“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, is my favorite Christmas story. In it, Ebeneezer Scrooge, is transformed from a grouchy, self-absorbed miser, to a happy, sincere, and generous human being. This change is influenced by ethereal visitations on Christmas Eve. First, from his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who is eternally damned by his behavior in life, and then the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The spirits expanded Ebeneezer’s awareness. The ghosts were instrumental to Ebeneezer’s awakening by showing him how he became hardened and bitter. He saw what the realities of life were for people outside of his limited existence. And, he was reminded of the potential outcome of remaining ignorant to those truths. Once he could see himself and others from a different perspective – to see more clearly, his attitudes changed and he became a happy and compassionate human being.
Ebeneezer literally and figuratively woke up after his visitations from the spirits which is why he endeavored to keep the spirit of Christmas in his heart throughout the year. Awakening doesn’t require that we be visited by ghosts and scared or shamed into changing. To see clearly is the key. How might you be getting in your own way? What old beliefs, attitudes, behaviors or conditioning no longer serve you? How can you help someone else? What is your intention for living a full and happy life? How can you be happy now? What are you grateful for? How could being more mindful change things for you?
I have always been interested in the possibilities for positive change. I’m learning to be a better version of myself, to develop personally, professionally, and spiritually. I’m starting to awaken, and I am a work in progress. I’ve learned that focusing too much attention on the past is not helpful. Neither is focusing too much attention on the future since there is no way to know what it holds.
We don’t have to be condemned to an existence of forever bearing heavy chains, like Jacob Marley, based on our past behavior or mistakes. Though many of us do go through life carrying the oppressive weight of our past with us as if it were chained to our bodies. It is chained to our minds and it doesn’t need to be. When we are visited by the ghost of Christmas Past it only shows us what has been. Fretting about, or reliving, the past is a waste of energy and causes more suffering. It is gone and cannot be changed – let it be. If there are lessons to be learned from the past, set your intention based on the learning, and move on.
The ghost of Christmas Future cannot tell us what will happen in the days or years to come, only what could be. Generally, that starts the loop of fear or worry in our minds as we imagine outcomes that we don’t want. As much as we might desire to know, or to be able to control, the future – it will always be beyond us. Worrying about it will not change it.
However, that doesn’t mean that the track we are on cannot be altered. Like Ebeneezer, we can start now from where we are, to be and do the best we are currently capable of. Thereby we can affect the outcome of what is in our power to control. The rest we have to let go. Since we are all connected, we only need to see more clearly how our own behavior, beliefs or ignorance, affects us – and those around us, then start making adjustments.
Learning to be present has been one of the greatest gifts I have given to myself and to the people around me. When I am feeling fearful or self-judgmental, I have learned that being mindful helps me to respond in ways that serve my emotional well-being. I can offer myself and others loving-kindness, allowing each of us to be human and to screw up from time to time. When I am truly aware and present I have more understanding, patience and compassion with myself and others. Admittedly, this is not my state of affairs 100% of the time. That is why it is called “practicing” mindfulness.
The ghosts of the past and the future still visit me regularly, but with a mindful awareness I can acknowledge them and let them go on their way without being caught up in fear, worry, guilt, shame or doubt. With mindfulness I can feel physical and emotional pain without letting it overwhelm me, knowing that it too will pass. With practice, I’m building a sense of equanimity for whatever comes into my experience.
We can start to make positive changes now. In fact, the only time we have to make changes is in the present so that our futures may be different than the past.
I encourage you to enjoy Christmas Present and allow your presence to be the Christmas present you give to others and to yourself. May the spirit of joy, love, giving and compassion be yours now and always.
May you all be well and have a wonderful holiday!