Many A play on words* here and I ask if it is a bit extreme to delve into the philosophical take on “words”. But this Christmas Eve, for those who have a Christian faith “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:14.
Even those who follow different religious traditions, or none, may at some point wrestle with the role of spirituality in our lives: Kenneth I Pargament writes: “…..other studies have shown that spiritual forms of support, meaning-making and coping predict health and well-being beyond the effects of secular support, meaning-making and coping. It appears that religion and spirituality cannot be fully reduced to or explained by other psychological and social processes. Belonging to a religious congregation is not equivalent to belonging to the Kiwanis or Rotary Club. What makes religion and spirituality special? Unlike any other dimension of life, religion and spirituality have a unique focus on the domain of the sacred — transcendence, ultimate truth, finitude and deep connectedness. Any psychology that overlooks these parts of life remains incomplete.”**
Christmas, for me is that time of year when all those who celebrate it, enjoy the focus of added meaning to life, that reminder of deep connection. Whilst I am not advocating that we should all be or become ‘religious’, it is most probably still a time of transcending beyond ourselves and our own needs to reach out and connect or to make time to re-connect. In the words of Extreme, Christmas is actually about more than simply saying “I love you”, the ‘you’ meaning me, you, the wider community, and a world view. Christmas is about the little things and the big things we do for each other.
A quick scroll through Facebook and we see so many initiatives helping others at this time of year – presents being collected for Children; extra food being added to the food banks; raffles leading to children in hospital being able to enjoy TV; the continued work for the homeless shelters, and the simple act of people reaching out to see if anyone will be alone this Christmas (ensuring the legal maximum of people gathering is obeyed of course!).
Our children have an inbuilt natural tendency to empathise and connect with others, but at some point our societal and historic parental pressures squeeze out the day to day showing that we love people. So, we can look to our children this year, if we feel a bit disconnected, and re-learn and re-parent ourselves to enjoy the spirit of Christmas – even if the financial and logistical constraints have changed the ‘usual’ approach to the holiday season.
The economic impact of the pandemic has reminded me of another play on words. In mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Training circles, we use metaphors a great deal. One workshop that I presented used the word ‘content’ as a focus. In traditional Christmas flurries, ‘content’ probably means the physical things we buy, wrap, unwrap, and the food we prepare and consume – the things if you like that go into the container marked “Christmas”.
If our lives run pretty smoothly, the focus on the container and its content is enjoyable, relatively stress free and even joyous, we are ‘content’. But if we get too focused on what we are missing this year, or what we cannot do this year due to the pandemic, our association with the container contents becomes hard and challenging. This is exacerbated by governments changing the rules so rapidly without much notice. One minute we think we will see out family, the next, flights are cancelled and many of our loved ones are finding literally “no room at the inn”. It seems the pandemic does not give us the rest and restoration we need, but almost waits for us to settle and then shakes us up a bit again.
I have been warmed in speaking with people facing such challenges by their sheer resilience.
They are re-thinking, re-framing quickly on the spot now and seeking healthier ways to respond rather than react. Can we teach this to our children? Can we move from the assumed content of a ‘good Christmas’ past, to the “being content” with what is?
Being content is not a negative state of mind, it is literally sitting with, accepting what is, in this moment and finding the connection available – to nature, to people, to ourselves. Finding our own spirituality and giving it a moment. It could be that moment our child smiles and shrieks with glee as they open the present you hand-made for them; or spent hours walking around the shops looking for the perfect item. Most often it is when they look into your eyes as you receive their gift. Children have an enormous capacity to relish in giving, and we can ensure that we savour that moment and deeply connect with them as we say thank you.
This Christmas we may need to pay special attention to moving from the content in the container, to content feelings – a sense of accomplishment, we made it through 2020 and we have new resources, more resilience and more open mindedness to face 2021.
Nuno, from Extreme says of their song “The word ‘love’ itself gets really diluted, so we just wanted to say, ‘It’s not really about saying it, ……… It’s really about showing it constantly and continuously in a relationship. We knew that was the message.”
More than words
Is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say
That you love me
‘Cause I’d already know
Our children know we love them, because we constantly and continuously show it and we will endeavour to make this a Christmas of contentment. We will accept help if we need it, seek out ways to connect and reconnect to our deep sense of ‘otherness’ and find that contentment.
Wishing you all a peace filled, safe and contented Christmas.