High in the mountains of Northern California stood a tiny cabin on the crest of a ridge with a hawk-eye view of the Middle Fork of the great Yuba River.
The cabin was filled with all sorts of relics and instruments. The kitchen had a deep sink and a curvy steel pipe that transported water from a spring-fed tank on the roof. A life-sized porcelain human hand reached out in playful welcome, so that each time a cool glass of water was needed the homeowner shook the hand and turned it sideways.
This always brought smiles to the owner. His name was John and he enjoyed his one-room cabin almost as much as he loved the holidays.
Near the center of the south side of the cabin was a fireplace made of smooth stones gathered from the Yuba river bed during the driest month of the year. On top of the mantle was a large picture of John’s mother. Next to it was a photo of John’s faithful wheelbarrow Judith. Judith was dented and worn and losing paint off her sturdy four sides. In the photo Judith was full of colorful chopped wood—there was reddish Madrone and pale dried oak, scented Cedar and dark knobby Pine. On top were a few long cones from the majestic Ponderosa Pine that skirted John’s home.
John had spent many years gathering river stones for his fireplace, hand-picking them one by one. Judith had rolled them up the ridge and along the soft dirt road that led to his cabin. Now, as the last of fall was filtering through the air, with each leaf that fell John thought to himself, this will be the best holiday yet. He didn’t know why and he didn’t know how, yet in the back of his mind he kept hearing the words this will be the best holiday yet.
During most holidays John always managed to take little gifts of kindling and pinecones to his neighbors and friends. He and Judith would carry their gifts, leaving tiny stacks of exotic wood at the doorsteps of those with wood-burning stoves.
This year, his gift-giving was strenuous and time-consuming. He’d huff and puff up the roads and as he and Judith flew down trails with baskets of wood his legs began to ache. It was becoming difficult to show everyone his love. And after a long day with Judith, his feet needed lots of rest. Yet still, in the back of his mind he heard the words, this will be the best holiday yet.
On his way delivering wood to Mrs. Whalebone’s house he’d remember she always had the best holiday dinners. Life just wouldn’t be the same without her Walnut Cheddar Loaf topped with garlic mashed potatoes and covered with creamy cashew gravy with just the right amount of tangy cranberries beside it. John’s doctor had confirmed that even though he had the strong Vedic disposition of a Capricorn, his cholesterol was rising.
John loved to sing and during the holidays he always dreamt of singing with the coveted Victorian Singers. He’d been at all their performances and could memorize “Carol of the Bells”, “Away in a Manger”, and “Christmas Mystery” with his favorite line, “Could it be that in that little one, Spirit’s universal love did shine?” He’d sing that line over and over when he swept his floors and polished his sink.
This year, he was finally asked to join their choir. And so it was that during the holiday buffet at the nearby yoga community, he donned the elegant top-hat and tails and strolled with other singers amidst the heavenly treats. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the platter of holiday brownies that were Mrs. Whalebone’s trademark. They were filled with chocolate and nuts and topped with a white chocolate frosting with cheerful peppermint pieces. He noticed there were only three left. Swooping in like a raven with a magical claw he snatched one up and quickly shoved it in his mouth. Right as he was about to chew and swallow, Miss Fiddlesticks from the medical clinic arrived at the platter and turned to speak to John. In his haste to say hello he swallowed the brownie, which instantly got stuck in his craw. As he gasped and sputtered he could hear the guitar strings play the opening of “The Christmas Mystery.” His heart sank, along with the brownie, which was beginning to alter his vocal chords. Despite the heaviness in his heart and his stomach, still, in the back of his mind, he heard the faint affirmation, this will be the best holiday yet.
As he rushed home from the event he was eager and anxious. His holiday guests would soon be advancing. He took off the top-hat and holiday wear, and then came the knocks on his solid oak door. There were loud knocks then soft knocks and squeals of delight. His sister Caroline and twin three-year old boys. He opened the door and they ambushed his home. Lime uzis, pop toys, and mud on their boots, laughing and screaming they flew in the room. Then along came Caroline, her eyes filled with fear, “John my job is gone, can we stay the month here?”
John wondered how he’d find peace in the holiday rush. Could his cabin survive a family of four? Christmas concerts and parties galore? He and Judith would need to deliver their wood. For days in advance things were not looking good.
That night he walked slowly to the mantel and gazed at the photo of his mother and all the world’s saints. There was Jesus, and Buddha, Krishna, and Ghandi, Mohammed, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. Beneath his mother’s photo a little card held a quote from Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.
“Just behind the darkness of closed eyes shines the light of God. When you behold that light in meditation, hold onto it with devotional zeal. Feel yourself inside it: That is where God dwells. If, on the other hand, you behold no light in meditation, then concentrate at the point between the eyebrows, and gaze deeply into the darkness that you see with closed eyes. Try, by your devotion, to penetrate that thick veil. In time you will surely behold the inner light, for it is ever there, shining in your forehead. Just as all human beings have eyes, so does everyone have this spiritual eye within the forehead. It awaits discovery in the deep concentration within.”
When the three-year old twins had fallen asleep and Caroline also did not even peep, John stepped into the night on his small wooden deck. The Yuba was roaring and the skies were quite dark. John stood for a moment then opened his heart. This will be the best holiday yet he affirmed. Then he held both arms out to his sides with his palms facing up and with his two feet apart he balanced in a yoga pose that resembled a star. As he stood like a star he gazed straight ahead, someone was waving up high from afar. Then something happened, he felt a small light the size of a candle flame grow in his heart. The light grew stronger and filled up his frame. As it did so he felt he’d never be the same. As he closed his eyes and stood in this pose a star from the sky filled his whole inner eye. As more light filled him his worries soon dropped, intuition came to him, it just never stopped. With each meditation and with each guided breath, John felt intuition and love guiding his life. The answers were there no need to fuss, meditation and prayer brings balance and trust.
When Christmas morn came long before they awoke, he threw open his sleeping bag and quietly stretched. As he lay on the floor he spread like a star, his arms, his legs, his light reaching far. As he thought of the star and the light in his heart, he sat to meditate before the day’s start.
It was still dark outside when John checked on the twins. As they slept deeply and Caroline snored, he flew to the deck and suddenly grinned. In the sky up above, a heavenly star winked at the light inside that he’d finally met. This will be the best holiday yet.