|C. Coimbra photo|
--From the Chopra Center
By Deepak Chopra M.D.
It would be beautiful to use the holiday season to spiritually expand, to show that this time of year is more than a hectic splurge of spending that leads to stress, family conflict, and depression. Many people experience that negative reality and don't know how to change it into something more positive. The key is to think in terms of things you can do that benefit you while at the same time connecting with others at a deep level.
I'm thinking of three words that we can all focus on: giving, gratitude, and grace.
Giving has become so materialistic around holiday time that it's easy to forget how meaningful it is to give of yourself. In practical terms, this means being generous when you interact with others, sending the following messages:
- "I care."
- "I am here for you."
- "You matter."
- "I appreciate you."
- "I feel warmth in my heart for you."
- "Here is my love."
When you can actually say these words, it makes a difference in other people's lives, especially those who are close to you but get taken for granted.
Sometimes, however, it's hard to find a comfortable way to speak from the heart. If this is the case, you can give through your awareness. The following meditation for giving is a powerful way to connect or reconnect with anyone in your life:
Sit quietly and bring to mind somebody you want to be the recipient. It helps to visualize their face as clearly as you can.
Now think to yourself any combination of or all of the messages listed above. For example, “I appreciate you.” And “Here is my love.”
Pause after each one and let its meaning sink into your consciousness.
Wait until you feel the warmth and sincerity of your message before moving on to the next one.
Gratitude has become a hollow gesture we overplay in our "thank you . . . not a problem" society, when in reality it's a powerful spiritual value. During the holidays, you can meditate on gratitude using the same messages as in the giving meditation, only with a change of focus. Now the messages are:
- "You care."
- "You are here for me."
- "You show that I matter."
- "You appreciate me."
- "You show warmth of heart toward me."
- "You give me love."
Similar to before, try the following meditation for gratitude:
Sit quietly and focus on the person who is the recipient of these messages.
Think each message, adding the words "thank you" after each phrase.
Let this feeling sink in before moving on to the next message.
Gratitude and giving, when focused through these meditations, opens up a clear path between two people at the level of feeling and even a deeper level of shared awareness. But there is also purification, because when you express gratitude from the heart, old resentments and negative feelings are detoxified.
An uncommon spiritual quality is grace, which belongs to the purest level of awareness, where a single spirit embraces everyone and everything. Grace is that quality in consciousness that enables us to feel safe, protected, loved, and blessed to be alive. The world's wisdom traditions speak of uniting with pure awareness as enlightenment, unity consciousness, or Yoga (union with the source). By meditating on grace, we bring it more into everyday awareness and give room for experiencing grace in our own lives.
This meditation requires no words, simply sitting quietly, feeling centered and calm:
Place your awareness in the region of your heart, and visualize a soft light there, which gradually expands as you gently breathe.
See the light permeate your body and slowly expand until it fills the whole area around you.
Be with the light for a few moments, softly speaking or thinking the words, "This is the light of life. This is my true being."
Let its living presence imbue your being, without forcing anything.
Realize that all you cherish, not just over the holidays but throughout the year, comes by the grace of pure Being. This is the attitude that keeps life fresh and renewing; it opens the way to the path of enlightenment.
I am covering a consciousness-based approach because it is the most powerful way to open up avenues of change. When we speak of taking responsibility for our beliefs and feelings, the deeper we go in awareness, the more lasting and positive the change we are aiming for. But the holidays are also a time of doing, and with regard to spiritual values, these are good practices to keep in mind.
Don't be drawn into holiday complaining. Remain composed and centered. Always be willing to give of yourself—this is most needed when others feel frazzled and stretched beyond their comfort zone.
Give others a reason to feel gratitude by going out of your way to show your caring support. This is doubly valuable if you perform service for those in need, including the homeless, the sick, and the poor. Charity that comes from the heart is an expression of love that will be received at the level of the heart.
Exhibit grace by opening yourself to everyone in a non-judgmental, accepting way. We are spirit's conscious agents, and grace remains abstract until it is given a human face. When you are living with the attitude of grace in action, God has descended on earth.