Christmas with my family has been surprisingly pleasant. If you are like me, a reforming grinch, an experiment to try is to go into seclusion during the entire holidays. Last year I was furiously working on the Boolean Game in Madrid, and though I received invitations to join dinner with the family of friends, I preferred work. I worked through Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Reyes.
The season passed as if it hadn’t happened. There was no melancholy or loneliness, and no pleasure out of skipping the holidays either. The project I was working on had me so engrossed I barely noticed anything from the external world. I mechanically answered the holiday greetings I received from friends and family abroad and dove back into work.
The astute reader might think work was an escape, but I had just finished walking the camino and I felt great inspiration to start a new project. The feeling is one of being pulled into a project rather than pushed away from unsavory circumstances. At the time I thought it was the best Christmas I had experienced.
This year, however, was exactly the opposite. Since I am in Puebla and my extended family is from here, I’ve had an intensely social Christmas. Many friends who left this city long ago also came back for the holidays and we caught up after years of not seeing each other. It’s been a flurry of activity not in work but in the heart.
Since this is the opposite of what I experienced last year, I would have expected this to be the worse Christmas ever. But it was not, and in a way they feel quite similar: a state of flow can be experienced in the mind (work) as well as in the heart (social).
What makes Christmas uncomfortable is that you yearn for solitude in a social setting, but if you were to retreat into solitude as an escape from social obligations, you’d soon be bored and begin yearning company. The movement of aversion is a trap, and yet it is a mirror image of pleasure seeking, which is also a trap.
How does one move in life without avoiding pain and seeking pleasure? These are just sensations. The fact that something feels good doesn’t mean it is good, and something that feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. Have we not learned great lessons from pain? Hasn’t experiencing pleasure lead us to great folly?
I hesitate to form a universal conclusion (that which applies to everybody), but I feel compelled to share the intimate lesson (that which applies to myself):
Wishing for things to be different is what prevents me from seeing Truth. This applies for holidays, for myself, and for the world. Thus, I accept the season as it is, myself as I am, and the world as it is.
When Truth is revealed, change happens without attachment or effort.