I decided yesterday was going to be a very long day. On purpose.
What if I can create a Long December--and yes, that song has been in my head, too.
Advent and the cherished days of Hanukkah stretch before us. We can see them: 25 and 8 days we know are coming.
How quiet is our waiting?
It occurs to me that this "design" of Advent: the wonderful calendars with pop-out windows and unexpected treasures beyond, Elf on the Shelf and a menorah are tools for mindfulness. These tools call for presence, asking us to look and linger in a place we are not. Be, here, now in this moment.
If I want to, I can listen to these days in December differently. I can actually listen.
I thought about the day many times yesterday, and it did seem longer. I sat with what December the First meant to me: November over: a new existence in a season I love, a reason to sit and listen for the "where" that I want to be.
What will it take to make this month stretch out both before us but also all around us?
I think we have to be a contemplation nation: a community of gatherers taking time with us in a new way. As one scholar of religions said this week: we have to slow down if we want to go fast.
Slow down if we want to go fast? There's no question we need to go fast. But what if, in this haste of helping, loving and caring for the world around us, slowing down gets us to those suffering sooner? What if the Long December changes everything?
The Art of Attention:
Our lives are the Advent Calendar. Each morning a sky opens up to us with a promise to grow our food and help us flourish. This happens to us every day. But what we do in that flourishing is ours. We get to sit with this opening, with the Pocketsunrise that is just for us. We get to be "there". If we take just the sunrise every day (cloudy or not) and look, the possibility for what we might see is limitless. The art of attention and the joy of inquiry give us all we need to know.
If there is a month to practice togetherness it is easily December. I am going to re-frame the moments in these days that stretch before me and plan how I want to be in every encounter I have: from the elevator at work to the holiday parties I love every year. I am going to practice the joy of giving myself: interested, curious and deeply listening to those I see. Each morning during my reflection time I will write outcomes for these events with intention for stretching this time together into new places of love and connection.
Understanding the Why
Somewhere buried in the noise of our Christmas decorations is a tiny baby Jesus. It's about 1/2 of an inch long, likely the remnant of a dollhouse manger scene that I turned into an ornament for a dollhouse Christmas tree too many moons ago. I can't find the Elf on the Shelf but I did sit with this found-preciousness for a few minutes in the flurry of unpacking Christmas with a ten year-old. Advent was designed to help us stay present for this mystery. And it takes work well beyond the moment of an advent calendar: daily reflections, timers set on my phone and visits to the sacred spaces I love around the Dallas Arts District are just three ways I will stretch the day to be present to that baby.
Knowing the outcome: what we want and up to in the world helps us understand the why. And helps us understand.
Which brings me to Silence.
Where will I find the silence in these twenty-five precious days? Or any of the precious days in your own spiritual tradition?
Everywhere. When you start to look for something: beauty, connection, meaning, it is everywhere.
This is true for silence, too.
In my house it happens at 5 am. But it also happens in moments in my car, walking to a meeting, breathing on an elevator. In a Long December every breath, every capsule of five or sixty-seconds is the window of an Advent Calendar, waiting to be opened up and felt more deeply than ever before.
I learned recently that when you begin a new practice of mindfulness, you feel everything more. I want this: more feeling in this moment and in the next moment, and the next. I want the long days that last forever: steeping in the mystery of what it means to be alive. If ever there is a time to slow down, to experience a wealth of time and a scarcity of busy, it is now.
And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass