I adore the holiday season, every aspect of it…well, except the total chaos that seems to unfurl between Thanksgiving and Christmas. toss in my husband’s Jewishness and my son’s birthday and it’s a pretty wild ride for 4 weeks. At times, regardless of how organized I am, it feels messy; last minute presents I have forgotten to buy, babysitter cancellations at the 11th hour, and cramming in as much holiday magic as possible. There are countless articles and blog posts telling us to slow down this time of year. We shouldn’t buy so much, eat too much or imbibe too often. Year after year the same mantra of “slow down, do less” is repeated everywhere. This is a great mantra. I would love to repeat and follow, but somehow it never seems happen. There’s that catch-22 – we all want the season to move at a slower pace, but we also want to squeeze in as much fun, amid the obligations, as possible. How do we find the balance…?
Well, since we can’t move Christmas to January which I’ve been campaigning for awhile without success, we will just have to embrace the seasonal madness. Trying to inflict control over chaos inevitably results in feelings of guilt, frustration, and major crankiness, thereby intensifying the existing chaos. At the bare minimum it’s going to be a hectic time, then add on top of that the pressures of making it super joyous and trying to fit in every holiday event and party and elf hiding and then on top of that trying to make it structured and organized – c’est impossible!
Kids will get sick, babysitters will cancel, elves will forget to move, and hangovers will happen. Why fight it. When we fight it that’s when the crankiness sets in – instead let’s get messy and just let go. This is the result – a smiley face, carol singing, driving safely without flipping someone off in the parking lot. Holiday spirit emits from the face like the eternal glow of the North Star. People will be amazed at this zen attitude and it will become contagious.
Part of the problem with the holiday season is the coinciding nagging guilt of too much. If we can eradicate the guilt and embrace the seemingly inevitable holiday rush we can alleviate a lot of the stress. I’m not advocating for over-consumption or focusing on material goods but rather enjoying the elements of the season. When it starts to feel crazy, and we are knee deep in wrapping paper and tape, pour a festive cocktail and enjoy the moment. Or when the kitchen is a total disaster because we decided to bake Christmas cookies just as 10 people are coming over for Hanukkah dinner just say, “forget it – my friends will have to deal with my messy kitchen and burnt cookies,” and we’ll just pour some more of that festive cocktail and not worry. Or when we miss yoga class because we decided to enjoy too much of said festive cocktail and sleep in an extra hour embrace it because the holiday season is over way too fast to worry about missing one yoga class. If we are late getting to the Nutcracker because we decided to stop for a gingerbread latte and drop off donations for toy for tots remind ourselves that we had 10 less minutes to keep kids contained in chairs. As long as every one is safe all is good.
Let the chaos flow and ebb away. By extricating ourselves from guilt and judgement and pressure we may find ourselves slowing down naturally. Embracing chaos will result in less chaos; life’s pace will ease as perspective emerges. We then emerge calm and happy amidst joyful madness.
Let us be the light this season. Let us shine to those who need light and compassion.
Try this mantra:
Maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah cittaprasadanam
Transalation (from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (B.K.S. Iyengar)
Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.
Here is another thought with which to leave you this holiday season:
“When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take.”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living