"When it's over, I want to say: All my life, I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms." -- Mary Oliver
It's easy to get so lost in the momentum of holiday activities and the seemingly endless to-do lists that we forget what the holidays are for. There is always more to do than there is time for, and probably never quite so acutely as during the holidays. Gift-giving drives much of the frenzy, and although we can point to all the cultural mania driving us to purchase our good holiday feelings, for many of us there is a legitimate desire to really give something that feels meaningful and is a true reflection of our love.
I have come to believe that the most potent gift we give to ourselves and anyone that we care for is our full attention. With our undistracted minds and our listening ears, we have within us what we all want most: the gift of full presence. Offering this level of attention to our love and life is the truest and deepest transmission of love we can give and receive. We are transformed when held in the unwavering gaze of love.
Focusing our full attention is simultaneously an awakening and a relief. Suddenly you find yourself deeply at home even though you may not have realized you were lost. Often, it is life traumas that take us by surprise and make us realize how much real connection is lost in the busy-ness of our days. Ironically, this becomes even more true at the holidays, when endless lists of what needs to get done double and time seems to be cut in half. The doing, buying and wrapping can easily feel devoid of meaning.
One sure way to bring yourself into full presence and wake up from the haze of the endless to-do lists is to acknowledge loss. Just for a moment, dare yourself to imagine all the people and comfort you take for granted in your life gone. Even a brief recognition of all that you have to lose, of the immense risk we all put our hearts into willingly for the sake of loving connection should be sufficient to bring you the gift of true presence. Life details fall away and we are left holding onto the true weight of our intimacy and the pure emptiness that is held within its fullness.
Giving yourself or someone you love this gift of pure presence is the most amazing and life changing gift you can offer. Here's the truth... It doesn't work to repress our feelings. Our experience of life deserves to be witnessed and shared. All that is not given the air and space in the world around us will, like any force of nature, so transform and alter our internal landscape that we can't find our presence.
Eternity is not waiting to happen after you die, it is happening right now -- and the meaning and love that you have the chance to make in your life is the only gift that will really count when your days are over. So instead of just exchanging physical gifts this holiday season, open your arms wide to the stories and feelings that make our presence real and our relationships sustainable.