Opening Your Heart: Slow Down for the Christmas Spirit to Bloom

J horses.jpgThis last couple weeks has been crazy. And I have not been graceful about it. I haven’t felt productive either, even though I’ve checked a bunch of things off my list.

Writing has been one daily activity that I’ve repeatedly put off. I haven’t felt the space for it, and yet my internal pressure to express rises. Reading about a research study on what we can do to act compassionately is giving me a clue to my own reaction to Christmas pressures.

Turns out, when we rush, we close our hearts. Christmas is the time of the year that we are meant to intentionally practice compassion. And yet, there is so much to do around the holidays, that we tend to get rushed. Turns out that being in a hurry actually crushes the Christmas spirit.

In a study of seminary students, designed to understand how compassion becomes action, the students were asked to prepare a sermon on which they would be evaluated. Half were given a random section of the bible to study, and the other half were given the parable of the Good Samaritan to study.

Each student was then sent one-by-one across campus, on a path that led them by a man moaning in pain on the ground. Who stopped to help this stranger in need? Not the ones who studied the Good Samaritan.

The key factor in taking compassionate action was how rushed the divinity students felt. The more rushed they felt, the less likely they were to stop and offer help to the stranger in need.

When we are rushing through our days, pushing to get the next thing done on our list, we literally tend to ignore people around us, and their needs.

Here are a few ways I’m choosing to slow down and let the Christmas spirit blossom–I offer these as gifts for your heart.

  • Affirm gratitude in the giving: “I give thanks to the Giver behind each gift and to the one Giver behind all that I give and receive.” While I’m are writing cards, shopping or wrapping or mailing or distributing gifts, I’m praying for the people to whom I’m giving that they may receive these blessings fully. As I’m opening cards and gifts, I’m also praying to receive and give thanks to the One Giver behind all our efforts.
  • Practicing forgiveness. I’m praying for anyone with whom I feel in conflict or a sense of unrest. Forgiving myself, too!
  • We’re having both a “spiritual Christmas” and a “social Christmas” to keep things balanced. I meditated for 8 hours with my community earlier this month. Tomorrow, I’ll support my husband Rick to meditate with the community.
  • On Sunday we’re going to a Christmas service, on Christmas Eve, we’ll enjoy a Christmas play together.
  • I’m stopping even for a moment, looking into another’s eyes, smiling and saying Merry Christmas, just to serve that person in front of me.
  • On Christmas morning, very early, before anything else happens, I’m going to meditate deeply and let the Christ Consciousness be born in the cradle of my heart.

Even simplifying can seem overwhelming in itself, so here’s just two essential attitudes that will kindle the Christmas spirit.

  • I’m saying “Yes!” with all my heart, to all I have before me. Try it…you will feel a new Christmas energy rush in to help you give and receive everything with calm joy!
  • Always remember who you really are: a loving, giving person, doing your best to be kind to everyone and under all circumstances! Merry Christmas blessings to all!

~ From 12 Ways to Spiritualize Your Christmas, written in collaboration with Savitri Simpson, and originally published in Elephant Journal.

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