Openness

Your relationship to time reveals your capacity to trust that whatever is present each day, you can handle; otherwise it would not be there. The surprising or unexpected happenings of each day reveal your attachments and teach you about your ability or inability to remain flexible. In what ways are you manifesting the 5 simple qualities of childlike openness:

Not worrying about your daily bread 

Not complaining when you fall sick

Sharing whatever you have

When you fight or quarrel, not holding a grudge and making up quickly

Showing your vulnerability when frightened or threatened.

Angelus Arrien

Patience and a different view of time

This evening marks the start of a New Year in the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Different wisdom traditions mark the passing of time in different ways. Most of the ones which originated in the Northern Hemisphere see a change from one year to the next around now. Although a significant number of people in the Western world come from a Christian background, very few seem to mark this day in a significant way, preferring to look forward to the more commercially-sanctioned December 31st.

We can see that an understanding of time is relative, having been framed in different ways over the centuries and in different traditions.  This makes it interesting to observe how we can attach stories and get upset by certain dates, when their meaning is quite arbitrary and driven frequently by more modern advertising concerns. For example,  traditionally,  different days were used to give gifts.  The feast of Saint Nicolas on December 6th in Germany and Northern Europe saw children putting their shoes in front of the fire  in the hope of receiving something nice. December 13th, the Feast of Saint Lucy, was celebrated in the Nordic countries and in some parts of Italy,  again with gift-giving and visitors coming down the chimney. These and other traditions have been replaced or combined in the much more recent figure of Santa Claus.

I like the fact that there are different calendars used in different traditions. It gives us a choice as to what meaning we wish to attach to the passing of time and how we can hold certain stories lightly. In other words, there is no objective meaning to December 25th, December 31st  or any other day. It is us who place meaning on those dates. Because society attaches importance to these dates we can allow an association of stories to form in our heads and make them into a story about our lives.  This  can often lead us to compare our life or our history to other lives, who are celebrating these days in a “better” way. As a result,  the comparing mind is quick to kick into action. So for many people, this holiday period can  increase anxiety,  and they can feel inadequate on the 25th or the 31st when they were feeling reasonably content on the 24th or the 30th. Human life and family history is much more complex than the snapshots seen on a certain day and cannot be rewritten just for one day.

The more we can see the expectation created by these messages, the more we see that we are frequently tempted to try to manipulate our life into something portrayed outside of us, rather than working with it as it actually is. In sitting practice  we are working on our underlying contentment, deep within ourselves; we learn to patiently refuse the messages given from others and return, over and over again, to our life as it is and not the stories we receive about it from outside. We do not need others’ ideas to complete our life for us.