Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rekindling Your Holiday Spirit

At this time of year, the holiday season elicits powerful feelings and memories of loved ones enjoying venerable traditions, fun gatherings, and special festivities.

As you probably have experienced, these annual celebrations with family and friends can also be very stressful events. Although everyone has the desire to get along and have a good time, familiar gestures, habitual reactions, or casual conversations may occur that annoy someone. Then, the irritation grows and culminates in a hurtful disturbance.

How does this happen with people who supposedly love each other?

Just because you have been connected with others for a long time doesn't mean they know you now. This can be especially true with family where members may act as if their common genetic and historical backgrounds can replace in-depth and mutual communication.

The paradox of not feeling known among family or friends who have known you your whole life can be very confusing. You want to meaningfully connect and freely express yourself, yet you don't feel safe and "seen" enough to do so. In addition, your uneasiness and frustration can make you more sensitive to the words and actions of people around you, and even trigger wounds from your past.

In this emotionally charged context, you too may haphazardly engage in saying and doing things that provoke someone else. Any intentions you might have had to experience a peaceful day fade as a distant fantasy, and you may now feel badly about yourself as well.

How can you eliminate this "holiday hell"?

Although you cannot control how your family and friends act in these situations, you can manage your own behaviors. Here are some suggestions to reduce unpleasant consequences for you and your group:
  • Clarify people's expectations and any special needs prior to the event. Don't make assumptions about what everyone would like.
  • Make specific agreements regarding the logistics of your gathering. That is, who's doing what, where, when, and how? Keep things as simple as possible.
  • Approach each person with care and compassion, especially those with whom you have a lot of history. Don't be casual.
  • Reconnect and warm up before you engage in serious subjects. Ask questions in your interactions with others. Don't invite people to talk unless you want to genuinely listen.
  • Avoid joking at another's expense. Don't use sarcasm to express yourself.
  • Stop habitual reactions whenever possible. Don't take things personally.
  • Consider other ways in which you can avoid, eliminate, or decrease the incidence of personal and interpersonal harm.
After you have reflected on these alternatives, focus on a few to practice in upcoming events that you host or attend. As you become effective in eliminating "holiday hell," you can place more of your attention on cultivating the qualities you desire such as ease, relaxation, harmony, loving kindness, and peace.

In order to nurture these qualities and create a joyful atmosphere for holiday experiences, you might consider these practical skills:
  • Be responsible for your own feelings and behaviors.
  • Meditate before gatherings.
  • Give yourself plenty of time and space.
  • Observe, support, and refresh your energy level. Rest to prevent exhaustion.
  • Attend to (notice) your breath during the event.
  • Feel yourself grounded in your body.
  • Review my related discussions including "The Art of Witnessing," "Communicating from Your Heart," "Forgiving," "Create Your Own Lineage," and "Sustaining Your Momentum: Releasing Resistance."
With these practices, you will discover that you can minimize your own experience of "holiday hell," and be happy and healthy throughout the holidays.

Imagine your holiday season filled with child-like wonder and expansive joy!

Love and Peace,
Dave

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