My dad and sister are coming to visit for Christmas, and there is this small matter of getting the house ready. There’s also a larger matter of getting my heart ready.
Readying the house requires making room for their physical presence—clearing the papers off the table so they have a place to eat, putting hangers in the closet for their clothes. We welcome guests by making space for them, by setting a place at the table.
One day I caught myself wishing that my dad and sister were arriving a few days later to give me more time to prepare. In other words, the whole reason for these preparations was to welcome them, and here I was wishing they’d stay away. That’s when the whole heart thing came up.
I think heart preparation is similar to home preparation. We need to clear some space in our hearts to welcome others into it. We have to let go of the preoccupations of how we want our lives to be—sometimes even when we think those preoccupations are in the service of others, like cleaning the house for their arrival.
We also have to let go of who we want them to be. I don’t mean that we should tolerate cruelty, but to truly love someone or something means loving her as she is—both the perfect and the imperfect bits. I think this is hard, especially with family members because so much of who we think we are is wrapped up in our relationships with them.
But what better time to practice than Christmas when we celebrate, to paraphrase Meister Eckhart, the birth of Christ in the essence and ground of our souls? When we make room for others in our hearts—relatives, friends, those who are struggling—we make room for this birth, and vice versa.
According to Eckhart, it’s worth the effort: “If you just wait for this birth to take place in you, you will find all that is good, all consolation, all bliss, all being and all truth.”
Note: The blog and I will be on vacation for the next two weeks. May whatever holy days you celebrate at this time of year bring you light, life, and love.