In case you hadn’t noticed, we are just about to enter a season that people either really hate or really love. Some hate Christmas because they find the hype about peace and joy too nauseating, others because the same message depresses them since they no longer have hope of ever having either. Some simply find the consumerism of the season overwhelming and obnoxious. But for many people – and not just children – it is by far their favorite time of the year. They look forward to being with friends and family, decorating their homes, enjoying seasonal religious and cultural celebrations and finding the perfect gift for each person on their list.
I fall somewhere between these two groups – enjoying family Christmas celebrations but resenting the consumer frenzy that characterizes the last half of each December. It seems to me that the focus on buying getsin the road of being. And presents have come to displace presence.
For the last several years one of the ways I have responded to this is to use the last two or three weeks of the year as an electronic fast. I hoped to eliminate the distractions from presence that came from email and social media and offer more presence to myself, others, God and the world. Results were mixed but overall this was a good experience. This year l decided that rather than try to avoid those distractions I should attempt to find presence in the midst of them. Here is what I have in mind.
I am calling it Twelve Days of Presence. My plan is to use the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day to practice presence. I am hoping you will join me in this exercise.
Beginning December 14, I will be posting daily suggestions about how we might do this on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/DrDavidGBenner) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/drdavidgbenner). If you have access to either of these social media please join me there – not just to receive the daily suggestions but for dialogue about the experience of implementing them in the midst of this busy season. Even if you do not have access to either Facebook or Twitter, I hope you will still join me in this exercise – taking the general plan I have outlined above and setting aside 10 minutes at some point in each day to intentionally be more present to yourself (all presence starts with presence to self) and then to others, God and the world. And please share your experience in doing so through the comments option at the end of the blog.
Regardless of whether you will be able to access the daily posts about how to practice presence for these 12 days, you might also find it helpful to review (or read) Presence and Encounter (https://www.drdavidgbenner.ca/presence-and-encounter/) – particularly the Pausing to Ponder section at the end of each chapter where I offer reflection questions and practical suggestions about how to implement the ideas discussed in the chapter. This should be good preparation for our 12 days of practicing presence.
Ultimately, presence isn’t something we do. Presence is being. So practicing presence is returning to the purity and sacredness of simple being. But this is something we need to practice and that practice needs the supportive presence of others who are present to us, inviting us to be present to them. May this simple exercise of practicing presence for the 12 days leading up to Christmas be a chance for us to offer that supportive presence to each other as we seek to reclaim presence in the midst of presents, and being in the midst of buying.