Believer or not, Christmas is upon us and for many it is a source of great angst such as shopping with the masses, budgeting for gifts, stressing over what to wear to the parties, traveling to homes where the reason you go only once a year is because you don’t like to be there.  All of this suffering, what are we to do?  Christmas and the holiday season are meant to be a time of joy, thanksgiving and love.  It is supposed to be a season of celebration; the celebration of hope, of new life, of family.  Christmas is a time of spirit!  But what is this spirit and joy and where do we find it?

This reminds me of one of my favorite books, The Book of Joy, that tells of a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama at his home in exile in India.  Suffering is inevitable, they said, but how we respond to that suffering is our choice.  Nothing, not even the greatest of oppression or circumstance can take away the freedom to choose our response.   Together, The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop proposed 8 pillars of joy.  Four are qualities of the mind:  perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance.  The others are qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, generosity, and compassion.

Perhaps when we practice a generosity of spirit, we are actually practicing all of the pillars of joy.  When we are generous, we can see a wider perspective, our connection to every human.  There is a humility that shows us our true place in this world because we could be that person in need, whether it is emotional, material or spiritual.  There is a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves so we don’t take our selves too seriously.  There is an acceptance of life exactly as it is, not trying to force it into something it is not.   There is forgiveness of others as well as forgiving ourselves.  Letting go of the hope that the past can ever be different. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given, the good, the bad and the ugly.  And then, we can see others with deep compassion and a desire to help those in need.  The Book of Joy refers to this generosity as a “wise selfish”.  We recognize that helping others is helping ourselves.  The Dalai Lama says,  “taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life”.  (Kind of reminds me of Jesus’s sermon on the mount)

Suffering is a part of life, but we were meant to have joy.  This holiday season choose joy.  Be generous with your love, your laughter, your compassion, forgiveness and your gratitude.  No one says it better than the Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his blessing:

“Dear child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared.  You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally immeasurable.  And God wants you to be like God, filled with life and goodness and laughter – and joy”.

Happy Holidays my friends!  Let me know how you are finding the joy this season.