Firstly, I truly hope everyone had the best Christmas possible, whether spent with family, friends, strangers, or oneself (I have done all of these at some point).
I was listening to another you tube video by the wonderful Matt Kahn yesterday entitled ‘Choosing to be here’ and thought how badly I need to take that in and really, really, apply it to my life right now. I am feeling a lot of inner resistance to what IS. I spent Christmas day with a few relatives and while I was blessed to have somewhere to go, I felt very disconnected and sad. The wounded part of me was crying out for my upbringing to have been different, for my relatives to behave differently, for my life to feel more connected and loving than it does. On reflection it was obvious that the disconnect came from me. Not that it means blaming myself for my feelings or experiences because they happened and they hurt, but I have a choice now in how I relate to myself and those around me.
Matt Kahn talks about relating to each moment as if we had chosen it. I know this is a common idea in spiritual circles but I had not fully grasped it until now, whilst feeling the pain of resistance to the extent that I did after spending Christmas with my family. It does not mean that myself or anyone else ‘asked’ for abuse or other horrific experiences or even that we literally chose them before incarnating (although we may have, who can know); instead it points to the idea that everything that happens is our teacher and we can sift even the most terrible experiences for their gold. Rather than sinking into despair over our longing for something different, we can look at what IS and ask how we can respond to this, how we can learn from it, how we can let it transform into something greater.
My hurt is real. My inner child is real. A common pitfall on the spiritual path is to ‘bypass’ our woundedness in favour of intellectual spiritual wisdom, all the while forgetting that true wisdom is found in facing our darkness, our pain, head on and understanding and accepting it. The essence of Matt Kahn’s teaching is loving whatever arises, or if we cannot love it, loving the part of us who cannot love. In this context, I can love the little girl in me who was sad at Christmas because she knew others were having Christmases that she could only dream about. More than that, she longed for the experience of belonging to a family who loved each other and had fun together in ways that hers never did or will. Those longings are valid. Who as a child didn’t want to be cared for by people who loved and respected each other and came together at Christmas of all days? It is okay to hurt. But the key is not getting stuck. We feel to heal.
I spent two nights crying with emotional pain that I thought I’d transformed ages ago. I felt so awful that I wondered if I was dying. Then it occurred that maybe I was. Not literally of course, but dying to a past that has gone; dying to the wish that things could have been any different. I can only accept the child’s emotions and tell her that she is loved and accepted and we’ll be okay somehow. She needs to know that it is not ‘wrong’ to feel the way she does. But as with any child, she also needs to know that those feelings are only a small facet of her world and they’re not going to destroy her entire being. On the contrary, they will bring rainbows once the storm has passed.
The adult me knows that I can only change myself, not other people. Maybe the gift of Christmas lies in knowing that ultimately I belong to myself. I am made of light. I can love and accept myself. I can learn to feel at peace within my own being. No matter how dark and dire our personal circumstances are, how agonising the despair, our inner light is stronger. Whilst I feel on the outside with family members and indeed many others at Christmas, the learning lies in what Christmas is all about: love and hope and transformation. Emotional pain WILL be transformed, if we let it. The image of the crucifixion is what THIS is all about: ‘I have overcome the world’ says Jesus. So can we all. This doesn’t mean never being affected by anything – Jesus himself felt abandoned by God in his darkness moments – but we can trust in our eternal light which cannot ever be destroyed. This is the spirit of Christmas.
Wishing everyone the very best as we approach the end of 2021.