unfolding into JOY

 
 
Holiday Season the old-fashioned Way


Indiana Jones and Yoda where there for the Holiday party at Imagination Park.

When i was a child in Germany, December was a fabulous month. Nature would bring us the miracle of snow, and at home there were many magical moments spread throughout the month. When my siblings and i were small children, my mother would sit the 3 of us on a sleigh and pull us through country winter wonderland. To this day i remember the sense of awe i felt looking at the transformation of trees and fields. When we were older we would build a snowman, and once even tried to construct an igloo. That was fun, and precious because snow was not easily to be had. It came or it didn't. It was nothing you could go and buy in the store.

Apart from nature's miracle of snow, we had plenty of indoor moments that elevated our spirits. From December 1st - 24th we had our Advent calendars. We would take turns opening the tiny paper doors, and marvel over a little picture or a piece of chocolate we found behind them. On December 6th we celebrated St. Nicholas day, with treats of fruit, chocolate Santas and nuts. Every Sunday afternoon during Advent (the 4 weeks building up to Christmas) we would burn one more candle on the Adventskranz, a reef with 4 candles, and sit around eating treats, and singing seasonal songs. I remember a Windspiel, a little metal ring with 4 candle holders on the periphery and a sort of mini fan standing up in the center of the ring. From the fan cutout angel shapes were hanging. As the heat of the candles rose up the fan began to turn, and the angels were sent flying in a circle, as if they were on a carousel. I was hypnotized by this little wonder.

The real moment of magic happened on Christmas eve when a little bell rang and invited us kids into the living room which had been locked all day. It was just after darkness fell and that tiny bell we heard was said to belong to the Christkind, the Christ child. Next, the double doors to the living room opened and our eyes went to the huge Christmas tree alight with candles and sparklers in the otherwise dark room. My father sat at the piano and both my parents were leading us in singing Christmas carols. I could sense the proximity of the Christkind who, according to the legend we were told, had just been visiting with my parents to drop off presents. In my state of awe it all made sense; i could feel the presence of the divine. It manifested in blissful, speechless elation.

Recently i read that the Greater Good Science Center at UCB received a major grant to study the effects of awe on well-being. Several studies have shown that what Kant called the experiences of the sublime—awe evoked by beauty, or nature, or something powerful or majestic—has been connected with more joy, satisfaction, and health. Nature is a great source of awe-inspiring places and occurrences. A study performed here in Berkeley showed that study participants were more likely to help others after contemplating the majesty of North America's tallest Eucalyptus tree—which happens to be right on campus—than those who had been brought to the exact same location but had been asked to point their view in a different direction, to a science building. The experience of awe humbles us and lets us forget momentarily what otherwise may preoccupy or burden us. Lifted above egocentric self-talk, unstoppable mulling over the past and worrying about the future—things in which the mind engages readily—kindness emerges. The explanation for this increase in altruism is that in the face of something bigger than us we are more likely to feel the connection between all beings.

Brief experiences of awe boost happiness, kindness, altruism, and health. If you are not yet convinced yet, consider this: It has been shown that cytokine levels, cytokines being a marker for inflammation in the body, decrease in study participants who experienced awe. To me, just remembering the sweetness and the awe-inspiring elevation i experienced decades ago puts a smile on my face and gives me a positive lift. To inject a fresh dose of awe and sweetness, i joined friends with their 8 month old baby yesterday for an old-fashioned Christmas lighting event in Imagination Park in San Anselmo. (That's where i took the photo with Indiana Jones and Yoda.) What can you do to present yourself with an experience of awe?

PS:For a gift that can instill awe in the recipient consider a gift certificate for a collage workshop—the gift of creativity—or one for coaching—the gift of transformation.. Tip: those who do not consider themselves artistic usually are particularly awed when they leave my workshops with a self-created piece of beauty in hand. More valuable than the collage they take home is that they have discovered a new trait in themselves, creativity. They will be moved by the presence of creative energy within them and it's sure to make them feel really good about themselves. Gift certificates are available at http://evaruland.com/gifts.html.



 

 


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