The holidays are coming and with them feelings of awe and wonder, bright-eyed children, decorations festooning the towns and stores, families making plans to get together. Ahhhh...

The holidays are coming and with them feelings of overwhelm and stress, teary-eyed children, decorations from someone else's religious tradition cluttering the towns and stores, families negotiating the minefield of familial expectations. Agh.......


Peace Mandala

Welcome to the pre-thanksgiving, get ready for the countdown to Christmas season that is attached to so much stress that a life stress questionnaire ranks the Christmas season as more stressful than minor violations of the law. Of course, add to that the stressors "change in number of family gatherings," "change in eating habits" and "vacation", all of which occur at the same time and the total stressor ‘points', puts you right between the stress of "personal injury or illness" and the stress of a jail term! Likely additional stressors, which could send the score beyond jail term stress include, "trouble with in-laws", "change in social activities, church activities (note cultural bias here), sleeping habits." And what does it mean that "Christmas Season" is even on the life stressor list?

What's a person to do? Time to find the Reason for the Season: Your reason, with your own catchy phrase and your own deeper meaning. Time to step outside of cultural and familial norms and expectations and find a way to make this work for you.

Rituals have always been important to people. They carry a numinous quality, imbued as they are with more meaning than the simple ritual itself might appear to carry. A healthy ritual pulls body, mind and feelings into alignment with its purpose. (An unhealthy ritual does the same). Rituals, small and large, create a way of living in the world that can anchor us into important values in our lives.

Whether it is the cup of tea in the morning, designed to help us quiet and center and ready ourselves for the day, the birthdays that we celebrate in one way or another or the BIGGIES like ...... (fill in the blank for your own particular December event), rituals can serve to remind us of what we believe, who we are, and what we truly want.

Or they can be big, fat, empty, expensive activities that drain and depress us, rather than uplift and inspire us.

Rituals, like anything else, lose their meaning if they are not actively and purposefully chosen. The cup of tea chugged to get a little caffeine hit has lost any meaning. It serves a function (gotta wake up), but it doesn't serve the deeper needs. The winter holidays are the same and they are magnified by the huge projections put on them.

If you could tease apart the many threads tied into the knot of this holiday season, what would you find?

• Your personal history of the season... for better and for worse

• Current cultural norms, both those of the dominant culture and those of your own sub- culture

• Religious traditions that have meaning to you or have no meaning but still loom large

• A shopping crazed, advertising heavy context insinuating itself into every corner of your world

• Current family needs, wants, expectations, and with those the corresponding feelings, overt or covert messages, and deeper hopes and dreams

• Negotiations between various family/friend/group inclinations 

• Your own varying reactions and impulses, ranging from old wounded experiences, to present, real-time desires and constraints

• And finally, your own values, pleasures, commitments and truth: Your own Reason for the Season

A quick scan of the above list may help clear the air. Moving with consciousness into this season will allow for choices that truly represent what you believe in. Creating (or continuing) rituals that have meaning for you will allow this moment in time to be your gift to the world. Letting go of old ways of being, rituals that have meaning to someone else, but not to you, will allow you to be more fully present to what is essential in your own way of knowing. Turning away from cultural demands to orient to your own sense of meaning, purpose and values, will allow the season to be reborn, in your life, as the celebration it was always meant to be.

Love Mandala

What is worth celebrating? What has meaning? What brings joy or peace or love? The reason for the season has perhaps always been an invitation to be closer to our own goodness, for in that we can celebrate as one.

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