As I gently shook the snow globe just retrieved from the holiday cupboard, unleashed flurries of white began masking the tranquil forest scene in a dulling haze; the predictable effect brought to mind the complexities of this season. These times--when numerous religions and cultures celebrate the light--predictably summon both sweet and painful memories; like the whirling snow in that globe, our losses can temporarily obscure our blessings. As our ancestors huddled around fires to endure the ravages of winter, we, too, draw closer to the warmth of hearth and loved ones during these months. This year, however, our need for both celebration and comfort is even greater.
With out-of-control COVID numbers and increased safety restrictions as the backdrop, this holiday season brings additional challenges: Some might feel pressure to either replicate previous levels of magic with fewer resources, or go to greater lengths to create even grander celebrations. Who could blame us? Our efforts, at least temporarily, push back the darkness that might otherwise overshadow this traditional season of light.
There are two quick self-care practices that can help minimize our stress and maximize the blessings of this time as we proceed with all our self-imposed “to do’s.” Both can take less than five minutes interspersed throughout the day with the help of phone alarms:
Practice #1: Stop whatever you’re doing at the alarm, pause and give yourself permission to breathe mindfully and fully for 3-5 breaths. Really focus on this miraculous respiration process: the air coming into your nostrils on the inhalation as it becomes breath… your chest and belly expanding… lungs filling with life-giving oxygen that filters through your blood into all the cells in your body… And then the breath returning to air as you release that mixture of carbon dioxide and other metabolic waste on the exhalation. Consider the idea of receiving love on your inbreath, and radiating love (or releasing stress!) on your outbreath.
Just a few minutes of this kind of mindful, fuller breathing can instantly return us to the present moment while also chemically shifting our nervous system from the fight/flight/freeze mode to a more relaxed state. Done throughout our busy day, this practice will help keep us calmer and more grounded and vitalized.
Practice #2: Again, stop whatever you’re doing at the alarm, pause and then ask yourself, “What’s happening right now in my mind, heart and body?” In other words, what are your thoughts, emotions and/or physical sensations communicating to you in this present moment. Are you aware of any negative thoughts or difficult emotions… any stiffness or soreness? Such common, uncomfortable experiences within us hint at unmet needs that deserve to be honored. With that intent, ask a second question, “How can I meet this (feedback) with loving kindness and compassion?”
We deserve to listen deeply to ourselves. When we become aware of our own suffering, we can offer ourselves tenderness and processing time; this is especially important if we’re struggling with grief often triggered by the holidays. Honoring our vulnerable humanity can be a wonderful way of reflecting the goodwill of this season.
Rest heals. When we take these well-earned mini breaks throughout the holidays, the typical chaos, like that snow in the globe, can settle and reveal the truth described by 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi:
"We are stars wrapped in skin.
The light you are seeking
has always been within."
“Don’t turn your head
Look at the bandaged place
That is where the light enters you.”
Despite the darkness literally and figuratively surrounding these holidays, and perhaps even magnified by our fragility and woundedness, we can offer our own light for this season, an inner light brighter than all the dazzling decorations, gifts and holiday magic we create; more powerful than any haunting memory. The light of our love can radiate across the table and the miles to dear ones, even, if need be, through phonelines or cyberspace; it can reach out and touch through heartfelt prayers of well-being and hope, good deeds and even forgiveness for those known and unknown.
Just as we strive to “be the change we wish to see in the world,” let us choose to “be the light” we wish to see, during this holiday season, and throughout the dark winter months to come.
May I, we & all beings look through our woundedness to discover the inner light & bless our world with its radiance.
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). email@example.com (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).