It’s not possible to be afraid of a baby. The way she looks at us, her smile, her eyes, even her fragility, her trust and her innocence seem to touch even the most profound places in the hearts of us adults. The child is able to penetrate the walls that we have constructed around our hearts to defend ourselves, to protect ourselves, to prove that we are independent, competent, and strong. A child reveals the child who is hidden inside each of us, the child whom we have buried behind these impenetrable walls of protection, of strength, and of our need to win. Within our societies based on rivalry, we are often afraid to show our weakness. Admitting weakness can be dangerous since it might lead to rejection. Instead we feel that we need to show our competence, our capability, our power, our knowledge. If not, we risk begin wounded, rejected, isolated, and scorned. The weakness of the child – especially of a very young child – does the opposite: it attracts us and makes us smile; it leads us to tenderness and communion. It awakens kindness. …….awakened by something outside of me, and yet it is what is deepest within me. It is “me. All of us, at the deepest level of our being, are wounded children who are searching for love, for tenderness.
Jean Vanier, Christmas Letter, 2011
Nothing in life is trivial
Life is whole wherever and whenever we touch it,
and one moment or event is not less sacred than another
Beannachtaí na Nollaig oraibh go léir
(Christmas blessings from Ireland to all of you who drop by or who read each day)
photo vera and jean christophe
Christmas is a time which amplifies our tendency to generate a lot of stories about ourselves and how our lives are going. We are surrounded by many images – happy families, perfect relationships, cheerful celebrations – and if our personal situation does not match them, we can be tempted to feel that something is wrong. The key to keeping the mind relaxed at times like this is to be aware of the feelings provoked, and see them as mental energies to be worked with. In this way we can observe them as stories and not take them as the truth about our life:
Our life is becoming more and more inundated with TV shows, movies, videos, magazines and newspaper articles that seem to show and tell us what life is like. And then the inevitable comparisons arise: “My life isn’t like that” or “I wish it were” or “It is exactly like that”. The moment we notice sad and painful feelings arising, from thoughts like “I’m unloved; I feel separate and isolated” can we immediately stop, look and listen instead of going on weaving fancy narratives about ourselves? Can we stop and ask, “Where is this feeling coming from? ” Right now. Asking right this moment. Becoming more transparent to the thoughts and images that evoke these feelings and then deepen, embellish and propagate them. Becoming aware, let us taste directly how stories run our lives.
Toni Parker, The Silent Question.
My colleagues and I are finding that gratitude, which we define as a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life, is more than simply a pleasant emotion to experience or a polite sentiment to express. It is, or at least can be, a basic disposition, one that seems to make lives happier, healthier, more fulfilling – and even longer. New data continues to pour in, but already it appears that 21st-century research will confirm what the wonderful G. K. Chesterton wrote back in 1908: “The test of all happiness is gratitude. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he puts in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs?”
One is never lacking in opportunities to be happy, according to Chesterton, because around every corner is another gift waiting to surprise us.
Robert A. Emmons, University of California, Davis
One point that becomes clear about the current of the mind is that whatever way it’s flowing, we tend to get bound up with it. We want to protect and sustain a happy state and feel bad about its eventual decline and disappearance; our identity gets based on that state. On the other hand we feel stuck with and desperate about unhappy states. In its fullest sense, liberation …. is a liberation from cause and effect in the mind. It’s a process of mentally, emotionally, stepping back from any state and seeing it just as a state, without reactions and attitudes. This simple skill, which most of us do from time to time, is what we develop in … practice. More radically, it means stepping out of the program that asserts that my life gets fulfilled by having or being some state or another.
Ajahn Sucitto, Kamma and the End of Kamma