“We can wrap ourselves in torment when we think the wrong thoughts, or free our minds for peace.”
“We can wrap ourselves in torment when we think the wrong thoughts, or free our minds for peace.”
[Previous title: “A Week Before Christmas”]
It is Sunday, one week before Christmas, and I am taking a moment to be calm, to think only about what brings a sense of nurture, to breathe, and to let what is peaceful in life flow into and through me.
I am mindful of one thing above all else …
“All I want for Christmas is Peace.”
Those are the words that I wrote to accompany a photograph that I posted onto my Instagram account this morning. Those words speak deeply from my soul. Those words mean much. Those words, frankly, mean everything to me.
In exactly seven days time it will be the day that we, around the world, refer to as Christmas. Christ-mas.
Where is Christ in the “Christmas” that we know today?
We all know that the suffering and enormous shifts towards what is negative in the world this year have been unbelievable, at times unutterably bizarre. We all know that materialism is robbing those who (literally) have nothing … no thing … many no food, no home, no dignity, no love, no warmth, no hope …. nothing. We have all heard (if we have a device that would enable us to read this note) about the untold millions who are going without while we devour. We know about the craziness on the American continent, which is causing so many to shake their heads in dumbfounded disbelief. In the midst of that, we know about the excrutiating pain, hunger and fear experienced by those in the current war zones … and there are those even in countries ‘at peace’, who suffer unimaginable harm behind closed doors. We have all seen the faces of starving people – mothers, children, men – in Africa and in other places, and the beasts with bare ribcages, and we have heard of and seen drought conditions that are ravaging large pockets of our precious Earth. But do we care?
Do we change our ways, seek to heal the wounded children within ourselves so that we can go out and make a positive difference in a hurting world?
Do we reach a point of saturation with all the knowledge and vision of suffering and despair in huge areas of the world, turn off all the negative news … or do we feed on it and let it rub salt into our wounds?
For those who believe in the Christ, after whom the festive season has been named, this is a time of celebration and of joy, of anticipation for the feasting that will come next weekend and the exchange of gifts displayed under all manner of shapes, styles and colours of Christmas tree … Even those who do not believe in Christ will gather together to do the same … some thanking Santa Claus (Father Christmas would be more precise, if the real spirit of Christmas was still observed), for what indulgences they receive. And while we do this, while we feast, and fest, and furiously unwrap gifts adorned with papers that have caused the felling of many, many trees … and then throw everything that wrapped those gifts unthinkingly into the rubbish bin … we forget that there are those who have NO thing. NO one. NO love. NO home. No Christmas even …
Many around the world have no knowledge of and have never heard of the man called “Christ”. The One who came to earth, was born in a stable, performed miracles as a ‘human’ man, taught profound wisdom simply, died, rose again … continues to influence those who believe …
I have digressed from what started out as my contemplations on peace … I have digressed because my heart overflows … I have digressed because, like so many in our Western culture, my year has also held surges of challenge … nothing like those without anything for Christmas, but my pain and suffering has been of relative nature too. 2016 has been a year that has marked personal and family milestones, and it has held significant further growth and challenges that have rubbed up against me alongside those. Some of the challenges I have faced have done their best to defeat me, to rob me of my joy … but I have held on … and I have held on … to the hand and to the love of Christ … no matter what. I want to celebrate his birth, his light, his unfailing love, his richness, his loyalty, his hope, his courage, his example of perseverance against all odds, his promises, his delivery of the goods … and that I do deep down in my soul. I find Christ when I switch off the noise and listen … listen for the peace that is hidden deep down, within. This peace is available to each of us.
Our world is crying out for peace.
Our peace will come when we readjust our focus and become intentional about seeking it.
Our children will witness peace first hand when we learn to model it.
Christmas … “for unto us a child is born” … is supposed to convey a message of Love, of Hope, of Peace.
That is all I ask for Christmas …
“All I want for Christmas is Peace.”
Peace is a five letter word that makes all the difference to each of us, when we find it, and peace is the place where hope resides.
May your Christmas be a meaningful one.
May your heart know the love of God … which is boundless. God’s heart is pure peace. In God there is no fear … only the many faces of true Love.
Joy, hope, love, and Peace to the world.
It is what will feed those who have not … it is where Love resides.
It is all I ask for Christmas.
Just Peace. In every guise.
It is nearly Christmas, after all.
~ Holly ~
Note: the featured photograph is taken from a Christmas card, purchased from the RHS – horticultural charity – part of an illustration designed by Alison McGarrigle (courtesy Portfolio Select Ltd).
Gratitude, helping others, appreciating the abundance of the planet and doing what you can to tread lightly, sharing out of what you have, opening your mind to the possibilities of making a difference right where you are, trusting in divine providence, minding your own business, refusing to gossip, attending to your own responsibilities, always speaking the truth, being honest in all your dealings, bringing things out from the darkness and into the light, facing difficulties, taking care of your own attitudes, looking after your body, practising compassion, doing the correct things that you expect others to do … all of these and more, help to free the mind from mental chains … and all of these produce good brain health.
Good mind health = good brain health = good body health = good life = peace (regardless of your outward circumstances).
“Erroneous statements come from erroneous beliefs.”
Think correctly, and we correct our attitudes, our words, our actions and our wellbeing
with simplicity and ease.
~ : ~
[First published on The White Space http://www.facebook.com/thewhitespace ]
Copyright © The Holly Tree Tales
the concern for Man’s opinion.
Seek only to do what brings excellence
to your own divine relationship
with your Creator
and your Source
of all …
and all else will follow
calmly and simply and beautifully and well.
Love will follow as you fully love,
and all will take place in the correct way
and at the right time,
through the trials.
Copyright © The Holly Tree Tales
If you feel the need to compete for someone’s love, or buy your way into people’s lives, wait and see what happens when you have nothing left to bargain with.
If you choose friends by what they have, rather than who they are on the inside, wait and see what happens when your own rubber hits the road.
If you have unconditional love to offer, but no one takes your hand, remember that you are the richest amongst them, because you have learnt The Secret that they are still running around in circles searching for.
If you can sleep well at night, knowing that you owe no man a debt of love, you are indeed the one with all the wisdom and your riches are stored up in heaven.
If you can love yourself, when others pick at or ignore you, know that your star shines brighter than those with limited vision will ever know.
If you can see the blessings of another and walk on by without envy, your riches are in your heart and nothing can stand in your way of happiness.
If you can turn the light on when others only stand and judge, know that you have plugged into a power far greater than dull minds can ever experience.
If you are able to speak your mind in truth and with clear conscience conviction, you deserve the spotlit platform that you stand on.
If you long for the love of those whose love is only ever competitive or conditional, remember the gems that you have inside, and turn your cheek to face the wind.
It is wiser to do that, than to mind about the minds of others.
If you can be your own best friend, even in times of deepest darkness, you have what few others possess, and no friend in the world can better that.
We are each, ultimately, alone and no substitute for loving yourself will ever be found.
Be your own friend first, as that removes all need to compete or long for the approval and friendship of others.
When friendships and loved ones come to us without strings, each one is truly free to be themselves.
~ : ~
© The Holly Tree Tales
None of us ever knows what lies ahead,
but we can each choose to find ways to be peaceful now.
Now is the only time that any of us has,
and we can make our own lives stable by appreciating its value.
When we are peaceful,
we make it easier for others to be peaceful too.
When we focus on peace,
we enable more peace to take place around us.
Be peaceful now.
It is the only time there is.
~ : ~
Written on Monday 21 December 2015
I have stolen away from all the things I am ‘supposed’ to be doing, to do something that I need to do … to write a few thoughts down and to catch a moment, to consider and to prepare for the coming Christmas days. Less than an hour ago, I was in a blind panic, about all that remains to complete on my To Do list, and then I pulled myself together with the remembrance that there are so many around the world right now, for whom Christmas will have anything but a To Do list, a To Buy list, or a to invite list …
I know that this is the time of year when many around the world feel the deepest sense of aloneness, purposelessness and loss. I am aware that we are among the fortunate few on the planet, who have a roof over our heads, food in our tummies every single day, warmth as we snuggle down into our beds at night in the northern hemisphere, know comfort as we do the same in the south, and so much around us from whence we can each draw joy, if we will but stop a moment and see how much we are each blessed by. And so, I stopped. In the midst of my busy, modern Christmastime anxiety, I just stopped. I breathed. I remembered those less busy, less encumbered with ‘blessings’, and I gave thanks that I have people in my life for whom I ‘must do’ and complete my To Do list for.
What has happened to Christmas? What has happened to the Christ child in the meaning and the midst of Christmas? What has happened to the hearts of those hell bent on spending their cash on things that they and others truly do not need? What has happened to this time of year when, despite the shops being full and the banks’ coffers overflowing, so many go without everything that we take for granted, and so many have not one loving soul to warm their hearts with? Why are so many doing so much to sell us what they and we know that none of us truly needs for life to go well? Why have we become so needs orientated and so acquisitive, anyway, so goal orientated rather than love inclined?
Why have we forgotten that this is the time when we remember how Love came down to meet us where we are already at? How can we imagine that materialism and things can fulfil us, when those who are totally alone at this time of year know only too well that they cannot? How many would give their eye teeth to have someone loving to hold? How many fear the alcoholic rages that follow the “Christmas Cheer”? How many children wait expectantly for Father Christmas, or Santa (who has stolen the show), and yet many live in fear of what their own fathers might do to them, and have no knowledge of the Father who is our very own and loving God? How many have grown to hate Christmas, because it hurts, or sends them into spiralling debt? How many dread the gatherings and the opulence, when all they really want and need is love?
At the start of this day, a mere four days before Christmas Day itself, I had so many plans and intentions of things to complete, my list long and courageously ambitious, as I continue to struggle with the pain of a recently strained back. At the beginning of this day the morning sky lit up, with tones of pink highlighting the clearing grey clouds, offering hope and promise of strength and resolve and fortitude … and I have done the best I could with those. However, the end of the day is here now, and I have left most of my List a dream and a hope for tomorrow, undone and only with the help of a miracle to be completed in good time. I believe in miracles, have seen and know a fair few myself, but it seems that this time my List really is ridiculous and life is showing me to calm it all right down.
Four years ago, for the first time, I hosted Christmas (with all the traditional British trimmings) in our own home here, with and for my wider family in the UK. In previous years, we had either been living in Australia, or had spent Christmas in one or another of my UK family members’ homes, but that year I had begged to be the one (as the eldest sibling), to do Christmas for everyone in our home for once. I look back now at all that was so lovingly created for that day, by myself and by my children and a friend from Hong Kong who was staying with us, and I marvel at the beautiful homemade Christmas crackers, the food (so simple and yet for me, coming out of a breakdown, such a major feat to produce, tasty and on time). For the first time in my life, I had made Christmas pudding (organic and to my own experimental recipe) for our family to share. Adventurously, I had baked an impressive organic Christmas cake (partly my own recipe too, a scary first time process, baking it nervously in my trusty round Le Creuset), completely homemade and iced, even the marzipan was made by my own hand. That Christmas had every element of magic and joy that I could conjure up, working against so much that had been and was holding me back, and I think I and my team of merry helpers managed to pull it off well … the pictures, in hindsight, certainly looked respectable!
This year, with only my small nuclear family around our table on Christmas Day, I want to create the magic that we have all enjoyed at other festive occasions and places, in previous years. This year, however, we are keeping everything very, very simple. Our gifts are simple, things that each person really needs, lavishness a thing for others, our company much decreased in numbers, our peace and goodwill at the centre of our meaningful time, rather than all the trimmings that create the chaos, the bling, the acquisitiveness, the potential for debt along the road … We have been beautifully blessed by the arrival of Christmas cards, each one appreciated for the love and the time that went into its creation or its thought, and it is in these little things that we see the gifts of presence, of friends near and far, and loved ones who are missed, too far away to touch and hug and feel nearby.
In days long past, as I was growing up in Africa, we would usually only put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Now, I often wonder how there was the time to attend that task, with so much else to attend on that day. Some put up their tree many weeks before Christmas, but ours usually appears to take its stage in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, once both of my children have returned home from boarding school or university, and are here to enjoy its choosing, as well as attend the decoration and sparkly splendour that goes with the desired end result. Having stood our fresh tree in a metal bucket of water, the trunk held steady with variously sized stones, we light the interior of the deep green needled branches with warmly coloured strands of Christmassy light, then surround the base of the tree with a plain calico cloth, upon which our gifts are placed on Christmas Eve. As we build the scene, we try to keep things calm and co-ordinated, choosing baubles, little wooden ornaments and glistening stars from a selection that has travelled from southern to northern hemisphere with us … the shiny red apples a gift from my mother on my first Christmas in Australia, always a regular on our tree. Nothing is ever hung before the little wooden nativity scene has been safely secured in a visible spot, nestled amongst the boughs, the real meaning of Christmas taking pride of place in our home.
Today, I broke with tradition once more and began to create a Christmas pudding for Christmas Day … something I had intended to do on the weekend of “Stir Up Sunday”, a month ago. No doubt I have left this task too late for the flavours to mellow and mingle, but a wish and a prayer might see it through to become a taste sensation, hopefully producing a good waft of dessert joy. This year I shall attempt to create our pudding successfully with a gluten free flour and, if it turns out really well, we might enjoy it at a future gathering with the wider family, where everyone can happily tuck in. I wish I had started this process earlier in the year, but the ‘ideal’ time had other pressing commitments, and so this one will happen now, traditional timing out the Advent window, so to speak.
Four days before Christmas … if said pudding works and I pull it off in this time, a new pudding tradition may well have begun. The very act of stirring those fruits and zests and liquids, as the Christmas Pudding’s raw ingredients came together bit by bit today, was enough to get me powered forward. As I breathed the lovely, familiar smells of Christmas, in calm silence, without any music needed to add to the ambience, I was filled with hope that, despite all that remains on my list To Do, I shall manage to do only what needs to be done, and only in a way that retains calm and can be done lovingly and well.
In closing my record of thoughts leading up to Christmas, I have been pondering too that yesterday I read a mindful piece about Christmas, written by a Buddhist monk. In his thoughtful article, the writer mentioned that “The Pope has shared that this Christmas there is nothing to be joyous about, because there are so many among us choosing hate and violence instead of peace and love.” It is a sobering thought, and so sad that Pope Francis should feel moved to say this, isn’t it? We, who are safe and loved, have so much to be grateful for. If you would like to read it too, the full article is at http://plumvillage.org/news/a-green-santa-and-a-hug-of-love/
I hope that in these days leading up to Christmas, you will know an abiding peace in your heart, and that all your plans and hopes for Christmas will be beautifully and fruitfully realised. Let’s spare thoughts and share our hearts and treasures with those not quite as blessed as us.
In Peace and evergreen Love,