Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, Lion’s Roar magazine’s associate editor Lindsay Kyte shares her perspective on the meaning of the holiday season. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
Last year, in the Advice for Difficult Times department of Lion’s Roar, Buddhist teacher Karen Maezen Miller wrote these lines: “Suppose you no longer expected the holidays to be anything like they were before. Could you rewrite the script for yourself?”
Reading those words completely changed my perspective on the holidays.
In the past, I, like a lot of people, have harbored the unrealistic expectation that the holidays will magically correct every wonky relationship dynamic and — though it has never happened before — this will finally be the year to boast immaculately-ironed sweaters and perfect holiday cheer. What I actually experience during the holidays is this: the same ordinary versions of ourselves together at the dining room table, the only difference being that now we’re wearing funny elf hats and Bing is wailing on about snow or something in the background.
This holiday season, I want to create new traditions of my own. That comes with the grief of letting go of “what was,” balanced against the excitement creating new traditions that honor what I value. So, I turned to LionsRoar.com for some wisdom to help guide me. Though it’s not about Christmas, John Tarrant’s teaching on Thanksgiving struck a chord for me. He proposes letting go of what “should have been” and opening up to what is being given.
Next, Thich Nhat Hanh takes us through five practices for nurturing happiness — from letting go to cultivating positivity. He uses the language of gardening, which is a light of its own in this dark, North American December.
And let’s not take everything so seriously this holiday season, either. In “Make Me One With Everything,” some leading Buddhist thinkers, including the late Bernie Glassman, explore the value of lightening up and finding some holiday humor. May we all find gratitude, forgiveness, and laughter as we create new versions of holidays that are truly our own.
—Lindsay Kyte, Associate Editor, Lion’s Roar magazine
Roshi John Tarrant shares how gratitude dissolves the walls of the heart.
Gratitude welcomes what we are given. It doesn’t know any stories about how it should have been. To talk about gratitude is also to talk about what prevents gratitude, about resentment and bitterness. Resentment and bitterness are the residue that comes from dashed expectations.
“The essence of our practice can be described as transforming suffering into happiness,” says Thich Nhat Hanh. Here, he offers five practices to nourish our happiness daily.
We can selectively water the good seeds and refrain from watering the negative seeds. This doesn’t mean we ignore our suffering; it just means that we allow the positive seeds that are naturally there to get attention and nourishment.
The late Bernie Glassman, Carolyn Rose Gimian, and Norman Fischer look at how humor not only lightens our load but deepens our practice.
Carolyn Rose Gimian: I was listening to a Leonard Cohen song the other day, and one of my favorite lines came around again: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” That’s a pretty good description of sense of humor in a larger sense. Humor sees the cracks in everything, rather than hoping for everything to hold together perfectly.