“Sixth, consider when thou art much vexed or grieved, that man’s life is only a moment, and after a short time we are all laid out dead.” Meditations Chapter 11 Rule #6
Nothing says Merry Christmas like contemplating my death. Seriously, I mean it. Soon I will take my last breath. It may be in 20 years, I might even live for 60 more years, and of course I may take my last breath tomorrow…even tonight. No matter, in the grand scheme of things my end is “soon.” Even 60 years isn’t all that much, and eventually I will find my way to my grave. I have become quite comfortable with accepting that I just don’t know what waits for me in death. I have my guesses, but I just don’t know. Either way, my existence here with the ones I love will be gone. But for now, for today I drink in this life.
So, why waste time on anger? Why linger in worry about whether someone is talking about me, likes me or hates me. Why worry about the worst case scenario…about losing my job, my wife, my children, my health? Why obsess about “if only.” If only I land that job… If only I had more money… If only my children would… If only I could visit my parents more… The present is the only place where there is peace. The future beckons us to worry, to plan and the past is an image imprinted in our brains.
Christmas pulls me into the present. At least it does if I don’t let those ghosts of Christmas past and Christmas future haunt me. At Christmas, I revel in the presence of my family with me…that’s all. I enjoy the excitement of my children’s eyes when they receive their gifts. I absorb my family and friends’ presence on one of the most peaceful days. I even eat and drink without worrying too much about its implications (I find that one day of this does little harm in the long run). I won’t speak for others, but my Christmas’s have become better and better, as they have become more and more about right now. Right now, I am alive. Right now, my young children are happy. Right now, my wife is happy with the holiday that she has worked so hard to make joyful for all. Right now, I have nothing to worry about.
Christmas is a glimpse of enlightenment if viewed with a full on awareness of my short time here. It takes some work to get to that kind of awareness with little fear. Once one has that awareness, then being present with equanimity becomes aIl that more important. On Christmas this seems easier for me than on any other day.
This is how I ponder rule #6 from Meditations Chapter 11 on Christmas Night. Tomorrow, I will make that attempt to be in the present like it’s Christmas, even though it’s not.