I therefore surrender to the fact that there's not much I can do...there it is in our collective unconscious eager to come through! And, really, who can blame us? Something happens at Christmas time - it's as if the air itself changes and gets a bit sweeter. You can sense the anticipation, the excitement, and everyone seems just a little more open than usual. We call it the "spirit of the season", and perhaps that's the best description of that palpable energy shift that takes place. I think Christmas is a yearly reminder of who we really are when we are at our best, and no wonder there are so many gatherings during this time...when we are feeling our best, we want to share it with others!
But, there is a shadow side to all of the festivities and pretty boxes of egg nog stacked strategically on the grocery shelves that a vegan like me can only admire at a distance! The shadow side is that we can, if we're not careful, lose ourselves in all of the expectations and pressures that often accompany the Christmas holiday.
It is easy to slip off the scale of moderation and fall into excess with so many alluring temptations to eat more, do more, shop more, party more, drink more and so on. This may cause some of us to feel imbalanced physically and emotionally, to feel overwhelmed by social pressures, and even to feel depressed. In the same way that the holidays can bring an extra buzz (without caffeine) of excitement to our lives, it can also feel quite frenetic, as if we are caught in a whirlwind.
So, my antidote for this shadow side of Christmas is to stay as present as possible with all that is happening to and around me. In other words, to find my still point in the midst of the activity and make that my "home base", my touchstone. Think of our galaxy's spiraling arms around that stationary center of light and you'll get a good visual. When I stay connected to that still point, the interesting thing is I find myself enjoying the energy, the excitement and the beauty of the holidays even more. I am both a participant and an observer of whatever is taking place. Each moment becomes a practice in presence.
This is just one practical application of a very ancient yogic technique of self-inquiry that stems from the path of yoga known as 'Jnana'. 'Jnana' simply means 'wisdom'. So, what are some ways that you can give yourself the gift of presence this Christmas so that you can move through the holidays with wisdom, grace and ease? Here are 10 Zen steps - you can follow all of them or just choose the one that most appeals to you:
1. DO ONE THING AT A TIME, SLOWLY, DELIBERATELY AND COMPLETELY
2. BREATHE DEEPLY - OFTEN
3. DEVOTE TIME DAILY TO JUST SITTING OR MEDITATING
4. PUT YOUR BARE FEET IN THE EARTH ONCE A DAY
5. SMILE AND SERVE OTHERS
6. CREATE A SACRED SPACE IN YOUR HOME THAT IS JUST FOR YOU TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE
7. NOTICE ONE THING DIFFERENT EVERYDAY ON YOUR JOURNEY TO WORK
8. SEE BEAUTY IN THE MUNDANE
9. BEFORE EATING, LOOK AT EVERYTHING ON YOUR PLATE DEEPLY AND GIVE THANKS
10. NURTURE YOUR BODY THROUGH EXERCISE AND MASSAGE