The holiday season definitely churns up questions of faith in my life. I'll admit it; I can get caught up in the commercial side of the holidays. I have an eight-year-old at home and the whole Santa thing is a lot of fun. He's a good kid, works really hard, never gets into trouble (knock on wood) so it's easy to spoil him a bit. I'm increasingly aware that with each year that passes there's a greater chance that the magic of Santa will pass.
But I do also try to reign that part of the holiday season in a bit. I try to think about the meaning behind the gifts and not running myself into the ground. This year I'm really focusing on taking things one day at a time and not rushing through this time of year in an attempt to get to the big day or to get through some of the uncomfortable feelings that arise around holiday expectations.
One of the ways that I do that is to take time to reflect on what my faith means to me. First, I guess I should clarify that I don't identify with a specific religion. I was raised Presbyterian and I don't regularly attend church. When I do go to church, I go to our local Catholic church because my husband and son are both Catholic. I like it there. There's a great energy and I only hear positive messages about love, social justice, and peace. I also practice yoga daily, and by practice, I don't only mean the physical postures, though they are a part of it. For me, my yoga practice is about noticing my thoughts, striving to be my best self, bring kind to myself and others, and lots of daily behaviors that add up to a happy life. One of my teachers defines yoga as the science of how to live a happy life and I think that makes a lot of sense. I don't think of yoga as a religion, but it is definitely a part of my faith.
I also connect my faith to the natural world and its cycles. I spend some time each morning drinking my coffee and writing a list of all the things that I'm grateful for in my life. I do this every day. It's amazing how your perspective starts to shift when you focus on loving what is instead of striving for what isn't. As neuroscientists say, we wire what we fire. I am spending a lot of time firing my gratitude neurons and I can feel them getting stronger. When I make my list, I look out over our backyard and I watch the sky wake up. It reminds me of how small I am which paradoxically makes me feel very big. It's hard to describe that feeling but I guess you'll know it when you feel it. Today I'm looking out my window at snow, a reminder that we are leaving the fall season behind and moving closer to winter.
The seasons are definitely a part of my faith. They remind me that there's a logic behind all of this mystery. A couple of months ago I watched the trees die. Now they're all bare and I can see the squirrels finalizing their preparations. It's hunkering down time for the natural world which reminds me that I can do the same. Winter is a time to be cozy, to read books, to play board games, and to really focus on how lucky I am to have a warm home and loving family.
I've heard people define faith as believing in things that you can't see. That definition implies that all of the good stuff is invisible. I disagree. For me, faith is about noticing the miracles and gifts that surround me all the time. It's learning to tune my eyes in to all of the synchronicities and beauty. It's all right there in front of us if we choose to see it. Nothing is hidden, it's just a matter of adjusting our gaze.
Bad news abounds. But I remind myself that there's so much good in the world too. It might not make the news or blow up my Twitter feed, but it's there for the taking, if I choose to seek it out.
This holiday season, I'm hoping to keep my eyes tuned toward the good. Wishing you the same.