Today the Christian Liturgy starts to sing the O Antiphons – ancient prayers and aspirations, used over the centuries in the days before Christmas. The first of them wishes that we may grow in wisdom at this time of year around the Winter Solstice, when the days are shorter and nature quietens down, and we reflect on the priorities in our lives. In many old traditions, wisdom was a quality in the person which was so desired and special that it was seen as coming down from above. It was greatly treasured – the best gift one could get in these days – because it gives a perspective and purpose to life and led to contentment.
It is good for us to remember these things when the talk is all about gifts, and getting, and happiness. Mindfulness meditation has two aspects – it grounds us first and then leads us into a felt insight into the marks of reality, namely, that it is always changing and that even the importance we give to ourselves is a constructed, fluid one. This wisdom or perspective is worth cultivating, as it tunes us into a deeper happiness, helping us to maintain our personal boundaries and not overstretch ourselves. It helps us to not link busyness or constant doing with our sense of worth, and stops us filling our days with so much activity that we have no space to sense whether we are truly fulfilling our deepest needs. Real contentment comes from within – from getting a balance in our lives and seeing things clearly.
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
and softly putting order in all things:
Come and teach us the way of balance.