So the holiday season is upon us. Ugh you may be saying. Or maybe that was me recently. It tends to be a time of year that is is a hotbed of emotions for most of us. Being a social worker, I am more versed at the ways in which the holidays can be difficult than the ways in which they can be wonderful. But instead of making this discussion about how awful consumerism is, how challenging family dynamics can be or the financial and emotional pressure of it all, let’s talk about how to ignite the spirit inside us all. Remember the parts of the holiday that were exciting as a kid? How do we bring what mindfulness meditation calls “the beginner’s mind” into this holiday season? Beginner’s mind is the concept of seeing the world through the eyes of a small child. All the excitement, allure, whimsical energy that each day brings when you are young and impressionable. Young children and dogs are two of my favorite mindfulness teachers. They teach me how to be in each moment as if this moment is so incredibly different and unique from any other moment that I have experienced before. A dog barks at their owner and wags their tail as if they have never seen them before. They are in love all over again and again and again. Last weekend, when those mixed holiday emotions set in, I went out in the freezing cold and stood, as I always do, to see the lighting of the Christmas tree at Downtown Crossing in Boston. For me, it is the kickoff of the Christmas season. This year did not disappoint despite it being freezing cold! When that tree lit up and the confetti was released a big huge grin came across my face as if the cold hadn’t already touched my bones. This is a season that is complex and exhausting but also filled with opportunities for wonder and amazement. I am a kid over and over again as the lights light up, the music begins and the trees go up. I watch every Christmas special I can find on TV and sing along. Who doesn’t love a little Grinch tale or singing along with Santa Claus is Coming to Town? You know that you find yourself.bolting out a little Santa Baby with Ertha Kitt when she comes on the radio:) It’s these little fantasy oriented whimsical things about the holidays that balance out all the pressures and emotional challenges.
I have found the concept of beginner’s mind to be quite useful over time. My mind wants to believe that I know what is going to happen in any given situation because I have known that particular moment in the past. What my mind seems to lose track of is that there is no way I could have been in that moment in the past because it is only occurring right here, right now. There may have been a moment in the past that reminded me of this particular moment but it wasn’t the same. If we can release our ego and perceptions of how something IS GOING to be, we can find that there are opportunities to discover HOW IT ACTUALLY IS right now. Therefore each moment gets to be new every time and offer with it the possibility for a whole new experience. The holidays are a perfect time to practice beginner’s mind. The concept of tradition means that you do the same thing every year. This may carry with this some familiar warmth and comfort. But it may also carry with it expectations, obligations, a sense of loss of control and dread. How might the latter change if you are able to apply beginner’s mind to it? What might it be like to take control over your own experience and make it something new and beautiful? I have played with this over the past several years and found that it makes each year new and different. It brings back some of that whimsical wonder about the season that I love so much. This time of year is rich with the opportunities to honor endings and beginnings. If we stay present in the moment and see each holiday season as if we were a newborn baby, we stay aware to the special intricacies and nuances of the moment. Beginner’s mind allows us to be playful and release the burdens that weigh us adults down. This whimsical playful energy is why children seem so energized and excited around this time of year. We can get into a pattern of doing what we do because we do it; walking through life as if on autopilot and kind of like the walking dead. It is important for all of us to remember that we have choices both to do or not do whatever we are doing. We also chose how we are going to do what we do as well. We can choose to consume or not, to attend parties or gatherings or not, etc. So if we choose to do these things, beginner’s mind can help us to be conscious of the energy in which we apply to them.
For today, how might you embrace your own whimsical energy and begin all over again? How can you take back control and release what doesn’t work so that you have space to embrace what does? This weekend, I will get my Christmas tree, place the lights on it, sing songs, play with friends and begin to bring in the whimsy of a young child. When I take control over how I embrace the holiday I am able to open up to playing with the season rather than dreading it. This makes me happier and so too are all the people around me. May you find your own ways of bring joy into this holiday season.
Have fun today!