Dec 072016

From my vantage point as a church musician, I see this every year, repeatedly; the pain of Christmas.
At first, I couldn’t understand. It’s supposed to be a fun time, a time of celebration, of light and color and meaning. A time of happiness and reflection and coming out of the regular auto-pilot day-chasing-day state of mind. Where is all this pain coming from?
Where’s Merry?

The more people I talked with, a picture began to emerge. People were trying to play “their” part. I use the word Their in double quotes because objectively speaking, it is not theirs at all.

Christmas of Pain:
I was amazed at how people fell prey to this mass deception, to the point where they assumed the part that was never their’s to begin with.

This involved two major elements, very different from each other, but having one thing in common: Expectation:
Expectations that we have from others;
Expectations that we have from ourselves;
Expectations that we Believe that others have from us.

The first element in this picture of pain is family. The notion that this is a special time for family, gets easily out of proportions in a quickly spiraling manner. Thoughts such as:

  • We need to have Uncle Joe over
  • Last Christmas we had a nasty argument with Mary and we haven’t spoken since. What should we do? Is she expecting us to be calling her or should we expect her to be calling us?
  • It’s not right that we keep inviting these people and they never invite us back.

And more and more torturous thoughts accompanied by emotions of anger, hesitation, pain and anxiety.

The second element in the picture of pain is money and also time. Here too expectations take center stage.
This is money that would be spent primarily on presents and travel. Time would be spent on writing cards and various other preparations.

For many, both money and time are scarce and yet in many peoples’ mind, this is one of Christmas’ demands. Some people even go into debt just to feel that they’re doing the right thing – that is – what they believe to be the right thing.

Our expectations, and our thoughts about others’ expectations, keep us enslaved to a self perpetuating system of self pain infliction.

We can choose – believe it or not – to stop playing this game – first of all with ourselves – and then with the rest of the people in our world. As long as each person continues to play their role – one which they hate playing – the show will never end.

Christmas of Healing:
One; It’s OK to disappoint someone. After all, many get disappointed even when we try our best to fulfill their dreams and wishes. Even when we do what we feel is the right thing and even when we do what we believe that others expects of us, someone could always get disappointed. Why should we blame ourselves? It’s counter productive, self hurting and solves nothing.

Two; ‘Perfect’ is what we decide it to be. If we have in our mind a picture of what a Perfect holiday would look like, rest assured that:
1) It’s possible that it won’t happen.
2) It’s likely that we’ll be suffering as a result of our fantasies of a ‘Perfect’ Christmas left unfulfilled.

Please remember this word: “Expectation”. It is one central key to our experience of pain. At the same time, realizing its presence is also a key to our healing from pain.
One good way of going about this would be to ask a simple question:
What if I drop all my expectations? Or in other words: what if I consciously let go of any attempt to control or achieve any particular outcome?

You may be amazed at where this very simple Pause and Inquiry takes you. Truly amazed.

See with yourself whether you can truly internalize the following:
1) We cannot be everything, for everyone, all the time. Trying to challenge this fundamental truth is certain to bring on suffering with all of its glory, in a range of nuances and varieties which includes painful feelings (anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, jealousy etc’) and painful thoughts.

2) It is OK to disappoint others, whether those are adults or children. Just like inflation, expectations keep building up from year to year. That means that every year more is expected of us and the pressure increases. That is – as long as we choose to cooperate with this trend and play this game.
Sooner or later we will be unable to continue this upward expectation trend. Why not stop now – this very Christmas? We can always find reasons (aka excuses) to start next year, but then we’ll be perpetuating the pain. Then next year we’ll come up with new reasons.
Now is the time.

There’s a wonderful aspect to stopping the gratifying upward trend:
We may not realize this, but the other person is under just as much pressure as we are. When we step down this hamster wheel and stop playing this game, the other people – possibly after being disappointed by us – feel that they too, do not need to be everything, for everyone, all the time. They too begin to step down the hamster wheel one by one.

The best part in all this, is that once the emotional/mental storm quiets down, there’s much less pain, pressure and caustic feelings/thoughts and you’d be amazed at how the entire Christmas dynamics shifts from on of stress and pain to on of acceptance and love.

Please do not expect these printed words that your eyes are now scanning, to reveal to you the true magnitude of what they suggest. Only a mind-shift and a first step in a new direction could possibly achieve that.

In Grace

~ Oded

Mar 272014

People who hurt others, are by necessity suffering themselves. Hurting others is in a way a form of communication for the offender based on their own painful experiences; it is a cry for help. When we regard them as victims who are suffering – rather than offenders – we can discover compassion.
Becoming hurt or offended is a choice that we each make, most often subconsciously. It is a grasping on to something that was never meant to be held on to.
When we are hurt, we can turn the eye of our awareness from looking out towards those who hurt us, to looking inside, to observe our own pain. When we do so, it is possible to see that we can become free by choosing to let go. We can loosen our grasp on whatever painful feelings we experience and just let them evaporate.

When we grasp, we weaken ourselves. Grasping is a knee-jerk reaction – an uncontrolled reaction to an outside circumstance. We may find ourselves being blamed, mocked, judged, ignored, disrespected, or being victims of lies about us, abuse, anger and more. All of that is happening outside of us and unless we do something about it – it remains outside of us. That ‘something’ could be grasping, by which we intentionally bring it inside through the act of becoming upset, angry, depressed, offended, vindictive, or by responding in a similar manner. Similar to grasping, rejection is another reaction which creates a negative counter force within us, force that becomes the foundation for toxic emotions within us.

But we have a choice; we can simply let it be, allowing it to remain outside of us and maintain our inner peace. If our knee-jerk reaction is to say something back, we are already grasping. When that happens, it is better not to say anything. Initially, by doing so, we may feel that it’s wrong and that refraining from saying something back is a weakness on our part and is being perceived as such. But in fact, that’s our strength. We take the initiative through our own strength to not be pulled into a toxic circumstance. Initially, we may say nothing, but our mind will say everything. This is still grasping, although much less. As we continue, one such situation at a time, we’ll see that gradually our minds quiet down as well; the strength of our initial response set into motion a spiral of positive energy that makes us stronger, to the point where we don’t grasp at all.

The grasping starts with emotions, followed by thoughts, followed by speech and sometimes followed by actions. We cancel this domino effect by stopping at the end, with the action, then after some practice we can stop at the speech, than the thoughts and finally the emotions.

Jesus’ assertion about giving the other cheek is worth mentioning. By giving the other cheek to an offender we:
1) Allow them to see their own weakness. Had they been truly strong, we’d be taking distance from them, not turn the other cheek.
2) Conquer our knee-jerk reaction (our weakness) building inner strength, self control and inner peace.

How to love our enemies? By understanding that we don’t have to label them as such and discover by doing so, that we really have no enemies. We may also discover that some of those people whom we may have labeled enemies in the past, end up being very caring, close, supportive and loving.