Happy Holidays and all that jazz! The holiday season is such an interesting time of year. There is so much pressure for things to be larger than life; over the top. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy. And what happens in reality? Most people are more miserable than at any other time of the year. The pressure for everyone to be on their best behavior seems to only bring out the worst in most. Such an interesting phenomenon. I imagine that it stems from the fact that how we are supposed to become so over the top happy is by living primarily externally and constantly in the service of pleasing others; or trying to anyway. Most of this contrived happiness either comes from the buying of material goods or by forcing connections with others that are not genuinely there. Not to put a reality damper on the parade but this is generally what is going on for most. For me, the holidays always are a mixed bag. I find aspects of them to be fun and heart warming and others to be very overwhelming emotionally. The way in which I embrace what works is by becoming more kid like. I know what you are thinking, here we are discussing the realities of the material world with a picture of a massive lighted tree outside of a Macy’s Department Store. Oh the irony. But yes, this is one of my favorite traditions that I do every year. I love to see the tree lighting and listen to the Boston Children’s chorus sing. When the tree is lit and the confetti is blown, I light up like a tree within. I love Christmas music and Christmas specials. I love all things over the top cheesy about Christmas. At the same time there is a part of me that wishes that the holidays would pass even faster than they do. This part of me struggles with the discomfort I feel around this season. The reason for the discomfort is less important than the actual discomfort itself. Since discomfort is at the heart of our suffering I thought there would be not better time than the present to bring it up!
Wanting life to be different than it is seems to be a point of tension for many of us. Wanting to push away that which is uncomfortable and painful to embrace that which is joyous and free. The interesting thing that I have found about my life is that the more I engage in this struggle, the more of this struggle I see. Trying to block out pain in any way, whether through avoidance tactics, substance use, food, relationships, etc. only lasts momentarily. For those that have some level of awareness, they know that they are avoiding that which can’t truly be avoided anyway. It’s only when we remain in denial that we believe this actually may be a possibilility. I may not want to feel uncomfortable but I am now at the point of accepting that this is part of the path that leads towards happiness. Sitting with my own loneliness, anger, frustration and sadness and allowing myself to feel these complicated emotions allows me to also be able to release them. Due to the constant noise of cheer that we are supposed to be feeling, people only up indulging in more food, drink and isolation than they normally would just to get through the season. Numbing oneself is always an option but it is surely an option that will not lead towards happiness. We can try to hide from our discomfort but it always finds us. It is by going into the dark places that we are finally able to see the light. The light does not come to us because we went through tough times. Why is that you ask? Well because we are going through the tough times because we are human. No one gets out of this lifetime without some suffering. Once I began to accept that fact, how I viewed my own struggles shifted dramatically. Life has been quite difficult at times lately. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. There is no better life over the rainbow. It is only going through the tough times that brings that shine from within.
For me, I like my dose of reality with a little dose of fantasy. I don’t watch movies or listen to music that is dark and brooding. I know what that is like; I don’t need more of it. I choose to balance being with my feelings of discomfort with being with the parts of the holiday that genuinely bring me joy. I choose to notice that which I am grateful for along side the things that are not working. Working on allowing life to unfold as it should and being grateful for the process is a spiritual practice in and of itself. I have begun to try to put it into practice more often lately so that I can begin to be a witness of my existence rather than a judgmental cricic like the old men on The Muppets. The critic in my head is taking notes and naming things as right or wrong; good and not good; comfortable and uncomfortable. The critic in my head often tells me that things are not as they should be and that I am the one to fault for that. When I can notice that life unfolds as it should, life becomes exciting and wonder filled. I had several experiences recently in creating my yoga project, Soba Yoga, that proved this theory right on. Once I let go and began to trust the Universe more, people have been showing up from all over to come to class. Some driving quite far in fact. Life has felt difficult emotionally lately and then I look at the wonders that the Universe is tossing at me and I think “ya that’s life you take the good with the bad.” In fact it’s all just experience. Some of those experiences feel better and more comfortable than others but they are all just life experiences. I spent a lot of time in the past wondering “why?” in frustration and anger. I now say to myself “because you are human and a spiritual soul that is meant to grow.” I don’t want things to be easy because easy doesn’t get me anywhere in life. What helps you to allow life to unfold as it should? What do you do when you get your temper tantrums and wish things were different than they are? I often will just give myself a chance to let it all out and then I work on acceptance and forgiveness.
Best wishes along way towards the holidays. Breathe, laugh, cry, and smile. Invite all of it in because it’s all here to wish you well on your journey!