Saturday, December 7, 2019

advent and ahimsa

"I'll meet you where there is no weeping
Your tears are not a stream
I'll meet you where there is no sleeping
Where we wake up to dream
This is an invitation to a high location
For someone who wants to belong
This is a meditation on your radio station
If you like it, you can sing along
-U2 + A.R. Rahman, "Ahimsa"

Yes, leave it to me to use U2 lyrics in a blog post. I know, you're all clearly shocked.

Ahimsa. The path of nonviolence and respect for all living things. If you are familiar with Eastern faith traditions, you're probably familiar with the term and concept. Somewhere between the song, the holiday season, and the shared wisdom of others over the last couple of weeks, something in me crystallized around the connection between Ahimsa, and the season of Advent.

If you just thought to yourself, ummmm... what? How on earth can you connect an Eastern concept with the Christian season of Advent? Stay with me, and I'll explain.

The holidays are hard, friends. We all know it. I'd be willing to bet that at least one person reading this spent part of Thanksgiving hiding from their family in the bathroom, scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram feed for the millionth time, or just crying. How many times have you cried in the last two weeks? 

There are so many *things to do*... the list seems endless - shopping, parties, tamale making.

Ouch. I'm not ready. Hold the cold sweat. Breathe.

Others impose so many expectations on us, and we impose at least as many on ourselves. This came to the forefront of my own mind a few days ago as I was thinking about Christmas cards - as an artist, I'm kind of psycho about creating my own Christmas card every year - it's either my own design, or it's not happening. ;) And every year, I'm late getting the card designed and printed, and I'm sending out cards right before Christmas or even right after - and well, the Christmas season doesn't actually start until Christmas Day, but still... 

(And if your Christmas cards are already in the mail, or will be soon, high five!! That's wonderful.)

The point is, having a Christmas card ready and in the mail right after Thanksgiving is an unrealistic and unreasonable expectation for me to impose on myself, given my daily life. And for me to impose such an expectation on myself, is effectively a form of violence. Just as for me to judge someone else because their Christmas cards are already in the mail, is also effectively a form of violence. Out of respect for myself and the other, I should avoid both. And that's just with Christmas cards!   

Isn't it worth it for we who profess Jesus = God = Love, to consider how to offer that love in place of the psychological and spiritual violence that is so rooted in the way we approach the holidays in today's world? This seems to me, "an invitation to a high location" indeed.

What does Advent mean as a time of preparing to welcome Christ - if we berate ourselves for not doing all of the things, are rude to others in the store or on the road (yes, even if they were rude first), impatient with those working in retail who bear the brunt of so much chaos, irritated with our family and friends when plans don't work out quite the way we had in mind, and maybe even angry with God for not being God in the way we want... when we could make the - yes, sometimes difficult - effort to be kind to ourselves and others, offer a smile, say a quiet prayer, touch those rosary beads in your pocket, swallow our pride? In other words, what does Advent mean if we do not approach it with a spirit of Ahimsa? And maybe when we think about it, that idea of Ahimsa isn't all that far from... showing mercy. And isn't that precisely why we believe Christ entered into this world, to bring us true and deep mercy?

So have mercy on yourself, and give yourself space to welcome God's gift of mercy... and extend it to those around you.

Breathe. Pray.

And fall on Mercy alllllllll the time, because let's be real, this is hard...

In a season sometimes full of light and joy, but often riddled with pain and sadness - pain and sadness we try so hard to hide - seize the opportunities to cheer each other on, and to cheer each other up - even if that "cheering" simply means offering your presence to someone struggling to stay afloat.

Let's be good to each other.