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Monday, November 2,2015

Pass On Some Stuffing This Year

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

It’s here. The Season. From too much food to too much fun, the “all in” mentality that typically accompanies the holidays is reinforced by that little voice in the back of our heads deluding us into believing that, come January first, we have a new lease on life. The reckless abandon of the month of December that racks up the pounds and draws down the bank account, becomes our motivation to take on the world with a whole new fervor.

In many ways I am grateful, albeit amused, at this cyclical ritual that defines our consumer culture. I equate it with a collective case of spiritual bulimia. Initiating with Thanksgiving, where we stuff ourselves full of food as a symbol of our gratitude, followed by Black Friday, our nationwide shopping spree, where I have at times found myself thinking, “There must be something I need!”, to the multiple weekly parties, charity functions and family gatherings that are now what we simply call, "The Season." And so it starts: the binge before the great purge. The culmination of each year finds us eating too much, drinking too much, buying too much, and doing too much. As I go through the motions this year, I am resolved to bring some mindfulness to the madness. As I attempt to play witness to my own participation in the frenzy, one theme emerges - stuffing! Stuffing our stomachs, stuffing the calendar, stuffing the shopping cart, stuffing the garbage and recycling bins. It makes me wonder: What are we trying to fill? Is all of this consumption a symbol of a greater emptiness?

In the quiet early morning hours, before breaking my fast, as I sip my first cup of coffee, my stomach growls. Recently I paid attention to this and noticed that I felt lighter, in both body and spirit. The wisest spiritual leaders have been telling us for millennia upon millennia, that the path to happiness is a disciplined journey inside ourselves through meditation and some form of fasting. When the body and mind are empty, they are open to receive God’s bounty. In the 1960s, Thomas Merton, a Catholic writer and mystic, put it this way: “Contemplating the essential relationship we enjoy with our Creator requires our undivided attention. Temporal materiality can dominate our thoughts and obscure the full dimension of transcendent reality.” Twentyfive hundred years ago, the Chinese philosopher Confucius had this to say: “The hearing of the spirit demands emptiness of all the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens.” I’m not suggesting a fast during this season of feasts, but during the upcoming holiday season, we will be bombarded from every angle: food, drink, shopping, giving, gathering, end of year reports, final exams… And, the more the STUFF piles on, the farther away we are from what "The Season" is all about: PEACE. This year, I am going to try to pass on some of the stuffing to feel full.


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