Sunday, December 15, 2013

Moving slooowly toward Christmas.

About ten days ago, my son and I went to get a Christmas tree, driving all the way into town because I only know of one place that sells a few white pines in addition to the ubiquitous fir trees. I love white pines. So soft and friendly. This baby was only 20 bucks. And there it sat, undecorated for more than a week.
In the meantime, I went to the UU church because the sermon was about a Buddhist perspective on Advent. It was about how you get so caught up in wanting that you don't live in the moment, you don't ever just be. And how the typical approach to Christmas brings suffering because you try to find the next thing that will bring you happiness. And then more generally, how always looking for that perfect thing/experience/person brings suffering. Immediately following that was a discussion lead by a retired evolutionary biology professor. It was based on the book My Stroke of Insight, written by a neuroscientist who had a CVA and used it as an opportunity to witness a huge traumatic brain event from the inside. Since the bleed was in her left hemisphere, it temporarily wiped out language, linear thinking, the sense of being an individual separate from others. And it left intact the here-and-now processing of the right hemisphere, so she experienced sort of a pure merging with the universe. She talked about losing the boundaries to her self and her body and just having the sense of being energy and being boundary-less. I believe she was describing an oceanic feeling of limitlessness.  It made me think about the song that has the line "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean." I always found that jarring because from the time I was a little girl, I've had the opposite experience at the ocean. It always makes me feel enormous, like I'm just part of the vastness of it all.  I don't know if those two topics were planned together on purpose, but they did mesh well. Both about making deliberate decisions to experience life and connections to others in a way that might lead more to peace than suffering and letting go of attachment to the idea of the perfect path to happiness.
In the liturgical calendar, Advent is a contemplative time of watchful waiting. When my younger son was back with me this weekend, I made hot chocolate and cookies, put on Christmas music and we decorated the tree, put out the snowfolk, and hung the stockings. That's enough. A pared-down Christmas suits me and I'm just quietly feeling thankful for this last year with my son still at home with me.

40 comments:

  1. mmm so true on inviting suffering looking for that next best thing...sounds like a good sermon to me...and christmas at your own pace sounds nice to me....

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  2. "Both about making deliberate decisions to experience life and connections to others in a way that might lead more to peace than suffering and letting go of attachment to the idea of the perfect path to happiness."

    WOW! I would have loved to been there with you to hear those two discussions because they sounded like something I would so enjoy. Especially the one about the book, My Stroke Of Insight! Just the name of book has me so curious. Brilliant title!

    And your Christmas tree is just lovely! Your home looks so warm, cozy, and cheerful!

    I put my tree up this week as well. However, I have tiny, tiny, tiny little tree with lights on it, and some small ornaments. It's so cute and perfect for my studio apartment.

    X

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    1. Both were very much worth hearing and I've been thinking a lot about them since and trying to incorporate the ideas into regaining my footing.

      I like tiny little trees. A tree should suit the space it's in.

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  3. I am currently reading Tuesdays With Morrie, also about living life to the fullest and focusing on the things that really matter. Good reminder, especially during this season of greeding. Wishing you peace and true happiness.

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  4. Beautiful tree and decorations! I've pared down Christmas a lot over the years and I really like the simple ones compared to the ones I went crazy on the decorating and the gift giving, etc. It is true that we don't ever seem to be satisfied and keep looking for that next thing to be happy that we don't ever live/be until we get older in our lives and really realize how much time we wasted. Great reminder for not only this season but all the days of our lives!

    betty

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    1. And it is so ubiquitous in our culture that I find myself needing frequent reminders!

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  5. seem more people complain about being caught up in the stress and commercialism of Christmas than do anything about it. Crazy how we get ourselves into these situations. Have a peaceful season.

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    1. True. I've never really complained about the business of the season. I don't think you should do the things you find stressful.

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  6. I had a melt down this weekend; cried for a full day almost nonstop. Why? No reason bog enough except that I wanted my holidays to be this and I was faced with that. I'm surprised I recovered so quickly. Healing tears? I think so.

    I'm sorry mr. White pine interloper hurt you. I'm glad you have a healthy perspective

    Happy holidays, cs

    Love
    kj

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    1. Only heartbreak can make me cry like that. The rest I can work around.

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  7. That bog should be 'big'
    :-)

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  8. My initial response to your first paragraph is, "Copycat!" How annoying!

    Enjoy your time with your son.

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    1. That's funny - I was pleased when he sent me the photo and said it was a white pine, because he'd paid attention to what I'd told him about my preferences.

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  9. I don't have big expectations towards this year Christmas - I have not even decided to decorate the house:)

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    1. It's a different story when you have kids - I can't not do any decorating.

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  10. There's this constant pressure to "do" Christmas every which way instead of just marking it in a simple, relaxed, inexpensive fashion that doesn't involve a lot of competitive stress. Jenny and I just have a few simple Xmas decorations and on the day we'll just have a modest but tasty veggie meal with some wine and Xmas pud, and that's about it. Fortunately we don't have a vast bunch of relatives to descend on us and tell us all the extra things we should be doing "or it won't be Christmas."

    I see what you mean about the white pine being soft and friendly. You don't usually see them over here. What you were saying about the neuroscientist and her "merging with the universe" was fascinating.

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    1. It's different, though, when you have children. Then you have to balance their wishes with your own.

      White pine are plentiful in this area, but not the usual pick for a Christmas tree.

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  11. Lovely tree, enjoy the time with your son and have a lovely Christmas. xx

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  12. I think you're talking about this:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html
    which I saw a few years back. Most interesting.
    Take care SAW and enjoy the season, we just "do" Solstice with one small gift each. Bailed out of the stress many years ago and never looked back.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. Yes, we actually watched that as part of the discussion.

      I don't care about the gifts myself, but I love getting some things for my kids. That's fun for me..

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  13. Oh! And thank you for mentioning this book. It's on my To Read list for the holidays. Sounds fascinating.

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  14. Christmas is supposed to bring me happiness? I haven't thought of it that way in a long time.

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    1. Duty.

      Before you decide that's just sad, consider that duty actually has some pretty good up sides.

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    2. Which sometimes include some incidental happiness.

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  15. Your tree looks beautiful. Also, the UU service you attended sounds fascinating. Letting go of expectations can be very difficult. It is something I will probably always be working on.

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  16. Nice tree, does it have much scent? We usually cut trees from the National forest, a nobel fir if we could find one. The thing I liked best was the smell of a fresh tree, permeates the house.
    Enjoy.

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    1. Yes, a piney-scent. I love the tree smell in the house.

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  17. Lovely tree--and you are a winner for paying only an Andrew Jackson. Watching the link that Wisewebwoman posted in relation to your topic. Interesting...

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  18. I had heard the TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor and was impressed by her presentation. I did not realise that she had written a book about her experiences too. Thank you for the pointer. I shall download it in my kindle.
    Have a great Christmas.

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  19. This may go down in history as one of my favorite of your posts, ever. Contemplative works.

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