Tis The Season to Be Jolly?
It’s the holiday season again – a beautiful time of year but also a time when people can get… nutty. 🙂
We’re looking forward to a break, businesses gear up to gear down, peoples’ calendars are chock full of events and shopping and/or preparing for a vacation. It’s a special time of year but also a very stressful time, and for some, a costly one too.
As I started to prepare for the holidays, it got me thinking, and a play on words came to mind. Imagine, exchanging the word Presents with Presence – so instead of buying material gifts this year, you offered those you care about your true presence.
“When you take your attention into the present moment, a certain alertness arises. You become more conscious of what’s around you, but also, strangely, a sense of presence that is both within and without.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
What Is Presence?
Presence is a state of being, grounded in the here and now, in harmony with this very moment, no matter where you are, who you’re with or what you’re doing. It is a whole body experience – mindfulness, heartfulness and soulfulness. It is a full acceptance of ‘what is’ in the moment, and an allowing of one’s authentic self to rise to the surface, instead of being swept away by ego and everything that can provoke it, which can cause tension, irritability, frustration, and so on. Instead, you experience more peace and equanimity and your natural self emerges freely, which is not only good for you but it’s a pleasure for those you spend time with.
The Paradoxical In Full Swing
I’m writing this at a time of year when we can witness the truly paradoxical. A pre-set time to spread good cheer and goodwill to all – juxtaposed against crowds of people frenetically running around town buying gifts for their loved ones and those they feel obligated to keep on their list again this year. This is done partly out of their desire to make others happy and a sense of responsibility or duty as if it’s a punishable offense not to dole out gifts. I’d like to question this behavior.
Question Your Unquestioned Traditions
Perhaps you’ve gotten wiser over the years and have changed your approach to the holidays. Perhaps you’ve given up obligatory gift giving or you’ve done all your shopping online already and gotten the gifts wrapped and delivered (thanks Amazon). But by the look of things ‘out there’, thousands upon thousands of people are still doing it the old-fashioned way and many of them don’t look too happy about it.
I’m not knocking gift-giving at all, just unquestioned, obligatory gift giving. In fact, I’ve already spent time this season thinking about what I wanted to give to the special people in my life, making my list and hitting the malls with gusto. I didn’t do it all alone – my wife and I have been doing it all together this year – supporting each other to not let ‘the crazy people out there’ get the best of us but instead, to keep the warm feeling of appreciation for those we care about in our hearts and to sustain that energy wherever we go. This will allow us to actually enjoy the holidays and that’s why I’m sharing this with you now.
I’m not challenging the ‘why’ of gift-giving exactly, even though people do go overboard sometimes, I’m only challenging the ‘how’ of gift buying and gift giving when it creates so much stress, anxiety, tension and even financially worry. It’s like people lose their minds in the process. Just entering the parking lot of a mall or plaza this time of year is risky. There are droves of busy people in competition with the very moment who seem to be overwhelmed by the obligatory chores of holiday gift giving, and that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. They are in competition mode and its survival of the fittest. Push or be pushed.
People get stressed, frustrated and irritated this time of year and when you put them all together in a closed space like a mall, you’re swimming in a sea of negative energy. Instead of kindness and patience, we see rudeness and selfishness. Instead of cheer and goodwill, we see sneers and ill will.
This is our invitation and wake-up call to presence.
So, imagine being calm and at peace, and allowing each instance of other people’s unconsciousness to be a reminder that we need more people like you around. Kind, calm, gentle, selfless, giving, generous, forgiving… the more you act like that, the more you’ll find the good in others and won’t let things get the better of you.
“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.”
~ Marianne Williamson
Should you choose to venture out to shop for presents, with presence, you will find yourself more easily navigating the parking lots, malls and stores as if you had an invisible shield around you repelling the negativity and parting the sea of rushing people (ok, that’s another holiday). Is it just wishful thinking? Put it to the test!
This idea of presence goes way beyond gift shopping though. When you’re present, you’re more relaxed, centered, and clear-headed, and thus have better judgment. When you have better judgment, you can manage your emotions and impulses better. You can dig deep within you and choose to remember and honor the meaning of it all. It’s something we need all year round, not just at Chanukah and Christmas, yet here we are in December, and we need a reminder now.
Consider nurturing your presence before the holiday season begins with a meditative practice once or twice a day. No matter when you’re reading this, it’s never too late to start. At the very least, ground and center yourself a few times a day to keep your connection to your authentic self strong. Instead of going through the season on automatic pilot, being driven by unquestioned obligations to buy too much, for too many people, that after the holidays you look at your credit card bill and say to yourself, “I’m never doing this again!”, you could change your ways this year and start a new tradition.
Mindful Gift Giving
If you’re into gift giving – sit down, relax, breathe deeply and think about the people you care about. Make a conscientious list of the people you will buy for and gift ideas that will symbolize what they mean to you. You can also prepare a reasonable budget or price limit, if that will help lift any stress of holiday debt. No one wants you to overspend and start the year off in the hole out of some feeling of obligation. Making such a conscientious list will help you be more focused, make shopping go quicker, and you won’t be as prone to impulse buys because of a big sale.
Then, use your presence to write a meaningful card and tell the people you care about what they mean to you – that is probably the most important part.
Wherever You Go, Be There Fully
With shopping out of the way, now you can give the greatest gift of all – your actual presence. Spend time with those you care about – even if it’s a phone call if you can’t be with them in person. Give them your presence – ask important questions, listen deeply, acknowledge them, really be there for them. Thank them for being in your life. Who needs your presence this time of year? Grandma? Dad? Siblings? An old friend? A lonely neighbor?
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
If you need help preparing yourself for events (holiday functions, dinners, parties, etc.) ground yourself beforehand and set a positive intention. Stay only as long as you wish. Perhaps even be more discriminating and choose which events you really want to go to and which you will pass on. Better to go with a full heart for a short time, than to completely drain yourself.
Conserve Your Energy
Conserve your own personal energy – stress builds up a toxic soup within you (stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, etc.) , which is depleting and not only can it ruin your mood or state of mind, you are more susceptible to getting colds because your immune system is compromised. Manage your energy, stay present, nurture positive emotion and you’ll end up feeling energized, clear, content, and open to see the true beauty of this season. This makes the way for more patience and a warm heart to rise to the surface, and that will have a positive effect on those around you, helping their presence to shine through. You give the best of yourself, you get the best of out of others and everybody is better off!
Take a Tech Break
When you’re spending time with your family or friends, take a technology break and put your phone/tablet/laptop down and talk about the important things in life, play an old-fashioned board-game, spend some time outdoors in nature, renew yourselves. Set an example and give them something to remember and cherish.
The most people really need is you – not your present – just your presence.
Keep these points in mind (and heart):
- Bring presence to your gift buying and giving – remember you don’t have to buy anyone anything but you can choose to and, you can do it with joy and appreciation in your heart.
- Your presence is a gift in itself to those who love you and it really is what people need and appreciate most.
- Presence is also a gift to your wellbeing and state of mind, which continually reinforces itself, helping you not only to mitigate stress but to fully enjoy each moment.