It’s late November as I write this note, and already the retailers and the media have ramped up the buzz for the upcoming Season. Seems to me that once upon a time, the Season was about a lot more than gift-purchasing and gift-giving and gift-receiving!
Christmas time meant coming together with family and friends. Chistmas time meant celebrating one’s connection to one’s religion. And a time to quiet, and reflect. Truly, the SPIRIT of Christmas has been trampled upon.
Coming together – gathering, I’ll call it – has much benefit. Whether it is meeting up together with a friend or attending a large group get-together. When people of like mind come together – in the yoga tradition – this is called a Sangha. A community. Just being with other people, helps us to build a sense of belonging and bolsters one’s sense of self. We are NOT separate. There’s a certain energy called SPIRIT that moves through the group that serves to connect us one with the other.
A spiritual community can improve your life.
Many spiritual traditions encourage participation in a community. Spiritual fellowship, such as attending church or a meditation group, can be sources of social support which may provide a sense of belonging, security, and community. Strong relationships have been proven to increase wellbeing and bolster life expectancy, which is perhaps why one study found a strong association between church attendance and improved health, mood, and wellbeing.
Indeed, to quote Christina Puchalski, MD, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, "spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred."
Hmm. How can just being with other people – who are of the same mind – be of so much benefit? Well, for one, it reminds us that we are connected to them...and indeed to everyone and everything. “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo Davinci
Here is a little extract from a wonderful site called Sustainable Human. One of the main roots of our unsustainable society is the idea that human beings are somehow separate or independent from Nature and the rest of life. It’s not so difficult to see how we have modeled Western culture based on this foundation. The signs are everywhere: in the way we live, enclosing our homes from the outside world as we try to keep dirt out; in the way we speak and relate to one another, with an emphasis on “me”, “I”, “you”, “mine”; in the way we traditionally conduct science, believing in an independent experimenter. This view has enabled us to treat Nature as an inanimate object to do with whatever we please. We can blow up mountaintops, pollute entire oceans, destroy entire ecosystems, contaminate ground water, cause the extinction of millions of species of life all without consequence, or so we believe.
The truth is this idea that we are separate from the rest of life is at the core of both our broader, societal issues and our internal unease with trusting others. Because we believe ourselves to be separate, we feel alone and disconnected in the Universe. This feeling manifests in a feeling of anxiety and a desire to control as much of the world as possible to prevent an indifferent world from causing harm to us. Hence, you see countries spending trillions of dollars on military weaponry to exert force in an attempt to control the world. You see corporations spending trillions to extract timber, fossil fuels, fertile soil, and water to facilitate the conversion of the natural world into a fictitious commodity, money.
All of this would seem crazy to a culture that lived according to the knowledge that all life is interconnected. Not only is all life made up of the guts of exploding stars but we are empathically connected through mirror neurons, hard-wired to feel the emotional distress (and joy) of another. Whatever we do to this world, we invariably do to ourselves. The problem is that Western culture and institutions are founded on an untruth (sic) that we are separate from the Universe and the rest of life.
It’s my wish for you this holiday season to be with others, to listen quietly and to respond in kind. To allow others to be who they are. To share some good food. To rest. So that the SPIRIT of this Christmastime will re-emerge and serve to re-connect us – one with the other…..and with the Other. As we are meant to be.