Saturday, September 19, 2015

Preparing for the Holidays

"Savoring the Moment"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

A full-page color flyer arrived in my mailbox yesterday announcing: “It’s not too early to start preparing for the holidays!” At first it sort of disoriented me, “What holiday are they talking about? Halloween, certainly not Thanksgiving because it’s only the middle of September?”  Actually that flyer was put out by a local resort offering a deep discount on room rates if you booked now for the “Christmas” holidays.

Oddly enough, later in the day I went to pick something up at a local retail store and discovered that workers there were feverishly clearing away some floor space to get ready for the upcoming “Christmas holiday” merchandise that was soon to arrive.

As I have reflected on it, in some sense Christmas ads and holiday store preparations in mid-September are quite iconic of the way many if not most people seem to lead their lives today - always getting ready for something that hasn’t yet arrived.

As I held that colorful “Christmas flyer” in my hands yesterday I thought about one of my favorite quotes from Buddhist teacher and author, Thich Nhat Hanh:

In everyday life we are always looking for the right conditions
that we don’t yet have to make us happy,
and we ignore what is happening right in front of us.
We wait and hope for that magical moment,
 always something in the future when everything will be as we want it to be,
forgetting that life is available only in the present moment.

It seems to me that perhaps an innate “spiritual hunger” is at the core of all human obsession with “always getting ready.” The human heart is restless, we hunger for “something more,” we long for transcendence, we desire “God.” Maybe that’s why we are always on a quest for the “magical moment” someplace out there just beyond our reach.

Yet, interestingly enough, that basic quest for transcendence is never something that can ever be realized at some future perfect time - during the celebration of an upcoming holiday or while on some “wonderful” vacation that may await in the days ahead. The fact is that our deep restlessness can only be calmed in the present moment.

The quiet serenity of an evening sunset, the little smile of a grandchild, the embrace of a friend are all “magical moments” and if we are always “looking for them in the future” we may easily miss them when they actually happen.  

We experience “transcendence” when we are pulled out of our small ego-self and connected to the ONE, and so“God” is always beyond each individual self;  but “God” is not beyond our reach.  The experience of Holy Presence is within our embrace right now.

Author and teacher, John Donohue, put it this way:

Sometimes the urgency of our hunger blinds us to the fact that
we are already at the feast.
We are always home – never exiled.
Although our minds constantly insist on seeing walls of separation,
in reality most of the walls are mere veils.
In every moment, everywhere,
we are not even inches away from Holy Presence.

I guess lots of people are beginning to make their “holiday preparations.”   I hope that, by doing so, they don’t miss the fact that we are already at the feast.


  1. Thanks Paul. Wonderful and wise words. There is such a great marketing push for all sorts of things to make us happier in the future. Yet we have such a rich and deep slice of life right here, right now. And I'm choosing to tuck into it :-)

    1. Many thanks for your comment-right here, right now