So the ‘stress’ of Christmas is over, the presents have been opened, we’ve filled ourselves with an abundance of food and we hopefully are now able to relax and breathe, at least until the credit card statement arrives! It can certainly seem a lot more complicated these days than it used to be.For me Christmas is about family, living overseas this is one of the few times I get to be with my family and as we sit having Christmas dinner pulling crackers across the table I can’t help but feel grateful for the time we have together, the abundance of things that really matter and how fortunate we are in a world where so many others are not. At this time of year I am also reminded of Christmas’s past and those family members who can no longer be with us and wish that I’d really taken the time to appreciate the big Christmas gatherings we had when we were children, the joy of Christmas and being with those we love, those times can never be repeated and during the moment we often overlook this.
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." Robert Brault
I look at the fridge bulging with food and the presents under the tree and I’m grateful, but it’s so easy to take these things for granted in our overdeveloped world, we run the risk of forgetting it’s not like this for everyone and we are in fact very lucky. This Christmas I travelled home through Thailand where I volunteered with under privileged children. Seeing how happy these kids are when they have so little made me think long and hard about gratitude.We have a habit of focussing on what we haven’t got instead of all the things we’re lucky to have, even the basics like food, warmth, health, education, freedom. It is human nature to focus on the tiny bits that are not right rather than the large chunks that are. We overlook the good stuff and tend to concentrate on what could be better. This leave us feeling dissatisfied and always wanting more but that is a never ending journey, you’ll always be left wanting more.A monk spoke to me recently about his upbringing in a hill tribe village in remote northern Thailand where he had to learn to cook, clean, plant, harvest and how to navigate life, as a result he tells me he learned where things come from and to appreciate what he has, he told me “as a kid in the hill tribe if I wanted to play with a toy I had to make one so I would carve a gun out of wood from a banana tree. Rich kids, if they want something it is given to them, they grow up having no idea how to live and they don’t appreciate what they have”.
“Happiness isn’t about getting what you want it’s about loving what you have”
We have put too much emphasis on having many things. It is true that if we are out in the cold in a forest with no food and no clothes we will not be happy but if someone gives us shelter, a blanket and something to eat we will be happy. So if a little of something is good then it follows that more must be better but a person with $2M is not twice as happy as a millionaire. You can also have too much of a good thing (as I have found with Mum’s mince pies)!It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love or desire you’ll be happier with more, as a result of this mantra we struggle in the modern world with debt, obesity and addiction.We feel we have to ‘have’ things to be free when in fact it’s the opposite, our struggle to hold onto things brings the very pain we are trying to avoid, we are terrified of letting go for fear we’ll have nothing but this is the true path to living. I look at those who live simply and can’t help thinking they know the secret, they have mastered the art of living. After all, everything material we have can be lost tomorrow and the irony is if you’re asked what you most value it’s likely to be the things money can’t buy and put under the tree, things like love, your health and your family. So this Christmas take a few minutes to think about all you have in your life and be grateful and remember those who are not so fortunate.
“That man is poor, not who has little but who hankers after more” Seneca