I want to offer some peace today to your being during the holidays, and share a proven practice that you can use to ground yourself and create more ease.
This time of year by itself tends to be extremely hectic, and then you add on top the current crisis of our world and the non-stop division, and that can feel overwhelming. Perhaps you are able to be with loved ones this holiday or perhaps you are not, whether it is your choice or the decision was made for you.
As public spaces are filled with piped music, there is that pressure to PERFORM, to put on a smile and ACT like everything is ok, when in truth, you actually feel deeply disconnected. Or maybe you are feeling super excited and connected again to the holidays, but find many loved ones around you struggling with anxiety and depression.
How do we hold the space for all of this without completely disappearing under our covers until January?
How do we reclaim this time of year for the joy it has held in our hearts in the past?
We ground and create ease through the practice of tradition.
Tradition is something we repeat over time, and typically has ancestral roots behind it. During this time of year, that may look like putting up a tree, lighting candles, preparing and sharing food, or reflecting on the last 12 months. Many cultures throughout the world mark this time of year with traditions. It’s a deeply human act, and one that ties us to our history, and our interdependence. Traditions tie us to what we share across borders.
But what makes this practice so vital, and what I really want to focus on today is the fact that your traditions may change. For instance, you may have been raised in a Catholic home with a tree, and then find a life partner who practices Judaism, and you light a Menorah with your children. Or perhaps you were raised in one tradition and over time found it no longer resonated, and instead enjoy quiet time during this month, or sitting in meditation.
So, if your traditions have changed, how do you create ease? Change can be very unsettling!
You place your focus on the INTENTION behind your tradition, NOT the tradition itself.
Take a moment and connect back to a tradition that has had deep meaning for you. If needed, close your eyes and allow your body to settle. You may find yourself returning to your childhood, or a moment in your adult life, but allow that tradition to come forward. What was your INTENTION when you participated in this tradition?
Was it to connect?
To express gratitude?
To deepen your relationship with yourself or with loved ones?
Why did this tradition create expansion and ease in your body?
Take a moment if you need to, to answer this question for yourself. Write down your intention or intentions.
Now, let that be your GUIDE for what you create and participate in this month. Let me give you a personal example of how this works.
I was raised Methodist, and we began our holiday celebration on December 1st with an advent calendar. Each day, my brother and I would read from a Christian book that the story of the birth of Jesus, and then opened a “door” on a calendar my mother would tape up on the wall of whatever military housing we were in. We would also open up a small gift. This was SO much fun and I loved sharing it with my brother! As an adult, I no longer had a gift to open every day, and was finding myself struggling with many aspects of organized religion, so I still celebrated with an advent calendar from my mother, but now it was daily doors to a small piece of chocolate. So each day with my partner, we would open a little “treat” to prepare us for Christmas Day.
Then, my marriage fell apart, I began practicing Zen Buddhism, and I was diagnosed with prediabetes. My mother started sending me musical advent calendars, and I would share each day with her through catch up phone calls or texts, after opening the door to a different holiday tune.
This year, I’ve been on an intense healing journey from mold toxicity and my miscarriage. Nature has been one of the most powerful forces in my life, and I have spent as much of these last two years outside as possible, especially enjoying our magical backyard which is filled with so many different creatures. At the end of November, my mother sent me an advent calendar that read: “Contains 24 doors with wooden pieces to build a woodland scene.” Each day, I open a door and then take a photo and text it to my mother, and smile at the new friends that now inhabit my kitchen table.
The tradition I practice this time of year is the advent calendar. The actual advent calendar itself has changed many times over the years, to reflect my beliefs, my health, and what’s most important. But what hasn’t changed, and what keeps me coming back to this tradition is how it connects me to CELEBRATION and COMMUNION. These are my intentions behind the tradition.
My love language is quality time, which means, I really value the close relationships in my life. As a child, I loved opening those doors of the advent calendar with my brother and sharing in the joy of each day. As an adult, I then shared each door’s treat with my first husband, and then when I became single, I shared it with my mother. She taught me this tradition and has been the constant. In this way, the advent calendar really meets the formal definition of tradition, “the handing down of customs, or beliefs from one generation to another.” And what has really been handed down is the practice of celebration and communion.
Because this feels like HOME in my body, when I return to it during the month of December, it creates peace and ease. And as my husband and I are in the process of adoption, I plan to bring this same tradition forward for our child, with the understanding it may look VERY different over time. Who knows what the “advent calendar” will be then? But when I think of values I want to pass on, Celebration and Communion are top on the list, and I’m excited to see it unfold in meaningful ways.
We can get so lost in material messaging and the constant cultural message that “more” equals self worth, but your body doesn’t lie. Your body knows what feels loving and life affirming.
Bring peace and grounding back to this time of year, by reclaiming the intention behind your traditions.
What is it you want to pass on?
What is it you want to nurture as you close out your year?
Turn in with deep compassion and care, and let your history guide you. There is deep wisdom there.
It never left.