Are you beginning to sense a shift in life's tempo from frantic endeavor to quiet anticipation? Often, I've found anticipation to be more rewarding than experience. Looking forward to all the things I could do when I became "grown up" set up expectations I'm still trying to meet. (I know, Yoda ~ Do or not do. There is no try.) Zen has much to teach about losing our expectations and experiencing the moment. Christmas offers many opportunities to practice Zen. For example, whether or not it's what you "really, really wanted," there is no such thing as the "wrong present." I doubt the Christ child had much use for frankincense, myrrh or gold. We are already beginning to receive some of this season's most important gifts: longer days and the expectation that life will be renewed in all its fullness as the days grow and the nights shrink. Temperatures are only a lagging indicator.
a spirit of Christmas
Photo by J. Harrington
I don't intend to preach as much as share some lessons I hope I've learned over many Christmases of giving and receiving gifts. I've found more joy in giving a gift that brought real pleasure to the recipient than from almost anything I've ever been given. I've also failed, too often, to adequately appreciate a gift and all the giver's love and caring and hard work it represented. It isn't really the thought that counts, it's the love that triggered the thought. [Read Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town.]
If I'm not making myself clear, try reading or watching (hopefully again) "A Christmas Carol." Keep a close eye on Scrooge as he learns that having it all is only worth what you can do for others with all you have. That's something on which I believe Zen and Christianity are pretty much in agreement.
What to Count On
Not one star, not even the half moonon the night you were bornNot the flash of salmonnor ridges on blue snowNot the flicker of raven’snever-still eyeNot breath frozen in fine hairsbeading the bull moose’s nostrilNot one hand under flannelwarming before reachingNot burbot at home under Tanana icenot burbot pulled up into failing lightNot the knife blade honed, not the leather sheathNot raw bawling in the dog yardwhen the musher barks geeNot the gnawed ends of wrist-thick sticksmounded over beaver densNot solar flares scouring the earth over ChinaNot rime crystals bearding a sleek cheek of snowNot six minutes more of darkness each dayNot air water food words touchNot artNot anything we expectNot anything we expect to keepNot anything we expect to keep us alive
Not the center of the seaNot the birthplace of the wavesNot the compass too close to true north to guide us
Then with no warningflukes of three orcasrise, arc clear of sea water
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.