Christmas is turning into a secular holiday in America. I’ve watched the light displays on peoples’ lawns change in the last decade. The stables and mangers are gone. There are no crosses made out of lights. Now the suburban lawns feature Santa, tall spirals of lights representing trees, oversize stockings, snowmen and even the Grinch. The focus is on families and gift giving. Even Thanksgiving is no longer about giving thanks but it’s a time to gather with loved ones and to indulge yourself in every sensory pleasure possible. What happened?
In the last 7 years, Christian denominations have lost a total of 10% of their faithful, with non-Christian faiths and the “unaffiliated” growing by 37%.1 Yet it is the Millennials who are moving the most; 40-50% of them affiliate with a religion than young adults in prior generations.2
The Millennials were born in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and included lots of yoga bhrashtas who took advantage of an astrological configuration that only comes every 250 years. A yoga bhrashta is one who did a lot of yoga practice in previous lifetimes but did not attain enlightenment. Their prior practices have given them a wealth of good karma so they are born in a country that is peaceful and prosperous. They pick up on their yoga saadhana (process) where they left off at the end of their last lifetime.
Saad-hana is the practice and the process that leads you toward “saat,” Truth with a capital-T: the Truth of your own Beingness. Since Beingness is a description of who and what you are, no single religion owns it, though all explain it (in different ways). The ultimate goal of yoga is that you abide in your own Beingness, which Patanjali calls “svaroopa” in his Yoga Sutras. The mystics of all religions through all the ages shared the same goal as the yogis. It’s not a religious goal, nor even a yogic goal. It’s a human goal. It’s the purpose of your life. You were born for the purpose of knowing the Divinity of your own Self.
Yoga gives you a methodology that reveals your Self as pure Beingness, the One Beingness that is being all that exists. And extends beyond all that exists. We call this Shiva. Beyond the poses and breathing, yoga offers you the experiential knowing of your own svaroopa. You are THAT which yogis call Shiva.
The glory of Christmas, as a religious festival, is that it helps you reach outward to find God. When you use the songs, the decorations, the pageants and church services to find God, where do you experience God? No matter where you are physically located, your experience of God is an inner experience. You are changed. Think of it this way – when you bump into God (accidentally or intentionally), which one of you is going to be changed?
The glory of Christmas, as a secular holiday, is that it helps you experience your Divine Essence. When you give the perfect gift to a person that you care about, and you get to see them light up when they open it up, what happens inside you? It’s the same inner experience. You are changed. This inner experience is the same as when you sing along with the choir in Handel’s Hallelujah. The receiver of the gift got all lit up, and so did you. You are aglow with the light of Consciousness, which is your own Beingness, which is your own Self. The same thing happens in the moment of reunion with your loved ones. The same thing happens in those special moments of true connection that are sprinkled through the weekend.
This means that Christmas is spiritual, whether you’re religious or not. Why? Because it’s all about you experiencing your own “spirit” (built into the word “spiritual”). Your spirit is Divine. You are Shiva. You are that Beingness that is being all and beyond all. You merely need to know your own svaroopa, to know who you are. This is the goal of yoga. This is the goal of life.
And, if you are reading this, you are a yoga bhrashta.
OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h