The things of my world slow down considerably during December. And that is intentional.
It may not look that way from the outside. I see as many, if not more, clients in December. There's shopping to do, and cooking. And so-and-so is having a Christmas party, and there's this event we'd like to attend. Oh, and the tree and lights and decorations, and I want to try that craft I saw on Pinterest. Not to mention the birthdays and anniversaries that also occur this month.
But you know, I've missed too many Christmases over the years. Heck, I've missed too many DAYS over the years. Too many moments. Because I was so caught up in fulfilling what I thought I had to do at this time of year. I had to get the "just right" present, and the food must be perfect! And then there was all the sadness inexplicably tied to the ornaments, the stockings, the shopping. There was the longing. And the holiday hangover of "That's it? And now it's over?" It makes me tired just remembering.
The Christian church has a beautiful tradition in Advent, the season of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ that begins the new church year. But even for non-Christians, advent can have meaning. It's a time of hope and anticipation for better days, for a better world. It's a time for keeping our eyes and hearts open to others. It's a time for mindfulness and contemplation. Advent devotionals encourage us to pay attention, look for the light in the darkness, offer (and receive!) love. Who can't benefit from this kind of deliberate focus?
My holiday mantra, the one I intentionally share with my clients, and with YOU, is simply, "Stay awake." To stay awake means to slow down. To allow your mind to become aware of everything around you. The man in line in front of you. The child sitting next to you. The geese flying overhead. The full moon tonight. Stay awake to the breath that fills your lungs, the heart that beats in your chest. Stay awake to the stillness that exists, somewhere, inside of you. Stay awake to that.