Saturday, December 4, 2010

Peace on Earth: no-stress holiday thoughts

What can be more cheery & bright than the holiday season!? But for so many, November and December are chaotic, draining & unhealthy.
How can we practice peace and non-harm when the season of giving turns into the season of road rage, junk food and exhausting over-commitments? Here are some ideas...

BE HONEST- kindly say no to any commitments you can't comfortably make. Being open & honest in the first place eliminates the emotional breakdown or disappointing last minute cancellations.

BE PRESENT- take things one day, one moment at a time. We get overwhelmed when we think too far ahead. Being present helps us to keep a broader perspective- realize that rushing or frustration are not inevitable and that in this moment, you can take a deep breath and be okay.
A little bit of planning and a lot of just being here and now goes a long way towards maintaining inner peace, all year long. During this, the busiest season of the year, it goes even further. Being here and now is the best way to enjoy each moment with our loved ones, which is what the season is truly about.

BE DIFFERENT- don't like the mall vibe? Well, then don't go there! Gifts don't have to come from the mall! In fact, if you avoid the malls & bigger commercial centers, you avoid a great deal of what's not so nice about this season.
Shop at smaller, locally-owned shops and boutiques. Make creative, simple gifts. And if you need to shop from the big chain stores, save energy ( & gas) and shop online.
Look for fair-trade and sweatshop free gifts. Think of giving useful gifts instead of more knick-knacks. Gift baskets of gourmet & wholesome, organic, fair-trade foods can be delightful. Think of what your loved one enjoys most, and create a unique mix of items that will soothe, inspire or heal them. If you are splurging anyways, always consider the most eco-friendly option to assure none are harmed by your giving. Enjoy the process of choosing gifts, be creative, and you will be doing yourself a great kindness too.

BE PREPARED- what makes us feel like more of a grouch than eating too much white flour and sugar? Eat healthy meals and pack healthy lunches for work. Eat every 3-4 hours so that you are never starving (thats when we eat a plate of cookies- when we were way too hungry to begin with). Bring healthy foods when asked to contribute to holiday parties, such as butternut squash soup, whole wheat quick breads, crudites, low-sugar apple cobbler, or veggie pates. Eat before going to parties, never go starving. Drink plenty of water with all those dry, crunchy party snack. Nibble & sample, but focus on the people or ambiance, not just the food.

BE COMPASSIONATE- think about the less fortunate during the holidays. Much of the holiday stress comes the infusion of capitalistic materialism into an otherwise deeply meaningful, universally significant season. Consider some form of volunteerism once a week to give back and stay humble. Animal shelters, hospitals, soup kitchens or homeless shelters are always looking for helpers. Or get friends together to knit scarves for the homeless or bake nice things for the soup kitchen, or any other creative way to offer more joy to those less fortunate then ourselves. In this way we slow-down and connect to the greater meaning of the season.

BE CENTERED- most people drastically alter their routes this time of year. They stop going to yoga class or the gym, their usual sleep schedule is shoved aside, they stop that lunch-time walk or eat more take-out instead of cooking dinners at home like usual. Perhaps that may free an hour or two, but severing from grounding, nuturing routines leaves us feeling unfocused, adrift and anxious. It's likely that you will alter your schedules somehow during the holidays, but aim for some routine to keep you centered. Keep up your exercise routine, or create a shorter routine for the season. Maybe take ten minutes to meditate each morning- sit comfortably and just breathe. Feel the moment and be no where else. Indulge in that ten minutes of just being and you will set a peaceful, focused tone for your whole day.

BE SIMPLE- some of the stress of the holiday season arises from our desire to give gifts to everyone that we care about, and not feeling that we have enough money to do so. We want to give gifts that can make our friends & family happy and show them how much we care. Its hard to compete with all of those flashy, trendy presents we see advertised. Truly, most of us need less stuff & more substance anyways. Think of simple ways to use your skills (or learn new ones) to turn just a little bit of raw materials, some time, and lots of love into hearty homemade gifts. Store-bought flash can never express love like hand-made cards & gifts can. Bake artisinal loaves of bread, knit gloves, sew a simple throw pillow out of old t-shirts, make ornaments from natural found objects, write poems, paint, frame a photograph, make a collage from old magazines, give I.O.U's for massage, help with projects, walks, tea time visits, etc. If you have a big family, consider drawing names & each person only has to buy one gift, secret santa-style. Or perhaps decide that only the children receive gifts.

Truly, we have to remember why we are so driven to give this season- because we love. Nothing is more precious then the quality of attention given to our loved ones everyday. Stay present as much as possible to soak in the light of love, the joy of sharing and the warmth of being together. Do that and the true bliss and peace of the season will be yours.

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