The Holiday Season. It’s just rounded the corner and is only a few steps behind us. In a couple of days, it will be here. If you’ve looked around in retails stores, it’s been here for a while – since the day after Halloween. Christmas trees have been up and decorated, all things red and green is are on display, and we’re being encouraged to gear up for savings on Black Friday.
However, if we look around at nature, she is calling us to a very different experience. We are being invited to slow down and turn inward, as we move from the bounty of the dark/light balance of Autumnal Equinox into the increased darkness and starkness of the Winter Solstice. The light is softer and shorter, temperatures are colder, trees become bare, and colors shift from autumn’s red orange vividness into the muted gray tones of winter’s rest.
Like the trees releasing their leaves, we, too, are encouraged to let go and shed what we no longer need, to withdraw from the busy-ness of the external world and enter into the soothing, quiet space of interior silence. This darkness and stillness is a necessary component for growth, budding, and blooming; it’s a required element for the newness within to gestate, incubate, and come into manifestation in the spring. This is a very important time to slow down and put all of the sowing and tilling and weeding and tending and reaping….all the doing….on a much-needed pause.
And yet, it’s nearly The Holiday Season, which, as we typically experience it, bears little resemblance to our invitations from nature. Once Thanksgiving begins, instead of slowing down and tuning in, we are pulled fast-forward into the epic season of crazy busy: the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, cleaning, scheduling, partying, and everything else that goes along with all of that. For some people, this is a time of anticipation and great joy; celebrating wonderful traditions with a close-knit family. However, for others, it’s a time of huge anxiety; being around a dysfunctional family and all the stress and eggshell-walking that inevitably happens with that.
Take all of that and pat it into a ball and many of us end up with a huge, incongruent ball of conflict. Nature is saying one thing, society is saying the opposite, and if you’ve got to be around difficult and people like I did for a very long time…well, it can be really hard to maintain a strong sense of groundedness, connection, and self-awareness.
What’s a Yogi to do? Meditate more? Yes, maybe. But I found that the power lies in the pause: little one or two breath mini-meditations in the midst of whatever you’re finding yourself doing. Not only does the pause have power to help us to stay connected, but the real power lies in the remembering to pause. In order to pause in the first place, we’ve got to remind ourselves to do it. And when the going gets tough, the forgetfulness usually increases.
In the early days of my study with Erich, he used to talk about one of the best tricks I’ve learned for remembering to pause: a watch timer. This was way before the smartphone was invented. When my kids were little, I remember using the repeating timer function on my Timex watch as a reminder to pause during the day, to stop, breathe, and drop the current level of tension. I think I had it set for every couple of hours. The watch would beep and our whole family, actually, would stop what we were doing and take a conscious breath together. It’s a beautiful and very handy tool to use. After a while, I found that I didn’t need the timer anymore. It would beep, and I would find myself already present and aware. When the technique does it’s job and gets us into the experience over and over, we no longer need the technique as we did before.
However, when the dreaded Holiday Season started creeping up on me, I found myself trading self-awareness for anxiety. The family situations were so difficult that I couldn’t maintain my ground, even through all practice and years of study I had done up to that point.
One particular year was so intense that I knew there had to be something I could do to keep myself sane. “Ah, the timer!” I remembered. So, at that holiday gathering, I set my repeating timer to go off every 30 minutes. The room was so loud with everyone talking, so when it went off, nobody even noticed. I could reach down without even looking, hit the button which stopped and restarted it, take a breath, remember who I was, pull the awareness back into my center point, drop the tension, and keep going. After about an hour, I set it to go off every 15 minutes, and then I think I was down to about every 5 minutes before the end of that day. Again, nobody could hear it. Nobody, except my husband and kids, knew what I was up to. And I was able to manage my anxiety, stay present, keep my boundary strong and bright, and not lose myself to the dysfunction. It was one of the best holidays ever.
If your holidays are like mine used to be, give it a try. It’s such a great way to remember to stay centered. Many of the people who were so hard for me to be around back then have passed away; however, I still find that have a lot of residual anxiety when the holiday season rounds the corner. I’m feeling it now, actually. In fact, I just reached down and set my watch timer for 30 minutes.
May we all find moments to pause as we move through this holiday season. May we experience the gift of presence, of slowing down, of letting the darkness wrap it’s healing cloak around us for a much-needed rest. Let’s relax into the simplicity, shed what doesn’t serve us and, if need be, set the timer to remind us to remember who we are.
Love and peace to everyone,