Yesterday I was blessed to have lunch with a dear friend who is in town for the holiday, and this morning, facing a busy day of preparing to host extended family for dinner tonight, our conversation continues to echo in my mind. She shared her growing awareness of the damage that negativity can have on relationships, experiences, and life in general, and her resolve to prevent these impacts in her life. As I’ve been feeling a bit more overwhelmed than usual by the holiday shopping, etc, and rather behind on my timeline, her insight kind of brought me up short in a good way, invited a shift in perspective. This morning I recall the Jewish concept of “kavannah,” or intention. The word comes from the Hebrew root for direct, intend, focus, and the tradition teaches that meaningful action results from intention; it doesn’t happen by accident. Prayer is not just the saying of words but the mindset behind them, and celebrating a holiday with family is not simply about completing the to-do list, but the intention to express care and create enjoyment together.
So I want to set an intention for Christmas 2013: Relationships are the purpose of all that I undertake for this holiday celebration, and I will show hospitality to myself and others as it all unfolds. May I consciously receive the gifts of this day, mindful of all those who are suffering in any way.
In this season of gift giving, I use the word “receive” above with intention as well. Over this past year, I’ve discovered that it can be a more active process, encompassing much more than material items, than we typically realize. When we pay attention, there are always gifts to receive simply by noticing them. Already this morning, I’m grateful for the gift of my husband’s generosity in making breakfast while I write this post. He is now starting the to-do list, so I think it’s time to get to work!