- At a time of the year when we are busy getting together, buying presents, eating, drinking and celebrating, a story I heard from my Zen teacher comes to mind. The Buddha compared our human predicament to children playing inside a house that is on fire. Someone from the outside sees the flames and calls the children but they are so busy with their games that they don’t hear the warning. So what is burning right now? Time, my teacher would say. At a more relative level I would add our own selves, at a physical and mental level. Inflammation caused by stress and unhealthy lifestyles are at the root of many chronic illnesses like arthritis, cancer and heart conditions. We all know that this time of the year can be specially stressful due to emotional and dietary stressors. Are we then to forego these festivities and go into retreat to meditate on the Budha’s warning? That is an option, a very good one actually. But there are other options. Since inflammation is the result of doing too much too fast is it possible to subdue the fire by 1) reducing and 2) slowing down. By reducing, paradoxically, we increase enjoyment. Think about how much lighter you feel and enjoy life when you lose some extra weight or when you let go of some desires. Enjoyment is also increased when you slow down and take the time to walk, talk, taste and breathe. These two strategies make us more present by diminishing the amount of distractions that make us lose or burn time. We burn time every time we dwell for too long on the past or worry excessively about the future. The present is the only time we have, really. The Budha also reminds us, that there is no time to lose. So can we be fully present all the time without getting lost in expectations, wishes or regrets? And can that engagement be maintained when alone or in company, in times of celebration or in silence? At this time then, let’s enjoy fully the getting together, grateful for the opportunity of sharing this moment with others. Let’s shop for gifts making the giving meaningful regardless of their material value. Let’s enjoy ourselves at the table, tasting fully every morsel and every sip. Let’s play the entire game fully without losing sight for a second that it is just a game, another wonderful game.