Open your mind completely to the present moment. The past is no longer the reality, but the reality is instead this present moment. Only the manifestation in the present moment is tangible. From Just Use This Mind My high school daughter questions everything. She considers my ideas and guidance dubious, outdated at best. Although falling off the authority pedestal hasn’t been a comfortable journey for me, it’s a healthy one for her, and I do enjoy watching her have revelations that she could have gotten from my experience, if only she would have asked. Reinventing the wheel–and improving it–is a necessary part of growing up. With holiday decorations all over town, and much end of year busy-ness and gift buying added to the normal routine, a big topic at our house has been Christmas. She wants to know what Christmas really means, and she’s not buying the standard answers. Did I know that they don’t really know when Jesus was born? Did I know that the Christmas celebration was just scheduled in December to put a Christian veneer on an ancient Roman celebration? Did I know it’s a product of 19th century materialism? I’d like to tell her that I learned all these things in school, too, but I just nod and say Really? Her doubts about Christmas–a step up from her childhood doubts about Santa Claus–have made me reflect on what Christmas means, too. What I find is that, for me, Christmas isn’t just the anniversary of the birth of one religion’s messiah: it’s a philosophy. And it seems very similar to Zen. Here’s how: End of year stress and dark news have been making me knot up and worry–about work, about finances, about the future. Fear takes me away from the daily business of living. When worries transport me to the future, I miss today. I’m certainly not in the Christmas spirit, eggnog, tinsel or not. When I read Miao Tsan’s words reality is instead this present moment, I realize I have a choice here. The real meaning of this Christmas can be an intellectual study of the past, it can be doubt and worry about tomorrow, or it can be fully experiencing this present moment. Living with disappointment in the past or in a fear-riddled tomorrow leaves no room for any other reality. Focusing on the seasonal joys–these lights, these songs, these services, gifts, graces and twinkling trees–and the good that exists in spite of evil, my thoughts and therefore my reality have room to grow into something more wonderful than I can imagine. There is opportunity for new life to come into the world, new light that will push the darkness away–the darkness of worry, the darkness of fear, the darkness of trying to control the uncontrollable. If I stop worrying about the bills, the news and the future at Christmastime and choose instead to be present to the birth of baby who will change endlessly and forever change the world, there is nothing else but now, and nothing to fear. Being fully present to my current reality–however busy or scary or festive or happy it might be–is the only way to be fully alive and to make room for joy. The next time my daughter asks me about the real meaning of Christmas, I’ll tell her that it’s a Zen thing. I wonder if she’ll listen.