Getting the Most Out of the Holiday Season

With its vibrations of peace, joy, and goodwill, Christmas represents mankind’s highest potential.  The season’s historical and religious significance gives it a feeling of hope and celebration.  People savor quality time with their loved ones.  Strangers who would usually just ignore each other show warmth and kindness.  Though it has also become a time of stress for many of us due to the commercialism with which it has become associated, you can choose which one of those energies you would like to tap into.

If you would like to feel more connected to the real meaning of Christmas, don’t just sit back and hope that it happens.  Set your intention going into the holiday season that you will experience those qualities of Christmas that bring you the most joy.  It will be much easier to do this if you take an inventory of all of the activities that you normally do during the holiday season and decide if they truly contribute to your happiness or if they are really just obligations that cause you unjustified stress.  If the answer is the latter, decide if it would not serve you better to spend your time and energy on something else.  While we may choose to engage in some of these activities because they are important to our loved ones, often there are a number that we could cross off our list.  If the majority of items on your list fall into this category, then there is obviously a problem.  You have been valuing other people’s happiness over your own.  It is easy to become depleted that way.  You cannot fill another’s cup if yours is empty.

Some draining activities will likely stay on your list, but you can set boundaries going in on how much time and energy you will give to them.  Determine which ones tend to bring you down or stress you out the most and find ways to minimize their impact.  If the lines and traffic you get in while doing Christmas shopping really get to you, do most of your shopping online.  If the pressure of having to buy gifts for so many people is taking the fun out of it, suggest drawing names and buying a gift for one person instead of everyone.  There are no rules that you have to follow when it comes to Christmas.  You can change or drop traditions that no longer serve you, even as others hold rigidly to their stressful routines.

When you have cleared some room from your schedule, make sure to add in activities that bring you joy.  What activities have created a feeling of connection and meaning for you in the past?  It could be anything—traditional or not, solitary or in a group.  It could be going Christmas caroling or to midnight mass, driving around and looking at Christmas lights, baking Christmas cookies, watching Christmas movies, or sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate.  It’s very personal.  Whatever helps you to feel the peace, joy, and goodwill of Christmas is what you want to put on your schedule.

Perhaps the most powerful way to feel the peace, joy, and goodwill of Christmas is to simply sit down, still your mind, and choose to do so.  Often without realizing it, we have a particular scenario in our mind of the way things must be in order for us to feel the way we want.  But in truth we can bring any emotion into our lives at any time we wish.  It’s like tuning a radio dial to the frequency you want.  The feeling you’re seeking is always accessible.  It’s just a matter of giving yourself permission to feel it no matter what’s going on in your life.  If you are wanting to feel the peace of Christmas, think of a time when you felt that peace in the past and bring that feeling into the present moment.  Imagine it filling you up and radiating outwards.  Or visualize a giant orb of energy that is pulsing waves of Christmas peace to you.  Sometimes it’s a little difficult at first but after you connect with it once it becomes easier.  Doing this practice even a few times during the holiday season can make a big difference.  After all, there’s really no better gift you can give others than your own well-being.

Self-love–What Is It?

Self-love is the foundation of well-being.  All other areas of your life build upon it.  Without love for the self, everything else becomes more difficult.  You hear this a lot if you move in spiritual circles, but the term “self-love” can be quite vague to many people.  The ironic thing is that the people who would benefit most from this wisdom are precisely the ones who don’t understand what it is speaking of.  And how can you achieve a goal that you don’t even understand?  What exactly are they talking about when they speak of “self-love”?

I was one of these people.  The idea that self-love is crucial to well-being seemed correct to me, so I accepted the idea, but I wasn’t clear on what that term meant.  I wasn’t aware of having any particularly negative feelings towards myself, other than occasionally being overly critical, so I assumed that whatever they meant by self-love, I must be okay in that arena.  Years later down my path of self-exploration I discovered that was not the case.  Suddenly I became aware of the empty space in my being where self-love was lacking, and I saw that its absence had contributed to many of the struggles I had faced up to that point.

It can be easier to grasp what self-love involves if you first look at the way you feel towards other people in your life that you love.  What does your love for them involve? Usually the love we have towards another person makes us feel a deep acceptance of them for who they are, including any “faults” they may have.  We see them in their best light, focusing on their strengths and not their weaknesses.  Nothing they do or don’t do will make us love them less.  They have our love despite any mistakes they may make or “failures” they may experience.  We forgive them easily and always try to be supportive when they are experiencing challenges.  This is the same type of love that we need to give ourselves.  Does it really make any sense to deny ourselves the love that we give freely to others?

It’s important to realize that we have a relationship with ourselves just as we do with other people.  The same things that poison a relationship with another person—unrealistic expectations or demands, criticism, having to “earn” love—will do the same for your relationship with yourself.  Your relationship with yourself deserves to be a priority in your life and receive the same amount of nurturing as your other relationships.

It will likely take some practice to integrate this new relationship with yourself into your everyday life.  You will need to notice when you are having judgmental thoughts and feelings towards yourself and consciously decide to let them go and feel love and acceptance for yourself instead.  When you notice the negative thoughts and feelings, just imagine how you would feel towards a friend who was in the same situation and what you would say to them, and do that for yourself.  It may be beneficial to incorporate your intention of developing self-love into a daily meditation, taking a few minutes each day to feel the love you are used to feeling for other people in your life and turn it inward towards yourself.  With time it will start sticking, and the new support it gives you will make it easier to accomplish your goals and overcome any challenges you may face on the way.