Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has great advice for creating more true happiness at holiday time and any time.


Instead of focusing on what I want for Christmas, we can practice being generous and helpful. We can see our partners and family members as precious flowers which need our care.

Be like the lotus flower, no matter how challenging is the environment, it spread its fragrance and non of mud water can attach on the leaves.

It’s easy to get caught up in the I wants. We all get enough emails in our in-boxes and flyers in our snail-mail boxes to stimulate our craving for things we never even knew existed. My own craving for a new pair of high-top sneakers for example. It’s also easy to fall into the trance, as Tara Brach calls it, of believing that obtaining these things will make us happy. Of course, they may do that…but only briefly. In short order, all that stuff just becomes more stuff in our closet. Craving has a funny, sneaky way of turning us into self-centered, snotty, short-tempered people and that definitely puts a damper on everyone’s holiday spirit.

The cure? Turning the focus on seeing the preciousness of the people in our lives. We we see what they might need we can we can practice being generous and helpful. When we’re doing that, we won’t be snapping at them for failing to live up to our expectations for behavior or gifts or whatever. We’ll just love them. In his book, Touching Peace, Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

We can do this. We see that other person, like us, has both flowers and compost inside, and we accept this. Our practice is to water the flowerness in her, and not bring her more garbage. We avoid blaming and arguing. When we try to grow flowers, if the flowers do not grow well, we do not blame or argue with them. We blame ourselves for not taking care of them well. Our partner is a flower. If we take care of her well, she will grow beautifully. If we take care of her poorly, she will wither. To help a flower grow well, we must understand her nature. How much water does she need? How much sunshine? We look deeply into ourselves to see our true nature, and we look into the other person to see her nature…We can sit down, hold our partner’s hand, look deeply at him, and say, “Darling, do I understand you enough? Do I water your seeds of suffering? Do I water your seeds of joy? Please tell me how I can love you better.”

This holiday season can be full of joy and happiness. We just have to get out of our own way and give.

May all find peace.

Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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