The Holiday Hurricane

Holiday time has become an interesting time for me. I’m not sure how I got here, but I find myself in a vortex of emotions at the end of every year around holiday time. I tend to distance myself from people who love me, my hands are cold, I feel irritated by all of the Christmas music playing everywhere I go, except for Jingle Bell Rock, and I crawl into my mental cave the entire month of December and dream of lying on a Hawaiian beach with a fruity adult beverage in my hand.

Holiday Stress

Part of the problem lies in the collective community stress that the holiday season brings. People seem to be uptight about getting their decorations up and getting their holiday cards out. They stress over buying their relatives obligatory gifts under the time clock, and they bounce around from one party to the next while having to decide who gets their attention and who gets left out. This can be a difficult time to coordinate.

Holiday Confusion

I remember having these unfamiliar feelings as a small child, and not knowing how to deal with them or even how to process them. It certainly didn’t help that one year, when I was eight, my mother said to me and my nine year old sister, “O.K. girls, Christmas has gotten out of hand. From now on, we are celebrating Hanukkah.” And we did. After all, we’re Jewish. Down came the fake Christmas tree and out came the Menorah. Do you think I’m a little bit confused? Ummm, I think YES!

My immediate family only celebrates two Jewish holidays…Passover and Hanukkah. But for the past couple of years we’ve chosen to Pass Over Hanukkah. “Here’s $100, kids. Go buy something that you can’t live without.” Talk about deflating the holiday balloon. Don’t worry about me, though. It is what it is and fortunately I’ve learned to work it into my life. Thankfully, my closest friends and family members know this about me, so I don’t have to spend much time explaining to anyone my aberrant behavior around the holidays.

My tension around this part of the holiday season drives my partner crazy and it certainly doesn’t do anything for our warm and cozy love. “It’s about the joys of giving and receiving”, he says. My response is always the same, “Well don’t bother getting me anything for Christmas this year. Save your money and take me to Paris next spring instead.” He rolls his eyes with a tiny hope that next year will be better and that I will all of a sudden “get it” and blend in with everyone else.

Coping Through the Holidays

Whenever I feel that I am about to be swept away by the Holiday Hurricane, I remind myself to pay attention to the empty spaces, to the seemingly unimportant things through the mindfulness technique, and it almost always seems to prepare me for anything. This is about paying attention to the quiet moments within the conversation, to the blank spaces in the room between the furniture and the walls, and to the emptiness within nature. These places are where much of life’s magic exists! It’s not about all the words, or the actions or the stuff. When I do this, it seems to dissolve the emotional tension.

I first learned about mindfulness meditation in the 1990′s when I discovered the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophic Living and Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation is about learning to experience life fully as it unfolds—moment by moment. It’s a terrific way to keep you on the train tracks. One popular misconception about meditation is that it is a way to make your mind blank so you can escape from what you are feeling. It is not about
running away, or manipulating mental states. Although, sometimes I feel these tactics would be much easier!

A Holiday Meditation

Hold a raisin or similar food substance in your hand. Stare at it while you move it around in your fingers, looking at the cracks and crevices on its surface. Squish it between your fingers and feel its plumpness. Pay attention to its color, size and texture. When you feel connected to the raisin, put it in your mouth but do not bite down on it. Roll the raisin around in your mouth, feeling the grooves with your tongue, paying attention to how it rolls around on your cheeks and the roof of your mouth. You may even extract a tiny bit of flavor by this time. The raisin may begin to get soft and squishy as you roll it around and mix it with your saliva. Pay attention to every detail. When you feel even more connected to your raisin, and are getting to the place where you are noticing a boredom setting in, bite down on the raisin. Notice how soft or firm it is. Notice how it pulverizes with the chewing process. The most striking thing you may notice is the explosion of flavor from that little raisin. It’s a flavor that you have never experienced from a raisin before. Just be present with it. Experience it. Enjoy every second of it, every calorie, and every sensation from it. Chew it up into a pulpy mass and eventually swallow it when you feel complete and ready to digest it. Feel the mush going down your throat and esophagus. Notice the residue or tiny pieces of raisin left behind in your teeth and between your cheeks. Pay attention to everything. When the process is complete, sit quietly in time and space and just be. This is called mindfulness. Practice this at least once a day with relationships, with your food, or while you are sitting quietly somewhere and feel the magic!

The holiday season is personal, and means different things to different people. It can be a joyous time for being in a loving connection with your most favorite people. It is my hope for you that you do not get swept away by the Holiday Hurricane this year, and that you have the most amazing holiday season ever. It is my hope for me that someday I will eventually ”get it” and blend in with everyone else…

Quote for the day: Spirituality and materialism coexist. It is the mind and attitude which decide which attracts more, and to what extent. Remez Sasson