Traditionally, Christmas season is a festive period that is intended to be full of light, colour, joy, and family life. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, everything around gets us into a festive mode. But Christmas comes also with the automatic pilot impulse to buy gifts and decoration, to organize celebrations and dinners. And this automatic pilot implies that we miss “what is key and fundamental” at this time.
Even if Christmas are sold to us as days of joy and happiness, some experience it as a difficult time to go through. Maybe because they are not connected at all with the festivity, and a feeling of “not belonging” emerges. Maybe because of the missing a family member which makes this a sadder time. Maybe because logistics are so complicated that we end up exhausted. Maybe because money is an issue and gifts, or dinners, come as an extra challenge.
The experience can be so different for all of us that there is no way to openly set rules, guidelines or certainties that would help everybody in every situation. However, we would like to share some aspects coming from our own personal experience that could be of help for being more connected with ourselves and with greater presence for all those around us during these special days:
- The greatest gift is to be present. It maybe looks like a “fashionable advise”, but it deeply summarizes what is key during this Christmas season. We invite you to use this phrase as a mantra for the days to come, remembering that our attention is the best gift we can give to others. “To be present” is to bring the body, the mind, and the heart wherever we are and with whom we are. “To be present” is also about offering others time and space so as they can be themselves while observing and listening with curiosity, kindness, and without judgment. “To be present” is about letting go any automatic pilot behaviour and fully opening to the situation that we are experiencing. Even if we are unable to be physically present, we can maintain this attitude towards each other during the time that we connect through any of the online tools available nowadays.
- Creating intentions. Christmas commonly pushes us into routine changes, and into logistics and relationships challenges. We easily feel the difficulties that they bring and how hard it becomes to manage everything. What should be time for peaceful relationships and the recovery of energy turns out to be an exhausting period. Our experience shows that it helps a lot “to think and connect with our love intentions” while letting go of any expectations. They could be broader intentions for the entire period or more narrow intention for a specific trip, a certain day, or just a single dinner. This way, we feel more aligned to manage any of the different situations that could arise, especially when they are unforeseen. Intentions can be different for each of us: to stay calm, to spend more time with others, to disconnect from work, to have more time for myself, to connect deeper with my spiritual life, etc.
- Knowing our triggers and behavioural patterns. Reflecting previously on past Christmas experiences, we can identify some of the happenings that triggered emotional reactions: the controlling character of a family member; that friend that is always late; the unexpected and urgent emails from the boss; the usual annoying “comments” from that aunt…. Also, we can also identify our own automatic patterns of behaviour: taking on all responsibilities; feeling uncomfortable and entering silence at family meetings; not having time for me; keep working even on vacation, etc. By identifying a priori these emotional triggers and behavioural patterns, we become aware of them in advance, and we can choose to act differently when these situations happen again. A journaling exercise works very well for us. This “stopping, reflecting, and connecting with my intention” will make it easier to self-regulate and to have a more enjoyable and constructive experience.
- Disconnect from technology. When we are constantly subjected to technological distraction, it is difficult to be truly present for others and to be aware of our own experience. We invite you to use the technology with healthy limits or even to completely disconnect for some periods when that is possible. It might feel weird at first, but it’s certainly a transformative experience.
- Disconnecting from work is a central issue at holidays. Maybe it is a good period to practice setting boundaries and stay focused on the situations as they arrive. When needed, it is about setting our own limits, like not working at all or a maximum dedication of 1 hour per day. Eventually, it could include communicating our self-chosen limits with those who we work with to manage expectations with colleagues and maybe inspire them to do the same.
- Self-care. To better enjoy, serve, and help others, we start by taking care of ourselves first. If we are not okay with ourselves, we won’t be able to be okay with others. Sharing with others could be balanced with some quietness and silence as a way to create time and space to take care of ourselves. Also, our experience recommends paying attention regarding how we nourish ourselves, not only about eating but also regarding what we watch, hear, or whom we connect with. Another important practice is about setting limits and saying no when we feel that we are being pushed or forced into something that we are not choosing. When possible, find some moments exclusively for you during these days to recharge your energy and reconnect with your inner self. Just 15 minutes could help a lot.
- Managing the pandemic with care. ThisCOVID19 pandemic is certainly making Christmas much more complex. Balancing our beliefs and needs with those of others could unfold as a very complex and difficult task. We better recognize that it is personal to decide what to do, where to go, and who to meet with. In the middle of this confusion, especially as we feel the tiredness and the boredom of 2 years of pandemic, there should not be right or wrong answer. Our invitation is to get off any automatic pilot behaviour to feel and choose what is best in each situation. When possible, turn off mass media and their spreading of fear. Key thing to be aware of it that fear is not in command and that love is present, so you balance what you feel it is important to you while respecting what is important for others. Discussions are essential at this time, so we negotiate situations and stop pretending to protect others without asking them how they want to be “protected”.
- Type of practices. Moving apart a few minutes for a short mindfulness practice can make a huge difference in how you feel during your day. You can choose any practice, like focused attention, open awareness, and body scan. On the other hand, it is also an excellent opportunity to integrate the mindfulness attitude (which we describe as curiosity, kindness, and non-judgment) during other times of the day. What follows are three easy proposals.
- Mindful eating. Christmas delicatessen and special meals are great for bringing more attention to eating. What we call “conscious eating” consists on paying attention to what we eat (like tasting with all our senses) and how we eat (if we are physically or emotionally hungry, if we are already full, how we digest each food)
- Mindful listening. When talking to another person, we can put our full attention on what the other person says, not interrupting and avoiding distractions (whether thinking about something else or entering judgments). If there is somebody that you are living with and with whom communication is difficult, we invite you to intentionally practice conscious listening with that person and to experience the results whatever they are.
- Mindful walking is about walking with greater awareness in the movements of our body. This is a dynamic practice that we can engage in our daily route, but also dedicating some extra time (such minutes for self-care, for example) to get out of the confusion and walking outdoors. Key thing is paying attention to our bodies; eventually, you can deep in the practice by opening your awareness to the surroundings.
We hope and wish that you can enjoy this Christmas season with more Presence, more Peace and more Love.