By: Larry Dansky
“Christmas is often described as a festival for children. Who among us is not a child or has not been a child. The child in us is always alive; maybe we have not had enough time to take care of the child within us. It is possible for us to help the child within us to be reborn again and again, because the spirit of the child is the Holy Spirit, it is the spirit of the Buddha.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, from Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
Having grown up in the Jewish tradition, I do not have personal memories of the excitement, anticipation, and sheer joy of the Christmas holiday. I do remember participating in the joy of the holidays through the excitement of my children, and now I experience it all again through my grandchildren. Just watching children during the holiday season is one of the most cherished blessings of Christmas.
When I first read this passage from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, I began to think about how much has changed for me (and I would imagine for most of us) since childhood. The passage got me thinking about characteristics typical of children that may have laid dormant, or may have even been suppressed, as I matured. Although I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to start a new tradition of making Christmas resolutions. This Christmas, in an effort to help the child within me be reborn, I’ve committed to fertilize four childhood seeds that I not paid enough attention to:
Curiosity. Children are incredibly curious, and always asking questions. They instinctually have a beginner’s mind, which opens many possibilities and stimulates their imagination. It’s how they learn. This Christmas, I will try to stay open to all possibilities and strengthen my curiosity.
Wonder. Isn’t it awesome to watch a child full of amazement over the simplest thing? As I go through my busy day, I rarely stop to consider all of the incredible events going on around me. This Christmas, I commit to be mindful of all life events, and to again be amazed by the stars in the sky.
Short memory. Children are amazingly resilient. They may be crying one moment, but soon life is good and play resumes. Their capacity to remain in the present moment is enviable. All to often I find myself mentally consumed by events that have upset me. This Christmas, I will work at not worrying about the little things, and commit to be still and to “let it go”.
Excitement. For children, every activity is a new adventure, an opportunity to explore. All too often I find myself worried about what might happen if…, tend to be much too cautious, and often just end up going through the motions. This Christmas, I commit to explore new possibilities.
I’m not sure how long I’ll stay committed to these resolutions (New Year’s resolutions rarely made it through January). At a minimum, if Santa doesn’t bring me what I want, the short memory trait should get me past Christmas morning. More importantly, my hope is that paying attention to nurturing these lost traits of my childhood, I can be reborn with a childlike passion for and a true joy for living.
Holy one, all I really want for Christmas is a renewed sense of wonder, a curious mind, a shorter memory and an excitement for new adventures. Help me to cultivate and rejuvenate my childhood traits.