Tis the season of the festive foods; a time when the shelves of every shop groan under the weight of beribboned puddings and pies, glistening hams, and sweets and treats coated in a snow of sugar. Tis also the season of unbearable stress; of obligations, expectations, duties, responsibilities and a menu that could turn even a guru into a reactive mess. Basically, tis now the season of what the Daoists would call ‘the acquired self’ because social expectations rule. You are expected to have a good time, to be with family, to do and say the right thing, to buy presents for everyone, to turn up to every Christmas party, and to feast on chi-depleting, stagnating foods.
Christmas day itself is usually spent funneling what, from our organs’ perspective, could only be described as an insane mix of alcohol, carbs, sugar, meats, fruits and fats, into our body in one long extended sitting. Well ‘sitting’ to start with but it usually becomes more of a Roman-style semi-prone feeding position as the day or evening wears on (further impairing the ability of food to move down and though your stomach). Your organs, an internal system so refined it makes a Ferrari engine look like an old washing machine, simply can’t process this mix, especially the refined sugar and flour, and chi-stagnation occurs. In my TCM college lectures on Epigastric pain (abdominal pain due to chi stagnation and organ imbalances), I actually made up the term ‘25 December syndrome’ to describe the symptoms, as everyone could immediately relate to the feeling of discomfort, bloating and stagnation associated with the Christmas day pig-out.
Metaphysically, the chi stagnation which arises from the snacking, nibbling and drinking all day, the random combination of foods and the toxic levels of sugar, creates a sense of separation from your real (cosmic) self. As you’ve been led to expect a day of heart-warming connection, this internal disconnection manifests as disappointment and irritability right when you are surrounded by people, many of whom you would usually avoid, all in the same reactive state. It’s a recipe for emotional disaster. For many Christmas is already a time of loneliness and separation. The media hype of a season of loving and giving, and the saturation of imagery of happy families alienates all of those who don’t have this. Eating foods which feed your acquired self (by reducing your emotional stability) makes everything worse. In fact, all I hear from clients at this time of year, is how much they hate Christmas.
Back in the day I too used to hate Christmas, I’d get blind drunk and careen obnoxiously through the various social obligations, much to the disgust of all my relatives. I was told my behavior wasn’t in the spirit of Christmas. But it turns out it was more in tune with the spirit of the pre-Christian December celebrations. The 25th December is not the date of Jesus’ birthday (consensus is he was probably born somewhere between September and November – my money’s on Scorpio!) but the end date of an ancient, and what could only be described as a highly depraved, pagan mid-winter festival. Drunken orgies, lawlessness and feasting were the key activities. It was an opportunity to indulge in the senses and escape from social restrictions. No pagan would have dreamt of missing out on this week-long debauch but, as it got overlaid with Christianity and slowly lost its pagan and religious mojo, it has become something many people would rather skip.
This is especially the case in sunny secular Australia, because we have the added factor that Christmas is also the most intense and stressful part of the business year (this is not the case in Europe) which means that work is more frantic than usual too and our stress levels go through the roof. It’s no wonder I hear ‘I hate Christmas’ all the time. But you don’t hate Christmas, you hate the stress of more obligations, deadlines and duties, and the aftermath of eating and drinking yourself into a stupor in an attempt to de-stress and release. You hate what the Daoists wold term ‘being ‘acquired’. Christmas, might not be Jesus’ actual birthday but it does represent the birth of the Christ consciousness or higher consciousness. This is the joyous, giving and loving part of our nature – this is in fact our real self, what the Daoists would call our cosmic self. So, in fact, we are Christmas. We love Christmas and, if we ‘find our cosmic selves’, it is Christmas every day.
I reckon we add some cosmic ingredients, some ritual and meaning and love, into the festive mix and reclaim Christmas. Spiritual gurus see the higher consciousness as a uniquely human gift. Start your Christmas day by opening this present to yourself, with a bliss-inducing chi-practice and meditation. Then the external part of the festivities, the socializing and the feasting will happen in a cosmic-self context. This will change everything about the day ahead. You’re no longer relying purely on external factors, on what other people do or say, and on food and alcohol to make it a great day, so there’s no risk of disappointment. You will be making a deeper connection to friends and family, there will be less senseless socialization, as Yogananda put it, and you will be less reactive or judgmental. This will rub off on everyone around you. Additionally, if you are in a chi- altered state, your senses are also enhanced so simpler foods can taste richly rewarding (think marijuana munchies). And you won’t need to overindulge in sugar, refined processed foods and excess alcohol to get that celebratory buzz.
Festive feasting is important and sweetness is definitely the sensory pleasure we want to indulge in at Christmas. Luckily the food revolution has gained such momentum that there is now an incredible range of delicious sugar-free, wheat-free and often dairy-free recipes and treats available. Foods that taste delicious but are also nurturing and satisfying. They don’t have a negative impact on your emotional stability so they support your cosmic self. If you have to go to someone’s place for a Christmas meal, make something like this to take with you. Or take charge of the day yourself, and organise a cosmic Christmas menu. Mine would be as follows: a breakfast of pancakes made from Besan flour with fresh blueberries and strawberries, and a steaming pot of fragrant green tea. Lunch is the main meal a baked fish, steamed rice and a fragrant mix of delicious organic vegetables. Then, with this nourishing food fuelling the organs, its time to indulge in some delicious gluten-free, sugar-free deserts like brownies made from beetroot, or avocado pies. I never drink during the day (I have a glass of red in the evening) but for the drinkers this is the time to add some alcohol.
Finding your cosmic self is not instant, it comes from following the chi-cycle lifestyle which I’ve outlined in previous articles). If you hate or dread the whole idea Christmas and if mixing with relatives or others at Christmas is something that is going to highlight your sense of alienation, lead you to behave in a way that solidifies your black sheep status or creates such stress that it leads to actions that take you off the cosmic path, just say ‘no’. According to the Daoists you don’t ever sacrifice your cosmic self for an acquired model, and saying ‘no’ is one of the most powerful ways to build chi. This doesn’t mean rudely boycotting events in a reactive way, insulting your relatives or sitting at home depressed by yourself. Create other options. Take yourself (or your family) off on an adventure to a country or place where they don’t have Christmas, this is a fantastic experience, or go on a trek to commune with nature. Do something that you’ve always wanted to do that nurtures your cosmic self. Understand that prioritizing this will naturally benefit others, because you are going to become less reactive. Your cosmic self is accepting of everything and everyone, it knows that we are all souls on a journey of discovery. Becoming cosmic is the greatest gift you can give anyone in any season and now tis the season to be cosmic.