Seeing people so stressed about the holidays these days reminded me of something that happened to me at the end of 1999. I was living in California but in November of that year I made a very large trip around Europe. I spent Christmas in Budapest and right after that, since I didn’t have a clear plan about what to do next and I had the time and enough money to do what I wanted, I decided to return to America to spend New Year’s Eve, to welcome the new millennium with my friends. It took quite a bit of effort to find a plane ticket on such short notice and I made it just a few hours before the end of the year.
We had a very big and fun party and of course I stayed until very late enjoying myself. And then, on the 1st of January 2000, I remember waking up in the late morning, opening my eyes, looking around the room, happy to be home. But there was also another very powerful emotion pushing through my heart: I thought “so what?”
Because it was the new millennium, I had made a big effort to be there, but then… nothing happened. I got up from bed and carried on with my life just like any other day. It felt strangely empty. I had my friends, a wonderful place to live, I had a job I enjoyed, but there was nothing special about being in January 2000. Of course if you are reading this you know that there was nothing special about January 1st, 2000, but in that moment I had made so much effort to be there because I thought that there would be something very special about that particular day. But it was just another day.
I was thinking about all this because now with the holidays, especially with Christmas, it seems as if something big and important is going on. People shopping, going around with big preparations… But nothing is happening, really. There is nothing wrong with celebrating, with enjoying some partying with friends. But whether one has the ideal Christmas with lots of family and friends around, or has the worst Christmas alone, eating and drinking in front of a boring movie in TV — whatever the circumstances of this moment may be — nothing is happening. It is just THIS moment appearing. It is just THIS amazing, beautiful, unique, very simple moment appearing. But the moment is completely overwhelmed by our expectations that something special and unique is supposed to happen. Nothing is actually happening. Nothing other than another moment. Another moment which is amazing in itself, but is not more amazing, it is no more special or less special than any other moment.
When we have so many expectations about a particular moment, when society puts in our minds the belief that something is more special than something else, we lose ourselves in the preparations, in the expectations, in the believes that something big should happen. But it is not true.
Because there is so much agitation in the air, because everybody is so taken by this belief, it is very difficult to step away from it. It is similar to what happens in an office where people are bored to death, and when something a little out of the ordinary happens they all rejoice in that situation, not because what happened is actually interesting, but just because it is taking them away from their boredom. When we live our lives so lost in our minds that we become ‘robotic’, blind to the miracle of simply living, we hope for something to happen that can takes us away from that mechanical life.
I remember in my early twenties looking up to the sky and hoping that some kind of extraterrestrial force will come down to earth and take me with it. Not because I particularly believed in UFOs or anything like it, but just because I was feeling so empty inside that I hoped for anything that would spice up my life a bit.
There are so many ways that people try to spice up their lives, some more intelligent, some not intelligent at all, but the essence of all these hopes to make our lives more interesting is our disconnection form ourselves, from what we really are.
We can try, especially now during the holidays when the whole of society is so lost going around in a completely unreal hope and belief that something big is happening, we can make the effort to keep returning to ourselves, to the sense of the only thing that is really important: THIS moment, right now. Come back to it.
What happens in this moment is always changing… Now is Christmas, now is New Year, now is a party, now is an after party… Change keeps happening… The year 2000 came, and now 2016 is coming. Where are these 16 years? We can think about 20 years ago, 30 years ago, or even think about this morning, or five minutes ago. Where are they? Isn’t it amazing? Where are they?… Life keeps coming and going, but we can learn to pay attention to what never goes away. We can find the presence, the space that allows what is happening, that allows the changing life to happen. THIS moment is the only ‘thing’ that is always here. We can call it presence, we can call it eternity. Eternity is not something that last for a very long time, but eternity is NOW. It is not over there, a very long time ago into the past or a very long time away into the future; eternity is NOW.
We can learn not to be fooled by the collective sense of emptiness, and instead find fullness in THIS moment.
The only ‘thing’ that never goes.