I think it was Ram Dass who is credited with saying–and I’m paraphrasing: if you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.
And here we are, staring down the barrel of the holidays trying our damnedest to be, or at least feel, somewhat enlightened while we determine who is hosting the family this year. We’ve got Mariah Carey blasting the same holiday mix in every Godforsaken big-box store, the shelves are floor-to-ceiling with all things made in China, and if you’re thinking about flying home for the holidays, you’d best get on it because the airlines have already warned us it’s going to be a doozy (or a boozy) of a travel year in the questionably friendly skies.
But rest easy Foxes! As usual, over here at LYA we’ve got you covered.
Introducing our Top Three Strategies to tame the holiday madness and lead you toward a super cool yule.
And it’s as easy as ABC.
A is for Acceptance
So let’s say you burn three batches of your signature cookie the morning of the annual cookie swap you happen to be hosting. Or you might think you’re getting a beautiful necklace only to find a Joni Mitchell CD in the box … #bastard! Or you know that during dinner, you are going to be seated next to Crazy Uncle John, who chews with his mouth open because he won’t stop rattling off about his latest asinine conspiracy theories.
In the recovery community, there is a strong belief that our level of serenity is directly proportional to our level of expectations. And people just fall short, amiright? We all do.
Now, to be clear, acceptance does not equate with being a doormat. But it does mean that we have enough clarity, kindness, and insight to recognize when we’ve set ourselves–and others–up for failure. And that usually revolves around wanting things (and people and our cookies) to be perfect.
And … ain’t nobody perfect.
When our expectations don’t match our reality, we are in for a troubled time. On the flipside, when we can learn to accept that shit happens, that some people are certifiably nuts, and sometimes we burn the cookies, our level of serenity hits the ceiling and we can have a more elevated–dare I say enlightened–holiday experience.
B is for Boundaries
First of all, let’s learn to say No.
It is so common for our boundaries to get super leaky around the holidays and we often forget that No is a legit word in our vocabulary and it can function as a complete sentence.
In the language of Ayurveda, Prana is our life force. It’s the subtle form of vata dosha and is responsible for our energy and vitality. Prana is mobile–it comes, it goes, we can lose it, we can contain it. If we’ve got holes in our Burberry coat, the integrity and strength of the coat is compromised, as is our warmth, comfort, and serenity. Likewise, if we’ve got holes in our energy field, our own integrity and strength is compromised. As well as our warmth, comfort and serenity.
Our friend Sarah Kucera, in her book The Ayurvedic Self Care Handbook, has laid out a “pranic budget” for you. She shows you, step by step, how you can use this concept to create more time, be more efficient, and use your energy in a wiser way.
Three of the most common ways in which we lose Prana are through people, places and playthings.
- People – some people just suck the life right out of you.
- Places – overstimulation can do it; bright lights, loud noises, late nights. Rock concerts. Casinos. Sam’s Club!
- Playthings – by playthings, we are referring to an overuse of our gadgets, smart phones in particular, video games, and too much television.
When our Prana is leaking out of us in all directions, our energy wanes, our ojas is depleted, and we become more susceptible to ama (toxicity), discomfort, and ultimately disease. We’ve simply got to be good stewards of our Prana. Nobody else will do it for us.
Oh, and one more thing with regards to boundaries: always have your own wheels.
I learned this when I first got sober and it continues to be instrumental to my sanity (and my sobriety, lol). If you know you are going to be with people who will push your buttons or in a situation that may push you over the edge, best to make a plan in advance. If you can’t have your own wheels, consider bringing a pair of appropriate shoes so you can take a walk around the block for 20 minutes to decompress, get some fresh air, and restore your vital energy, your Prana. You gotta have an escape plan, an escape route.
And if you’re hosting the event?
One tactic you can take if physically leaving the house isn’t an option is to keep one room totally off-limits to your guests. If you have a partner or co-host, have a signal you can give them when you need to step away for 10 minutes. This gives them the opportunity to steer the party for a bit and allows you the opportunity for a time-out in a predetermined safe space.
C is for Contribute
For many of us, the holidays can trigger painful memories of loss, abandonment, grief, trauma, and anger.
When I was 12, my family experienced an enormous tragedy 3 days before Christmas. The details are irrelevant, but let’s just say it set me up for a series of shitty Christmases for the next several decades. I tumbled head-over-heels down the rabbit hole of rage and resentment, and carried a giant-ass bucket of self pity on my shoulder for a long, long time.
There is no one easy answer to how I came out on the other side of this. Trauma is complex and a number of things happened to help get me in the right place at the right time with the right mindset, but a key component for me was service work.
When I was 25 or 26, I began volunteering at a shelter in downtown Denver. The Samaritan House. That gave me a big push off the self-pity train. Contributing financially, if you are able, is always helpful and desperately needed by most organizations, but there is just something extra about hands-on service work.
This isn’t something that is appropriate only during the holidays, but if you’ve been thinking about volunteering, perhaps this holiday season can kickstart you to consider making a monthly or bi-monthly commitment to an area shelter, a food bank, or another cause.
If you don’t have the time or ability to volunteer, consider giving gifts or simply doing something thoughtful without looking for recognition. I recently found out that my elderly neighbor is battling bone cancer. We also happen to know he loves Oreos. Guess what is going to magically appear in his mailbox soon! That’s right … Doublestuffs!
Several years ago, I was working with yoga students who were studying for their teaching certification. On this particular weekend, we were studying dharma, karma, and seva, and for the seva portion of our day, we took action. It was late winter and we were in downtown Tulsa. I had made a few dozen PBJ sandwiches, wrapped them in paper, and the students and I bagged them each with a piece of fruit and a granola bar. We threw on our coats, walked down to the bus station, and handed them out to any of the travelers who wanted one.
Then we headed over to the public library. Each of us had to identify a book that had helped or touched us in some way. We wrote a thoughtful and encouraging note about the book on a post-it and once we found our book, we stuck the post-it randomly in the pages for the next reader to find. How much fun to be on the receiving end of a short note of encouragement!
The possibilities to serve others are endless.
Contributing in whatever way you can not only helps us find meaning and gain perspective, but it will also change your karma for the better.
A = acceptance
B = boundaries
C = contribute
I bet we could come up with something for every letter of the alphabet, don’t you think?
Let’s get to it!
Here’s to happier holidays y’all.
Xoxo – lb (+ an)