Exhausting Yourself
During the Holiday Season we are surrounded by light and life. There are the lights of the Christmas Tree, the house decorations, the lights in the malls. There are lights everywhere you look. This all takes place in the winter season. Does it come from a deep longing to see the sun again? To feel its warmth on our backs, without the burden of winter clothes? In this way the holidays in December play a significant role in our physical well-being.

Then there is the teeming of life during the Holidays. People throng to the malls to buy gifts for loved ones and friends. Maybe they just want to find a thoughtful reminder of a friendship? Or perhaps some winter food for birds, or foot protection for a pet? We get the feeling that the holidays are a means for celebrating the network of life. It feels good for once just to take joy in the simple act of being alive. To feel the joys of life and the good-will of fellow humans, just once, without the down-drag of stories about blood, fear, and failure. In this way the holidays play a significant role in our spiritual well-being.

This is why it is important not to become socially exhausted during these special days. Neither should we become financially exhausted. If we do, the holidays are just another “problem” to be dealt with.

Remember in our Jodo shinshu we talk about Amida? The word amida is a combination word made up of amitayus and amitabha. These two words from Buddha‟s language mean infinite life and infinite light. As spiritual symbols the warmth of the light represents empathy; the brightness of the light represents insight. Thus Amida represents the harmony of life, insight and empathy. Recent studies in cognitive therapy on the nembutsu have shown that this is exactly the impact on the brain we experience when
reciting the nembutsu!

We should also not forget that in December we celebrate Gotama Siddhartha Shakymuni‟s enLIGHTenment that led to his becoming a Buddha. We could also talk about his enWARMTHment as he then compassionately shared his teachings with us so that we could follow in his footsteps on our own human journey through life.

This means that the warmth of summer sun and the renewed life of spring can both be experienced in the middle of the winter through friends and family, and spiritual awareness. So, celebrate lovingly and livingly without exhausting yourself.

In deepest gratitude.

Sensei Ulrich

December 18, 2011