Monthly Archives: December 2016

Christmas

Any client who has worked with me knows I talk about expectations a lot, because they affect everything in our lives – our relationships, our jobs, how we view our lives in general. . .

The holidays are no different. My office is busier this time of year than any other. Most years, the sun is less visible, causing a lower level of vitamin D and more cases of the blues, if not depression. Some of us have lost someone close to us, and are trying to decide how to make a holiday work in the midst of the pain and emptiness.  And then there is the anticipation of celebrations that we fear will not measure up to expectations, or the letdown when they didn’t – but mostly I hear the awareness that it won’t actually come close to what it’s “supposed to be”.

In fact, there may be more expectations wrapped around holidays than any other time of year. The media throws romanticized versions at us, dictating what is “traditional”. Many people believe holidays should be spent with loving family where everyone smiles and laughs and gets along wonderfully. If it doesn’t turn out that way – or if their family doesn’t look like that, they feel upset or down that their family is so dysfunctional. And some are just depressed because they don’t have family to spend the holidays with – or can’t be with their family, and feel they have nothing to look forward to at all.

The truth is holidays were seldom, if ever the way the media portrays them for most of us. Movies, TV shows and songs are forms of art. Art is supposed to evoke emotions, so it often portrays things more extremely to reach that sentimental place within each of us.

My husband and I had a few years where we couldn’t connect with any family for the holidays. What we did was to start a new tradition. A couple of Thanksgivings were spent in a Bed & Breakfast at a tourist location where there was lots of shopping and interesting restaurants. One Christmas, we went to a different movie each day for 3 days. The point is that we spent time doing things that we enjoy doing, but seldom have time for.

I love being with family, and this year, our Christmas is exciting because we will be able to spend some time with our daughter and granddaughter, then take our granddaughter with us to Chicago where we’ll be able to celebrate with our son, daughter-in-law and our brand new grandson!  If we watch, we can learn from our children.  They constantly remind us to stay in the moment and to be in awe of everything that shows up!  I’m hoping this Christmas will be a time full of love, but I’ve learned that the only way it can be is if I go into it without expectations of how everyone should behave. I love them for who they are, not who I want them to be. l don’t have control over them.

What I can be responsible for is preparing myself by allowing time for exercise, meditation and eating a relatively healthy diet.  I know those things contribute to a better mood for me, and I’m less impulsive and reactive when I do those things.

Finally, I prepare by remembering that (for me) Christmas means giving to others, remembering with love those who are not here in the same way as they once were, and feeling gratitude (and yes, awe) for the abundance that is in my life.

I wish each and every one of you that same abundance and peace.

Remaining Centered in This Holiday Season

I have a confession.  I have become obsessed about our incoming government and what it might mean for our country.  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you probably have figured that out, but you may also know that I try to live on my spiritual side as much as possible.  That has become more difficult since the election.  As I’ve struggled to get back to the routine that I know works for me, I have turned to authors who have always helped put things in perspective.  One of those is Neale Donald Walsch, so I have been re-listening to his book THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.  One passage blew my mind because, even though we wrote it in 2013 (Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Get the book if you don’t understand), I identified with it NOW!  Following is my blog for this week where I explain what’s been rattling around in my head recently:

I usually try to align my message here with both the season and what is going on around us. Since it’s December, I want to address the stress we all feel this time of year.  But this year feels different. It seems that every day we wake up to something more outrageous and unbelievable.  Things are happening in our government and society that most of us never imagined possible in our country.  This engenders fear, because we humans tend to feel safer when everything stays the same.

It’s hard to get into the holiday spirit when so many frightening things are happening all around us and what used to be unacceptable behavior appears to have become the norm. Throughout daily life, most of us want to maintain a sense of calm, peace and connection with what we believe is at our core. We see ourselves as genuinely good people, who sometimes have difficult moments we have to manage. During those difficult moments, we want the best, but may be unsure how to produce that because this is all so unprecedented.

We want to be able to continue with our life goals and work that has meaning for us without interruption. And we want to celebrate and acknowledge the meaning the holidays have for us. But how can we remain centered when so-called “real life” tends to get in the way? Typically those times of “real life” include getting caught up with paying the bills, meeting the deadline, taking care of ourselves and others, keeping all those balls in the air. . ,

But recently, we have the added concern about the impending differences in how our society will proceed, which directly effects each of us in very real ways, regardless of whether we wanted a change or not.  I’m not saying there weren’t changes that were needed – and shaking things up a little here & there can be good (with a plan); but we’re looking at an about-face that is at the heart of who we’ve always been as a people.

For many, (some of this is from Walsch & some is from my clients) it feels like utter disaster (possibly a  global crisis) is on the horizon, and our entire system is about to collapse; life is an unending struggle; things will only get worse and we won’t be able to survive any of this and be happy again. We are deeply immersed in this view of life.  Even those of us who have typically been optimistic, have gravitated toward this perspective.

So how can we stay centered when something so huge becomes the obstacle? Some say God is the answer, but then they insist on making God an angry, violent and vindictive diety; which gives them a perfect rationale for themselves to be angry, violent and vindictive with others. (Neale Donald Walsch)  Others say there is no such thing as God, hence there is no source to guide us through any of this, so we’re each on our own to do the best we can with what we have.  These are the extremes.  Of course there are others who put their trust in a God/Source and feel comfort from that.

But regardless of our beliefs, the answer is that we need to return to that place within, that we have each found when we were meditating, praying, listening to or performing music, working out, playing with our children – whatever it is for each of us that gets us into that place of well-being.

In my blog a couple of weeks ago I explained stopping meditations; where we trigger ourselves to stop whatever we are doing several times a day for just a minute, to get out of our heads and into the moment.  That’s one way to take us back to that place.  Another is sitting meditation, walking meditation, anything we can do to get the focus out of our heads for a bit. The purpose of any meditation is not to just clear the mind of thoughts, but to put our attention elsewhere – our breath, an object on our desk, a flower, a burning candle – anything that can relieve the tension, if even for a moment.

So when things feel so out of whack like they have lately, there is one thing that works for me to put it in a framework that makes more sense. I step back and try to view this life from the perspective of looking down on the whole picture, as if it were a small ant community – where I  (the observer) can see it all playing out and recognize that when the ants appear to be stuck, it’s just tiny pebbles that are in their way.  They probably seem like huge boulders to the ants, just like my problems feel like the end of the world as I know it.

According to Neale Donald Walsch in THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS, it really is a gravitational force that pulls us downward.  When we get caught up in this mindset, we really do feel the gravity of the situation and all we can see is the “grave” nature of what we assume to be our only possible future.

Here is a quote from Walsch that gives me hope:

“. . . you can choose not to gravitate, but to elevate. You can choose to elevate your thinking, elevate your declarations, and elevate your expectations through elevation of your inner self to your Eternal Awareness, where you clearly see what Consciousness is placing before you. And you see it not as the end of anything, but as the beginning of everything. Certainly, of everything that really matters. For even if the whole of our exterior world does “fall apart”—which is not going to happen­—even if our economic systems totally collapse, and our political systems completely cave in, and our religious systems suddenly dissolve, and even if every social system utterly disintegrates, there will still be us. And, fascinatingly, we will no longer be separated, because we will all be in the same boat. With the disbanding of our systems will come the disbanding of our separations. No longer will we see each other as rich or poor, no longer will it matter if we are Democrat or Republican, no longer will the labels conservative or liberal, Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu have any separating power. It won’t matter if we are black or white, gay or straight, male or female, young or old … and we will see, actually—finally see—that all these “systems” we had put in place to make it a better world did nothing but separate us. So all that would happen is that our artificial differences would dissolve, our separations would disappear, our imagined “superiority” would be laughingly discarded, and our inability to compromise on even the smallest things would instantly evaporate as we all strived together to build a newer world”.

Walsch goes on to give a list of 10 aftereffects that (I’m trying to summarize an extensive list here) end separation, discrimination and environmental destruction, bring an acceptance of a limitless equality and raise all of us to the highest expression of Self.  I know –  this may be too idealistic for you, and I have no doubt it would take much longer than the next 4 years to accomplish (which is not something any of us want to consider right now)! But for me, it does generate some peace to conceptualize what we are dealing with in this way.

So as we go into our holidays in the next couple of weeks, I will still maintain my vigilance in doing my part to prevent destruction of our democracy by calling my representatives and to help keep others aware of things they might not see on network news.  But I am also committing to keeping these concepts in mind in order to remain in the spirit of connection to every person with whom I agree on political specifics  – but even more to strengthen a connection to those with whom I do not agree.  I will consistently revisit my methods of going back to that place of peace within the storm, as I keep in mind what the upcoming holiday means for me.

It may seem like a stretch, but I hope this blog might help you re-examine your perception and enable you each to remain in the spirit of connection and love as well.  Remember, we’re all in this together, regardless of our beliefs, our lifestyles or how we look. I wish you each a tranquil holiday season.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.  

-The Talmud

Remembering Your Choices During the Holidays

If you find yourself getting more stressed as the season continues, here are a few things to keep in mind.

CHOOSE to stay in the present rather than dwelling on past experiences and traditions that place high expectations on you and others.

CHOOSE to keep a sense of humor about it all.

CHOOSE to take a break occasionally and do something different — like taking a walk, deep breathing, or calling a friend who will understand and not judge you.

CHOOSE to avoid major life changes during the holidays. If at all possible, this is not a good time to move, change jobs, or begin or end relationships.

CHOOSE to keep a running list of Gratitude — helps the attitude. There is much to be said about counting your blessings rather than stewing in your sorrows.

CHOOSE to start a new tradition this year. If your family isn’t healthy for you to be around, find something else to do that you enjoy — sleep in, take a short trip, read that book you haven’t been able to find time to get to — or just spend time with someone you enjoy being around. A change of scenery can be especially helpful – fewer reminders of the negative past experiences. And if you go somewhere you’ve never been, you have to be more in the moment just to find your way around.

CHOOSE to take one day – hour – minute at a time. We can get through anything for a short period of time, easier than thinking in terms of “forever”.

CHOOSE to remember that we have choices in how we look at things.

Best Wishes for a great Holiday Season!!