Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Raft

As the New Year approaches, many of us will be reflecting on the days gone by of 2012, recalling both times that have warmed our hearts and hard lessons learned.  Likewise, many of us will be looking ahead to 2013, welcoming the upcoming year with open arms and anticipating the great fortunate of another year of life. 

So, as you transition into this New Year, whether you are looking behind to 2012 or ahead into 2013, please consider the following Buddhist parable: 

A young man, who has been traveling for many days, has become trapped on one side of the river.  On this side of the river, there is great danger and uncertainty, and on the other, there is safety.  Of course, to continue on his journey, he must leave this dangerous side of the river and brave the water in hopes of reaching the safety of the other side.  However, as he surveys the land, he realizes that there is no ferry to bring him across the river, and no bridge spanning the water.  As he takes stock of his own belongings, he is reminded that he has only the clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, and a small number of survival tools in his knapsack.  After sifting through his knapsack, however, he realizes that he has everything he needs to build a small raft to help him reach the other side.  So, he diligently gathers logs, leaves, vines, and mud, and fashions a raft that will float him across the river.  When the raft is complete, the man drags it to the bank of the river, climbs atop, and using his hands and feet, paddles himself to the other side of the river to safety.   

Imagine that you are this man, and you have just paddled yourself across the river to the banks of safety.  What is it that you will do next?  Do you bring your raft with you and carry it across your back, thinking to yourself, “This raft has served me so well in the past, and I am rather fond of it.  I will be so happy to have it, should I need it again”?  Or, do you lay the raft down gratefully and leave it behind, thinking, “This raft has served me so well.  I am so fortunate to have been able to use it!  Should I need it again, I now know that I have everything I need to build another one”?

…Most of us would agree that the second option is the wisest.  While it would be nice to have a raft should we need it in the future, we see that it would be rather cumbersome to carry the raft with us and that doing so would undoubtedly slow us down as we continue on our journey.  And, we have learned, much like the man in our story, that there is no need to burden ourselves with things such as this raft, because we do indeed carry with us everything we need to continue on our path, no matter what it is that we encounter. 

So, as you journey into 2013, I encourage you to take inventory of yourself and your “belongings”.  As you do so, remember that most things, like the raft, are meant to be used to “cross over”, rather than to be carried with us.  


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This Christmas

Once again, Christmas is upon us, and many of us are finding ourselves immersed in holiday cheer and excitement, magical festivities, heartwarming traditions, and the sheer goodness that seems to accompany the holiday season.
Each year, as I begin preparing for the holidays, I ask my children to write a letter to Santa Claus. In their letters, they of course take care to include their holiday wish list. This year, my four year-old daughter asked Santa for the following things:
1. A kitten (brand new)
2. Someone to come out of the TV (maybe Dora and Diego)
3. A huge motorcycle machine that drives me off in pretty clothes
4. To slide down a rainbow
5. To climb a mountain
6. A make-up party
7. Sticky gloves to stick on the walls and climb the ceiling
8. Run super-fast in the really far woods
9. My own money. That is pink
10. A phone that I call someone for real
11. A brand new costume that is everything
…Fortunately for Santa and I, her list included thirteen additional items that are a bit more feasible in terms of holiday gift-giving, while my ten year-old son created a list of five items, such as Legos and DS games, that he would like to receive from Santa Claus. To be fair, I asked my husband to do the same, and after several days of deliberation, he was able to think of one thing that he would like for Christmas. I, on the other hand, am still thinking of something tangible that I would like to receive this year.
As I reviewed my family’s wish lists, I could not help but to reflect upon the experience of Christmas, and the transformation it undergoes as we mature. As four year-olds, we are much like my daughter. We are in awe of the magical wonderland that is Christmas, believing in such beautiful things as the selfless charity of a timeless old man, the flight of his eight tiny reindeer, and the possibility of even our wildest dreams coming true. As we grow older, however, it seems that we slowly lose touch with this fantastical side of ourselves. Instead, we gravitate toward things that are more realistic in nature, more tangible, and less whimsical. We forgo our imagination, intuition, and creativity in favor of relying on our logic, reason, and practicality, and before we know it, we have become immersed in a reality that reflects our idled dreams. Our Christmas, then, is no longer a time of magic and wonder. Rather, it has become a time of hustle, bustle, stuff, and stress.
Of course, I fully recognize that at least some part of ourselves must operate in the realistic realm. However, I do encourage you to adopt your inner four year-old this season, and rediscover the magic of Christmas and the beauty of your every-day life.