much, spending, decorating, focusing on gifts, overwhelming”, “Stress of it all, anxiety over giving the gifts that were purchased” and finally what was mentioned was “Family stresses and past issues once again brought up either internally or possibly outwardly”. So many thanks to my yoga students for sharing their time, thoughts and feelings with me!
What I have discovered for myself is that Christmas is giving. God gave us the ultimate gift in Christ. Giving can be stressful. I think simplification is key and living within your means is vital. In the words of Vanda Scaravelli, “Give what you can but don’t over give”. Don’t go into debt giving gifts you can not afford. Get wrapped up in the giving spirit and know that you can give your love, your words of gratitude and encouragement (written or spoken), you can give your time to charity or to others and it doesn’t need to cost a penny. Don’t give what you don’t have! Give unconditionally and don’t expect a return. Give from a place of love, people can feel and sense the spirit with which a gift is given, so however small you think your gift may be wrap it in love. The spirit it is given in is big, therefore the gift inside does not have to be. Remember that the greatest gift has already been giving in the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.
Like most, I too get stressed over family some of the time. I find myself revisiting past hurts and find that I struggle to practice unconditional love and forgiveness. I am not proud, but I am honest and I think I relive past hurts more now than at any other time of the year. I work with every cell of my being and makeup to forgive, a practice that does not come easy for me, and I have noticed that slowly over time the hurts lessen. What I find most helpful is my trust and faith in God and the strength that I get from Him. I forgive others and myself because God has forgiven me for my unloving, hurtful, and selfish behavior. To be forgiven, one must forgive.
Be grateful for all that you have. Be grateful for the life (animals and people) and love in your life. Be grateful for your blessings. Be even more grateful for life’s challenges. We learn and grow more from our struggles and challenges than from life’s obvious blessings. Learn to think, feel and see life’s struggles as your greatest blessing. If you need a challenge for the new year try that out!
So yes Christmas time can be stressful, what may feel like a time crunch to get all the gifts purchased, the cards addressed and in the mail, the food cooked, the house cleaned and ready for guest, the plans made to travel, dealing with difficult family members and whatever else you may find stressful. It is the stress and negativity of the season that turns the best of us into the worst of us. Even the most well meaning of us can be a Grinch at times. When you find that you are being the Grinch and not the giver remind yourself that stress is a feeling or a thought and come back to your spirit. Return to a spirit of love. God is love and He loved us so much that he gave His only Son so that we would be forgiven and have life. He gave us His only son as an example of right living and the knowledge that it is possible to live like Jesus lived.
I believe the spirit of Christmas is a celebration of life, Jesus’s life and how that translates into our lives. It means a life of love, not judgment. One of forgiveness and letting go, not holding on. One of life, not death. Jesus lived and died so that we may have eternal life with him. A life of strength, not weakness. One of light, not dark. Jesus is a perfect love and a perfect life. What a gift to be treasured!