Christmas Presence and the “Santa Pause”

By Paul Bedson
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”- Doctor Seuss

The Grinch is a grouchy, mean-spirited green monster with a heart “two sizes too small”. Annoyed by all the noisy and joyful celebrations of Christmas, he disguises himself as Santa Claus, steals all the Christmas presents, trees and food, and plans to dump them into the abyss. But when the Grinch hears all the Christmas good cheer continuing, despite the missing presents, he has a moment of insight: “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” This insight touches the Grinch’s heart and he returns all the presents.

Let’s hope that many people can share the Grinch’s flash of insight and celebrate more than just present giving, by taking a ‘Santa Pause’ and giving more ‘Christmas Presence’ this year.

In so many ways the meaning and spirit of Christmas have been subsumed by commercialism and obscured by materialism. Christmas has become the crazy culmination of a year of busyness… the struggle for material success and happiness based on consumerism.

As a culture, we have been fed the consumer myth: more “stuff” will bring more happiness and fulfillment, and this myth feeds our psychological addictions; I call this the “more syndrome”, where the ‘deprived child’ inside of us hopes to obtain inner-fulfillment through more work, more status and more material stuff.  Billions of people are consumed by the illusion that being busy and ‘owning more’ will fill the void, but this only creates a vicious cycle: more desire and greed, excessive busyness and stress, and ultimately dissatisfaction.

Christmas can provide us with an opportunity to practice the Santa Pause… instead of running endlessly towards the things that we desire, this practice creates presence and allows us to unwrap and enjoy the gifts that we already!

  • Slow down and take a few deep breaths. Connect with and savour your life-giving breath as it moves in and out of your body.
  • Take a good look around and take notice all the goodness in your life, even if the blessings are shrouded by challenges, take the time to really notice them and savour them.
  • Connect with the feeling of gratitude in your heart for the good in your life.
  • Keep the slow, deep breaths going and allow the sense of gratitude to deepen. Feel it expand through your body and mind.
  • Give thanks for your special, unique and unrepeatable life.

And from this place of pause and presence, we can start to embrace the true essence of Christmas and the deeper values of Gratitude, Goodwill and the Joy of Togetherness.

Perhaps this year we can all make an effort to debunk the consumer myth, and instead of another year of greed-promoting present mania around the tree, or greedy-feeding frenzies, we can add some Christmas Presence and use that time to rekindle these deeper values.

In order to do this we need to slow down, show up and engage more fully in our relationships. We need to give more of ourselves…

Generosity of heart is often undervalued.  It is so much more personal than spending a lot of money on material presents. We can give this gift by engaging more fully with the people around us: listening attentively, making appropriate eye contact, sharing our feelings and experiences, and generously inviting others to do the same.

Here are some of the ways my wife Maia and I have transformed the ritual of sharing a Christmas meal with our family and friends, from a feeding-frenzy into a heart-centered tradition.

  • Acknowledge and give thanks for the goodwill of everyone coming together to share this special meal
  • Give thanks for the bounty of the earth in providing the meal
  • Give thanks for the blessings of this year and invite anyone willing to briefly share their blessings
  • Choose to let go of any hurts or disappointments around the table – forgiveness is a great gift: greet the people in your life with fresh eyes, interest and support
  • Give thanks to the cooks, providers, decorators, etc
  • Look around the table and share a silent Santa Pause together
  • Eat and drink mindfully, allowing the shared meal and company to bring joy to your heart as you embrace togetherness!

We invite you to create your own togetherness traditions this year, so that they too can be treasured for generations to come.

Let there be peace and goodwill in your heart and in your home this Christmas (and beyond); and remember that even if your best intentions fall apart, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. Ho! Ho! Ho!

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas- Doctor Seuss

Paul Bedson
Senior Therapist, Facilitator
The Gawler Cancer Foundation & Yarra Valley Living Centre
BA, BCouns, BAcup

Paul has been working in the field of mind/body medicine for over 25 years as a counsellor, psychotherapist, meditation instructor and natural therapist. His particular interest is in helping people deal with the range of emotional issues associated with their healing journey. Paul also works with grief and anxiety issues and relationship problems. He teaches mindfulness-based styles of meditation which develop wisdom and compassion through awareness of body, emotion, mind and spirit as one integrated Self. Paul co-authored the book Meditation an In-Depth Guide with Ian Gawler.