By Andrea M. Winn, MEd
Living in Toronto we are surrounded by people of many cultures with many traditions, some of whom celebrate at this time of year and some who do not. No matter what our tradition, it is hard to escape the messages of Christmas. Even as a Buddhist, I have noticed their impact. In western culture, the holiday season is probably the most emotionally loaded time of year, with messages broadcast through the media to be cheerful, loving, generous and to spend quality time with family. What if we have a challenging connection with our family, or no connection at all? What if we are poor and can’t afford to buy the gifts that supposedly demonstrate our love? There are innumerable ways in which people may not fit the close-knit loving family vision for the holidays, which opens the potential for pain and judgment. That is why it is important to consciously choose to be present this holiday season, in a genuine way, moment by moment, whether we are fitting the season model or not.
It is a time when we are called to open our hearts and be generous of spirit with all people. We are encouraged to send cards and connect with the important people in our lives, especially family. There is little that can tug at the emotional strings of our hearts more than family. These are the people who gave birth to us and guided us into this magnificent, big world. They profoundly imprinted our beings with their style of loving and their hang-ups; in some cases these hang-ups were so significant they became child abuse. On the other side of this, parents also have to face their imperfect and sometimes disappointing relations with their children. Our connection with family is profound, whether it is positive, negative or likely a mix of both. And all of that gets stirred up at this time of year.
In my tradition, we see that as a good thing. It is a time that offers opportunities for healing old wounds, a time when we can more deeply mend our hearts and connect with ourselves. Healing is a process that we have to engage – it doesn’t just happen on its own. Oftentimes part of that healing process involves consciously seeking perspective. For instance, plan emotionally for the holidays. Nobody knows the emotional challenges you face during the holidays better than yourself, so take some time to think about it ahead of time and look at how to support yourself in being grounded and joyful this holiday season. For some that will mean building in supports for sanity and self-connection while visiting family, such as journaling or arranging to be in touch by email or phone with friends back home for check-ins. Others are not in contact with family, and they might arrange in advance to get together with “chosen family”, people with whom they choose to spend the holidays. At such a special time of the year it makes sense to think about what will bring you joy, what is important to you, what will ground you, and how to build in supports for your mindfulness and connection with yourself.
Also, be honest with yourself about when you need help. There are times in all of our lives when we need help to process or move through something. It is important to listen to ourselves at those times and to seek out the help we need, often in the form of a therapist or other emotional/spiritual healer. Our purpose in life is to grow and become our potential. Be generous with yourself this holiday season by ensuring you have the support you need to be able to open your heart and be loving and generous, both with yourself and others.
One easy way to give yourself a gift of support for this holiday season is to receive my Free Meditation. You can get this by clicking the button at the top of this page. Enjoy, be merry, and be present!