‘Twas the Thursday before Christmas,
And Scott’s turn to lead,
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
Were on deck for Sangha to read.
Mitchell had told him,
“The Third Training is next,”
“But it’s Christmas!”, thought Scott,
Who felt sorta vexed.
The Trainings he opened,
To read them anew,
And then with relief
He stopped feeling blue.
True Love was the topic,
We can skip all the sex,
Because love is the heart
Of this mindfulness text.
Dear Still Water Friends,
I really did cringe when I realized we were to focus on the Third Mindfulness Training a few days before Christmas. Could I somehow divert the topic to the Winter Solstice, or would that spiral into some kind of pagan bonfire ritual and get us in trouble with Crossings? Upon rereading the Third Training, I was intrigued by its last two lines, which we seem to devote less time to because we so often focus on the Training’s opening admonition about sex. The Training concludes:
I am committed to . . . cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
What better topic at this time of year than to share how these four elements comprise not just true love, but how they make up our true continuation? When Thich Nhat Hanh discusses these four elements, which you can watch here and read about here, he stresses that these elements are about helping ourselves and others experience love, reduced suffering, joy, and nondiscrimination. To help ourselves and others experience these things, we first have to understand ourselves and others so that we know what will bring feelings of love, reduced suffering, joy, and inclusiveness. To understand, we have to look and listen deeply into ourselves and our loved ones so we can see beyond our preconceptions of what we think might work, and instead hear our own heart’s true longings and our friends’ real needs. Very often, we have wrong ideas about what will bring us true happiness, perhaps relying on society’s or our family’s teachings instead of our own learnings. Similarly, we don’t listen well enough to really hear our loved ones, and we may instead impose our own views of what brings happiness on them.
Dr. Seuss’s story of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas seems to embody this dynamic. The Grinch thought Whoville’s Christmas happiness came from presents and feasts, but he learned instead that it came from a spirit of togetherness and peace. The Grinch personified a complete lack of the four qualities—he showed no lovingkindness, compassion, joy, or inclusiveness. But once he heard that the citizens of Whoville could embody these qualities without worldly goods or the need for the usual trappings of the holidays, they say his heart grew three sizes in all. That seems to embody the teaching of the Third Mindfulness training—that we should love truly, and let our hearts embrace all. And when we do that, our contribution to the world is immense; we give the gift of true love, which is our best continuation by far.
This Thursday we’ll recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and then have a Dharma discussion. Things you might consider include: How do you live this Training? Can you embody True Love, especially during the stresses of the holidays? Do you identify more with pre-Christmas Grinch, post-Christmas Grinch, CindyLou Who, or perhaps Max the Dog? The text of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is below, courtesy of MIT’s website.
I hope you can join us to share your understanding of True Love.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
by Dr. Seuss
Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch, Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath,
Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.
“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer,
“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST!
FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would feast on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast beast.
Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN They’d do something He liked least of all!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing! And they’d SING!
SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who ChristmasSing,
The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!”
“Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!”
“I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?”
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
THE GRINCH GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what to do!” The Grinch laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!”
“With this coat and this hat, I look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need is a reindeer…” The Grinch looked around.
But, since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his dog, Max. Then he took some red thread,
And he tied a big horn on the top of his head.
THEN He loaded some bags and some old empty sacks,
On a ramshackle sleigh and he hitched up old Max.
Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!” And the sleigh started down,
Toward the homes where the Whos Lay asnooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care.
When he came to the first little house on the square.
“This is stop number one,” the old Grinchy Claus hissed,
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue.
Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.
“These stockings,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”
And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove,
When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter,
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,”
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.”
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.”
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when CindyLou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took Was the log for their fire!
Then he went up the chimney, himself, the old liar.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks and some wire.
And the one speck of food That he left in the house,
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
Then He did the same thing To the other Whos’ houses
Leaving crumbs Much too small For the other Whos’ mouses!
It was quarter past dawn… All the Whos, still a-bed,
All the Whos, still asnooze When he packed up his sled,
Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“PoohPooh to the Whos!” he was grinchishly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!”
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!”
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry BooHoo!”
“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Whoville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!