"Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection." -Winston Churchill
We live in a time of perpetual motion. Moving from one thing to the next. Pulled forwards.Onwards. Upwards.
There is an accumulation of sacred moments, triumphs, and falters stored in a box and thrown into the corner of our hearts, collecting dust somewhere deep within.
The inner storage disk is full of pictures, morsels of time (both significant and somewhat insignificant) that we have taken along the way. And, just like our thousands of digital pictures that sit, acquiring space on the computer--that we rarely even look through these days--our inner life sits, unattended, taking up space internally.
We don't delete anymore or create beautiful scrap books or photo albums. We accumulate, store the memories in another folder, move on, and think, "I'm sure I'll do something with those sometime later." But later comes and goes. And more folders have been created. A pattern of inner accumulation.
This is what happens without time for true reflection. This is what happens when we don't ask: What do I really value here? What is worth keeping? What is worth deleting?
If someone were to clean out my heart, what would they find?
Surely, there is a limit to what we can store internally, before we break, or before we don't cope as well, or before we function less efficiently with the tasks of life before us. At some point if you keep saving file after file after file to your computer, it will break down.
I fear we live in a culture where too many of us have hearts stuffed with unopened folders, where we have stored memories and experiences to look at "sometime later". . .and then move on. . .and later comes and goes. And more folders have been created. There it is again. That pattern of inner accumulation.
Confucius said, "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."
This sounds nice. But I am not sure I agree completely with Confucius here. Experience is often empty without reflection. They work together to create wisdom. We can collect experience after experience, but with no reflection, wisdom is not an easy stumble. We become like a "collector" who has lost touch with the purpose of his collecting.
During sacred times of the year, something (if we allow and listen) begins to stir, internally. Portals to different places within us are opened. Our typical rhythms change. We take time off of work, we surround ourselves with family and friends, we engage in certain traditions and rituals, and (perhaps) we worship whoever it is we worship.
As a sacred holiday, Christmas is uniquely placed in that it comes towards the end of the calendar year--a time when we are naturally inclined to reflect, before plunging forward. But do we truly make time for reflection?
I do not believe there is an exact formula to inner reflection. But there are some conditions, which when created, can help us in sorting through the unopened folders in the heart :
(1) Quiet. You can not see to the bottom of the pond, when the water is turbulent. Try to make some quiet time this holiday season, simply to reflect.
(2) Attentiveness. In other words, listening. Reflection is not an action. It is rather a deep listening, a tuning in to what needs to be tended to, internally.
(3) Willingness. There are aspects of yourself and your nature that are not always easy to reflect upon. But consciousness is created not just by accruing more light, but also by bringing light to what is dark within us.
(4) Time. Ah, those darn, slippery minutes that fall through your fingers. Carved-out intentional time is necessary. Otherwise, that familiar phrase returns: "Ah, I'll get to that later."
(5) Love. In moments of reflection, it is important to love yourself. Deeply. Reflection is not about guilt and penance. It is about awareness and wisdom. The energy of love will help you to accept the areas where you see room for improvement, and also bring authentic recognition to the areas where you shine.
The root meaning of "reflect" is "to turn or bend back."
This Christmas, before you begin running forward (again!) into your New Year's resolutions, take some quiet, sacred time to bend back. To reflect. To clean out some inner space. To create beautiful portraits, albums, and stories, within yourself.
So. . .if someone were to clean out your heart, they would not find stuffed, unopened folders overflowing with potential. . .but poems on your arteries; albums of love placed upon wooden shelves; paintings along the internal walls; pieces of art; whispers; legends; and bundles of agony that somehow appear ghastly beautiful, for they were looked and tended to.
They would find a small, weathered, leather-bound book of wisdom.
"I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood."
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God