Comfort & Joy: A very short list for sane holidays

by Seguin on 12/23/2011

If the holidays bring up stress, obligation, perfectionism, grief or frustration for you, then you have a strong motivation to prioritize practicing mindfulness awareness.

Here’s a short-list for sane, open-hearted holidays, however you observe them (or don’t):

1. Give yourself some time in silence. For some people this could be forty minutes of meditation and for others it could be turning off the radio when driving. Most of us are habituated to a constant background of stimulus. Opening to quiet is skill, or an acquired taste, for many people. Becoming friendly with silence can offer a deep form of nourishment. Commit to trying some silence, in one form or another, most days.

2. Notice whenever you think always and never, and look for exceptions. Always and never are helpful flags on painful beliefs about ourselves and others. “She never helps me.” “I’m always left out.” “He always interrupts me.” Notice what happens when you use these words aloud or in your thinking.

Always/never thinking is likely to be associated with some sensation of constriction, stepping back, or checking out. When we’re believing always/never we often don’t even notice (or we see and disregard) anything that doesn’t support our painful beliefs. Notice your physical sensations and internal experience when you really want to justify or hold your belief. Be curious and experiment with letting it go, and with holding on.

Look for exceptions to the belief. When you hear an always/never, pause, come to present to awareness through noticing your breath or body, and then ask yourself to be open to other possibilities for a few moments. Poll for disconfirming data. When was this person helpful to me or to someone else? When have I felt connected and included? When was I uninterrupted? Make an effort to see when others aren’t supporting your always/never thought.

Want to go deeper? Notice when you disconnect from being present through judgement. “He’s rude.” “She’s always mean.” “He’s just selfish.” “She’s a bad houseguest.” We often make these evaluations in order to feel less anxiety or to justify our own feelings. When we’re more centered and present, we can access our internal wisdom.

We can say No with love. We can say when we’re uncomfortable, instead of mentally writing someone off as rude or selfish. Begin by seeing always and never.

3. Alcohol is a depressant. Drinking lots of it, or even imbibing moderately several nights in a row, might make you feel more emotional even when you’re sober the next day. In addition, even a couple glasses of adult punch can interfere with getting nourishing sleep. Not getting complete sleep makes us feel lousy and can intensify painful emotions. If you live with chronic pain, migraines or take daily medication, a night or two of social drinking can make you feel awful for days afterward.

And, obviously, drinking alcohol can interfere with our ability to stay true to our intentions and integrity. Everyone knows this and it’s one of the most common plot-devices in film. Most people have done something they regretted while under the influence.

I’m not referring to big drunk mistakes, like driving intoxicated, shagging people in hurtful ways, or committing felonies. I mean, the less visible, internal dissonances that are more likely to emerge when we’re squiffy. When we’re drinking, it’s just generally harder to access wisdom and to function from integrity, from what we truly want for ourselves and others.

With all the holiday socializing, many people find themselves drinking more, and more frequently during this time of year. If you drink, just notice how it affects you.

So here’s the sanity short-list for the holidays in brief:

Have some silence.

Notice when you think and say always and never.

Alcohol is powerful stuff. Notice how it’s affecting you.

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