Christmas Eve, 2010
I remember as a child being so excited on Christmas morning, waking up, running down the stairs, and screaming “Santa Came! Santa Came!”. The night before I would watch the clock go by and count down the hours until Father Christmas would finally deliver the goods. I don’t recall my exact age when I found out who Santa really was, but I do remember how it happened. I was lying in bed tossing and turning from all of the excitement, when I heard something come from the 3rd floor. The only way to get into our house was through the roof top terrace… since there weren’t any houses with chimneys in Dubai. I thought for sure, Santa was here. I remember always being so amazed at how Santa could come to my house, and still manage to see all of the other children around the world. But Santa was magic, if anyone could do it..he could. I crept out of my bed and tip toed to the door, now I could tell that the noise was coming from downstairs. I moved slowly toward the steps and I tried to listen as closely as possible. Then I heard it, my moms voice. I asked myself “Does Santa know my mom?” I looked over the edge of the steps and saw my mom putting the “layout” presents all around the tree. The layouts were the presents that were to big to be wrapped, and just had bows and name tags on them. My heart sank. “Mom is Santa? Could this really be?” I turned around and walked quietly back to my room. I was in such shock that I couldn’t even remember the present mom was holding. That Christmas eve I laid in bed wide awake for hours, curious about what I had just seen. I was very sad, I mean for so long I believed in this guy, and now this jolly old man who would listen to my secret desires and wishes turned out to be … my mom. I’m not sure how my mom told me the news, I don’t even remember asking. Maybe I never did. Maybe I just wanted to believe in something greater than me. Something untouchable. Who was I to believe in now?
When I think of Christmas now and what it’s about, love is the only way to describe it.
It’s about honoring strangers and being able to share time with my family and friends. It’s about giving and joy. There is something very whimsical about this holiday. It makes me want to sing silly chipmunk songs and dance around with visions of sugar plums in my head. It’s a time to tap into the childhood magic and believe again. Believe that there is something or someone our there listening to our wishes and desires. He may not be in a red suit, or fly reindeer, but there is something, someone or some source that we can tap into at any moment. That source allows us to give and receive love for ourselves and to all of those around us.
This Christmas, be the child again. Sing Christmas carols, dance like a fairy, make snow or sand angles, wish for something great, do something great, be something great for you, and most importantly for someone else.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night
Today, all over the world, Zen Buddhists are celebrating the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Known in Japan as “Rohatsu” (literally, the 8th day of 12th month) this Bodhi Day marks the defining event in the legend of Shakyamuni Buddha: his enlightenment experience.
After sitting through a night of doubt and temptation — in the form of the many kinds of mental obstacles that cover the whole gamut of unskillful thoughts and images that the human mind is heir to — Shakyamuni Buddha looked up as the planet Venus came into view, and gazing at this morning star, broke through the agony of the nightlong struggle, and realized the nature of the self, the cause of mental suffering and its remedy.
In honor of this momentous awakening, many Zen Buddhists sit in meditation for an entire week’s retreat, culminating with an all night sitting on Dec. 7 into the dawn of the 8th, watching their minds. As the minutes, then hours, go by, the mind becomes quieter, and they are able to bear witness to the marvelous quality of being that Shakyamuni experienced: an embracing of reality as it is in each moment. In a sense, this very intense annual ritual helps each of us to realize that it is not so much what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens that determines whether or not we create suffering — our own and that of others.
The legend says that as he gazed at the morning star, he said, “How marvelous, I, the great earth, and all beings are naturally and simultaneously awakened.” This phrase teaches us the great lesson of interdependence, that we are not separate from all that is, but rather we are interconnected, a piece of the grand whole of the universe. And at the same time, this very piece, this “I” sitting here is an integral and vital component of the whole. When we take care of this “I”, we can take care of the whole universe.
So, even if we cannot devote a week or a full night but are only able to meditate for a few minutes on Bodhi Day, it can be a reminder of the wisdom that is naturally available to us, the wisdom of cultivating our minds and recognizing our relation to the whole.