Living in a seaside town for many years, I have come to realise that our pier at Christmas time is a barometer, if not of GDP itself, of confidence in the economy.
The year I came to live here, the pier was in darkness on Christmas Eve except for the regulation warning lights for shipping. So, I was unprepared for what unfolded over the years of greater prosperity. By the early 2000s, our town, by then upgraded to a city, must have been visible from outer space as the splendour of Palace Pier was matched by the illumination of the newly restored Royal Pavilion just a few hundred yards away, and the flashing bling on the exteriors of domestic residences further inland. Whether this enthusiastic offering up of bad taste and light pollution enhanced anyone’s Christmas is something we cannot know any more than we can measure good will, but there was a generosity in this willingness to put something into the community.
In recent years sobriety has returned: the lights have dimmed, the bling has all but disappeared and this year, as the national grid struggles to supply electricity to households struggling to afford it, it is a fair assumption that our pier will be back to dignified darkness on Christmas Eve.
Such are the swings we will experience in the course of a generation. There will be times when what is going on (or not going on in our communities) creates widescale negativity, and the presence of others appears a threat to limited resources. There will be other times when, collectively, we seem to be getting somewhere, and the presence of others is supportive and encouraging. The shifts between the two happen quickly now we have decreased immunity to global mood swings and increased opportunity to contribute to them by discharging negativity via social media.
What remains the same is our responsibility to ourselves to live the best life we can whatever the circumstances. This is the thing that never changes. Our power may not be in the control we have over circumstances, but it does exist in the relationship we make with them. The freedom we have as individuals is to draw on our own impressions, to choose to see the kindness and generosity that exists everywhere for the looking in daily life and create a world which fits more comfortably around us than the standard issue, which we call reality, provided by the news streams. They are equally selective constructs but with a manipulative intent because, as we know, good news and contentment do not sell. If we do not use our freedom, or we exchange it for the freedom to find fault, complain, express bitterness, resentment and bang fashionable drums, then the world we will inhabit is of our own making.
Some years ago, a wise man gave me these guidelines to share, and Christmas time seems as good a time as any.
- Make calmness and clarity a discipline and a responsibility.
- Act intentionally – have your aim, targets and plans before you.
- Do not fear the pain and negativity that you meet in others and in yourself; instead transform it (see below).
- Remember, the heart is the most powerful instrument we possess. It is the place of transformation for any negative emotion of our own and those of others.
- Remind yourself that we are agents on Earth for the higher levels and for the changes we would see in our lifetimes.
Support this by a Five-stage practice:
- Envision a flame in a purple glass and take it into your heart. During the course of the day picture the candle in your heart.
- Draw any pain, fear and negativity in your own being into your heart area and burn it up.
- Having cleared the space, remind yourself of your life’s aim, then of your immediate goals and targets and your commitment to them.
- Use your heart centre to clear and transform any negative emotion on behalf of others as an act of service.
- ‘From the point of Light…
‘I am a light…’
These two statements begin two important invocations from within the Bailey tradition. Repeat these two statements whilst seeing the flame burning in your heart and a clear light shining from your brow. Bring your hands together in front of your heart, as if cupping the flame.
Go out into the world, confident and clear.
This exercise can be done in minutes. If done every day as a matter of routine it will build up immunity to negativity.