On the 26th of December, I have often heard people talk about the letdown of the day after Christmas. The build up to Christmas, that used to start after Thanksgiving when I was a kid, but now begins before the Jack-o-lanterns are put away, often leaves people with a disappointed or somehow, non-completefeeling. This reminds me of the letdown feeling seekers often have when they have a "spiritual experience", or a moment of awareness that does not last.
The practices we engage in, or the meditations we follow "religiously", or whatever lifestyle we adopt to "develop" spiritually, like the preparations and build up to Christmas, are really the "life" we seek as it were. The good will, the camaraderie we feel in the Holiday Season, is the purpose of the season! The hectic shopping, the decorating, the single-minded pursuit of a happy holiday, for ourselves and others are what give life to the season.
In spiritual practice, or spiritual life, we do much the same. We seek to "develop" ourselves; to be closer to God and one another. When, in our practice or life, we have a "Christmas moment"; a moment of awareness and peace, we want to hold on to it, but it, like Christmas day itself, moves on. It is not diminished, just moved into memory, that dwelling place of phantoms, both good and bad (you choose, it's your memory!) But these movements, both "Christmas" and "spiritual experiences" need not come and go.
Every year, during the holiday season, I, like millions of others, watch Dickens'sChristmas Carol. Every year, we watch Ebenezer Scrooge change from a "wretched old sinner" to a changed and generous good citizen who keeps Christmas well every year. We know this story as well as the biblical accounts of Christ's birth. How often do we say at this time of year, how we wish it could be like this all the year through. But do we even try to make the simple changes it would take to make those things happen? In our spiritual life, do we seek without ceasing? Do we give all? Do we Practice with the earnestness, Nisargadattaasked for?
December 26th is great day to test your commitment to what you seek. Is Christmas over? Many I have met in the Church do not even put up their Christmas trees until Christmas Eve. That is the day the birth of Christ is celebrated. And the tree is left up until Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the "Wise Men". The story of these men from "other faiths" who came to worship the birth of Love, speaks to the spread of the Love. Not just around the world, but around the heart. Christmas day is not the end, but just the beginning. Every day is, and can be experienced as a new day, a new beginning. No matter what memory tells you yesterday was, today is now, unfolding like a Christmas morning.
One of the things I used to tell my spiritual "advisers" when I was in the Church, was that I had come to look upon death as being like Christmas. All of 'life" is the "fun", the decorating, the celebrating, waiting for the "big event". In Christian terms, this was the "afterlife", the being with Christ. But upon realizing the afterlife is really the "everlife", one sees that it's Christmas every day. Sure, it's not happy every day. Not every Christmas is a happy one. But that's the point. The Christmas is in the living. The slogging along from one island of bliss to another. Lots of mud in between, but one drop of bliss and your hooked. When both life and death can be looked at as Christmas, even when the pocket books are empty, or the dog has knocked down the Christmas tree, the living remains the Christmas.
Spiritual experiences come and go, just as Christmas. But the effect is more than simply a memory. They are an assurance from grace. Just as this Christmas holiday holds promise if we let the life changing possibilities of a Scrooge affect our lives into a commitment to make every day "the most wonderful day of the year", our spiritual lives can be turned on a dime, and in an instant of total commitment and earnestness.
Let December 26th be the turning point of commitment. Being One requires only stopping being anything else.