For so many people I know and work with this is a painful time. Health issues, chronic pain in bodies and relationships, a world that seems unhinged by violence and injustice – we are all carrying burdens that seem overwhelming.christmassaddrummer

How do we cope? Pick up our bundles of difficulty and everyday work and keep on?

It is not a question that has an easy answer.

The blare of music and media suggest that “peace on earth” and “have a little merry” are only a wish away.

If only that were true.

In reaction to banal and shallow words, we can get pulled to the other side of the equation – a despair and hopelessness that does not serve us, or contribute to healing body or culture.

So, how do we cope at this time of year?

While the answer for each of us is personal, there is some wisdom from the spiritual traditions that can help.

All spiritual teachers encourage us to do three things:

Stop.

Open.

Allow.

Stopping is the practice of a pause, a time to reflect and wonder, to pray, to hallow a moment or an event. In our rushing world, that rushes on even more each day, the pause, the time-out is essential for body and soul.

Opening  is the practice of paying attention, breathing consciously, listening to your heart, feeling your energy unclench. When you are living in pain, this practice is not easy. You are already vulnerable, and this may feel scary. Trust yourself to only be as open as you feel safe. The practice of opening offers a way for hope, magic, a touch of healing and reassurance to come into your life.

Allowing is the third practice. Some of us – probably many of us- have trouble receiving. We are used to working, offering, doing for others. Allowing reminds us that there is something there for you – just for you, and probably just what you most need. Allowing says, open your hands, your mind, your heart and receive. It can be more difficult than it seems – we may not like or be accustomed to getting help. We may not like to see ourselves as ones who need. Yet, we all do need – hope, help, love, acceptance, joy – and so much more. Allow the gifts of grace that are there for you in this time.

Stop. Open. Allow.

Three basic moves that can soften and deepen this time of the year and give us what we most need.

One of my ways to do this practice is reading something meaningful. In December I always return to the writings of the preacher, poet and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman who wrote the following beautiful piece. I offer it as my holiday gift to you.

There must be always remaining in the individual life some place for the singing of angels — some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes. The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all the harsh discords of life, life is saved by the singing of angels.