In the midst of another shopping season, I do my usual thinking of the best gifts to give others. For years this season has been stressful for many, including myself. We spend our dollars, often too many, and wonder if the recipients will like our gifts. We worry about spending too little. Individuals and families often feel tremendous pressure and guilt about spending enough or too much. Some take a few months of the following year to pay off credit cards. Many this year may just not have the resources to do much of anything without a job but hopefully with unemployment benefits. Then others will spend time and money on gifts without any concern over amounts spent.
May I remind us that no amount of money spent or unspent can necessarily make one happy? Peace and joy are not contingent on what we spend, give, or don’t give, or receive from the outside. Happiness comes from within, from understanding or awakening to this ancient truth. Happiness and joy within result in happiness and joy being expressed without. And for some of us, we might ask how we can keep the inner happiness going during the season, and throughout the dark, cold months which lie ahead. Here I remind us of our inner Essence which regardless of the outside world or conditions of the body, the inability to play and move, confinement to a bed or wheel chair, one yet can remain in peace and joy.
The understanding and practice of forgiveness is thus one of the major ingredients in feeling happiness this season. Receive and give this gift and whatever you share in tangible form will be deeply enriched. Forgiveness of what? Sins? Of course. Our sins of “missing the mark.” The mark of what? The bulls-eye of understanding ourselves as part of the Great Oneness of Spirit, and not our ephemeral, eye blink of a life time. Here are some examples for possible forgiveness that will lead one to what some refer to as “The Miracle”:
– My constant tendency to judge things I give or receive. So what if it isn’t enough? So what if I can’t use it! Forgive yourself and give up judgment. Show free, unconditional love to both giver and receiver.
– My judgments on others for not observing the season properly. Religious “believers” are very vulnerable to this misery. I lived it for years. So what if you don’t observe it “properly?” What is proper? What worked centuries ago may not today. It’s not about rituals, lights and music necessarily, it’s about love. Years ago after a crowded, boisterous, early Christmas Eve service, where I realized I had little control as pastor, a board member said I looked angry and judgmental! Forgive them, forgive yourself, let it go! What difference does it make?
– Forgiveness for spending too much. So what? Did you lose your home and winter vacation? So what? Forgive yourself. Maybe you will learn better next time. Maybe you won’t; so what? Forgive yourself.
– Forgiveness for not getting what I wanted. Again, so what? What more does one need than “Everything”? Can storms, abundance in things, scarcity, imprisonment, heat, cold, light, darkness separate me from the Source? I think the Biblical Paul wrote something about this waiting in prison. Forgive yourself for forgetting, feeling trapped with less than Everything.
– Forgiveness for self sacrificing and yet not receiving the returns I expected! Who cares? Sacrifice is a useless manipulating device to force others to treat us differently. Sacrifice is trying to expunge the guilt from thinking I am not perfect. Well, you are not, in body or form. So fall deeply in love with your Self, your Perfection, and you and I can live quite independently of the good opinion or lack of it from others.
– Forgiveness for taking this body, world, and universe so seriously. Space and time are only passing illusions. They are fads that come and go. They are not our home.
Yes,the most free and happy person in this season or any, then, is the one who knows he or she has Everything and sickness, “deprivation,” and death can’t remove it. They can be flogged, beaten, put on the street, and killed but remain mysteriously and amazingly happy and at peace. How about Jesus? How about Gandhi? How about Martin Luther King, Jr? Okay, King had some foibles; who doesn’t? But he was able to stand before thousands and speak of a new dream of oneness through love and non violence. Jesus and Gandhi were his great inspirations, persons who connected with the Great Oneness.
So this season, and every season, “be instant” in giving the gifts of forgiveness to yourself and all you meet. Stay awake and away from judgments as much as possible. Become aware of when you are in that mode, and ask Spirit to help take it away. Any time you are not at peace and feel a deep joy, you have slipped again. But don’t beat up on yourself. Treat yourself with loving kindness, it will spill over onto the others around you.
The best gift for Christmas? The gift of forgiveness with acceptance of life as it is, mortal and changing constantly yet within us all, That which is Forever.