This year will be a different and special Christmas for me. On the 24th of September I was informed that I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer! Naturally, that news came as a huge shock to me and my family and friends.
As I write this, I am undergoing my 5th Chemo treatment. I’m pleased to report that despite the prognosis, progress is positive, and the cancer is currently regressing making it possible for me to proactively engage with life. This includes socialising, gardening, being able to enjoy my food, visits from family and friends, continuing with some coaching and consulting, reading, and daily exercise.
I want to say that none of this would be possible without the full-time care of my wife Angela who has given up her Counselling practice to care for me. I’m so lucky and so blessed.
Being confronted with my mortality as starkly as I have been, has increased my thinking and contemplation about life (and death), what it means to be human, and the things that matter most. I’m continually reflecting on my spiritual nature or as I refer to in my recent book Broken to Whole, my True Self where love, joy and peace reside. Regardless of the outcome of my situation, I have complete peace of mind.
I have been contemplating this message for some weeks now and would like to revisit the Christmas Story – not recounting what is well known but looking more beyond the literal story to the symbolism and themes that increasingly have meaning for me. I’m mindful and respectful of the fact that we all find our own meaning in the nativity story and the birth of Jesus. And for some it could be literal, symbolic, or perhaps even both.
The story has multiple characters each with their own theme:
- The Manger
- The Shepherds
- The Three Wise Men
- King Herod
I would like to share my thoughts around some of these characters and events.
I’m struck by the simplicity of this manger theme even though it probably has been sanitised over time. Increasingly, Christmas time is becoming more frenetic, and it seems that materialism is central to the lead up to Christmas and the celebration of Christmas.
We seem to be so focussed on our ego driven life including possessions, our position in society, and prestige, that we forget about what truly is important and what matters most – which for me, is to find our inner peace and share that quiet spirit of love with our spouses, partners, kids and grandkids throughout this festive season and beyond.
I hope you can seek and find peace this Christmas in simplicity despite the hedonism and consumerism around it.
What strikes me about Mary after she learned from an Angel that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, (Immanuel which means God is with us) was the way she quietly pondered the meaning of this momentous event in her heart.
I hope you can find time to have moments of reflection where you can think about your life, what your spiritual voice is saying to you and how you might get more deeply in touch with your True or Higher Self.
This state of ‘being’ has nothing to do with outward appearance, goals, or new year’s resolutions, – just you being more aware of your True nature – who You really are and what you really want in life.
The Three Wise Men (Magi)
It would seem reasonable to claim that the giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas originates from the three wise men who brought offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the manger.
What strikes me about this is the attitude of the gift bearers, the unconditional nature of the giving, the awe, respect and reverence in which the gifts were given – and being able to give with a heart of gratitude.
I wonder if we have lost some to this when giving and receiving gifts at Christmas. I hear of people being disappointed and unhappy with the gifts they receive or give lavishly to feel good or buy favour or give because they feel they should – alI of which is conditional giving and I think contrary to the true spirit of Christmas which offers us the opportunity to give from our spiritual natures.
May you be mindfully present this Christmas as you share your gifts with a deep spirit of love and respect.
The Shepherds and the Angels
We read that the shepherds in a nearby field were terrified when ‘an angel of the Lord appeared’ to them announcing that the saviour of the world had been born in the town of David. This fear was magnified by the addition of a crowd of ‘heavenly beings’ singing praises to God.
We all live with fear because that is our core motive when we live our lives from our egoic natures or our body-based self. We have been conditioned to do so and through no fault of our own as we did not choose our biological, social, and cultural circumstances. But the shepherds were motivated to see the Christ- child and afterwards they went their way praising and glorifying God.
Fear pervades so much of our lives and living, and we have seen with the pandemic how powerfully that plays out with nations, governments and for us individually. We can so easily get trapped into negative thinking and unhelpful thoughts which rob us of our peace of mind and keep us anxious and depressed.
Like the shepherds, I encourage you this Christmas to visit and get in touch with the ‘Christ’ within you where you will rediscover your true essence – the place of love, joy and peace. And I’m sure you will be uplifted by the aliveness and awareness that this brings. Unlike the shepherds, you won’t have to tell anyone – people will simply notice it through your ‘being’.
Herod is a stark reminder of the existence of ‘good’ and ‘evil.‘ Hearing about the birth of the “King of the Jews” made him jealous and thus came his edict to slay all male boys under 2 with the aim of killing the baby Jesus.
As we go into our festive season, relaxing and celebrating with our families we do so in a chaotic world. All around us we see evil manifested, and it is natural that many of us find it difficult to find hope in such a world. For me, hope comes from our divine natures and is found when we live mindfully in the ‘now’ through Love.
Of course, central to the Christmas story is the birth of Jesus. Increasingly, I find meaning in the symbolic nature of this event. My thoughts go not to the baby Jesus in a manager but the birth of the ‘Cosmic Christ’ – the one that is all, in all and through all.
Regardless of culture, religion, ethnicity and personal circumstances, we all share in this Christ Mind – which is the source of life, light and love and the ‘ground of being.’
When our core motive for life and living shifts from our personal fear driven body-based identity to our Supra Personal essence, we become alive to the ‘Christ’ within us. Divine love is unconditional. It never manipulates, shames or forces itself on anyone. Love waits to be invited and desired. May you become more alive to your True nature where love, joy and peace become a living presence.
I know that Christmas is traditionally a time to celebrate with family, to have a rest, to share in the giving and receiving of gifts, enjoying wonderful food and having special times together. And that will be no different in our household this year also.
But I hope you will understand my more reflective message this year as I learn to live with cancer, and to ponder the poignancy of life and what it means to be truly human.
Delight in the opportunity to celebrate with loved ones and may you also find and experience joy, peace and love this Christmas.