You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice Mindfulness, and Christmas is a time of year when we could all use a little peace and stress relief.
As a person who was raised Christian, Christmas was always a time for celebrating, decorating, sharing and feeling some very deep emotions.
I see no reason not to continue that tradition, as it fits perfectly into my Buddhist practice today.
I “converted” (you don’t really convert) to Buddhism almost a decade ago, and I find the entire Christmas season to be an opportunity for a very transformative mindfulness practice, in and of itself.
I decorate my tree with dry flowers to remind myself of life’s impermanence, and try to create the most joyous time for friends and family with the parties I throw.
But with all the fun and excitement of the season comes a menagerie of wild emotions of all shapes and sizes, ranging from holly jolly to downright grizzly.
It’s a stressful, emotional time of year for so many people, for so many reasons, and I find the tasks of decorating a Christmas tree, making little Christmas crafts for my mantle and, of course, making treats for friends and family all come with both difficult emotions and sweetness.
It’s a time when feelings are tied up in ribbons, so it’s no surprise that some folks may burst into tears while making Christmas cookies or feel confusingly blue when the snowflakes start to fall.
So many difficult Christmas emotions stem from feelings of not being or having enough.
We feel we don’t have enough money, we’re not throwing the best party, we’re not being the best mom or dad, we’re not being invited to all the other Christmas parties, we don’t have enough time.
We miss people who are no longer here or who we haven’t seen in a long time. We feel a lack of affection. There’s something we don’t have and we feel it.
Perhaps it’s because when we were little, Christmas was very much a time for receiving; receiving attention and affection from family members, eating yummy foods and, of course, opening presents.
We were made to feel like we were so special. All we had to do was go to bed early and get what our year of good behavior had coming to us. Everything was provided for us.
Oh, how times have changed! We’re the givers now. We’re givers of time and energy, and we’re the ones who have to create the magic, ourselves, for others.
It’s of the utmost importance to be kind to yourself during this time.
Let emotions rise and fall, and not drown them in tasty seasonal cocktails (I know, I’m a bad influence). Monitor how much you can handle and listen to your heart if you’re taking on too much.
If you’re getting overwhelmed or if feelings are confusing and uncomfortable, make sure not to avoid them, deny them or try to shame them away. Have you ever tried that with a crying child? It doesn’t work out so well.
We tend to feel things even harder and more intensely when we try to drive them out.
Don’t be mad that you’re sad, or sad that you’re mad. Don’t feel like there’s something wrong if you’re not as happy as you “should” be.
If you need to sit down and fall apart for a while, let yourself do it and know it’s not only OK, it’s what the little overwhelmed Christmas kid inside needs to do. Consider no emotion off limits. You can make space for all of them.
It might seem tricky, but there’s a way to make moving through difficult Christmas emotions much easier, aside from having a nice big cry.
Take time to give yourself the affection you received as a child at Christmas.
Make yourself feel special. We loved the toys we received as children because they made us feel taken care of and provided for. Dolls to hold while we slept were gifts of comfort. Give yourself something that will provide that feeling now.
Show yourself you know how to comfort and provide for yourself. Make sure to do something kind and caring, and not something to help you avoid the feelings.
Reach out to a close friend and make dinner plans, no matter how busy you may be. Make yourself a delicious hot chocolate and watch your favorite, sappy Christmas movies.
Fill your tub with powdered milk and listen to your favorite Christmas music. Surround yourself with lovely smells like cinnamon and powdered ginger on the stove or make clove oranges (which are so fun to make with the kids or just your friends who like to make things that smell like heaven).
If you practice meditation, offer yourself a little more loving kindness this time of year.
Send gratitude and affection to each part of the body, especially your giving heart. Meditate on peaceful memories of Christmases of yore, and the feelings of unconditional love that you’ve received.
Just keep reminding yourself that you’re enough. You’re more than enough. Then simply show yourself by being kind, surrounding yourself with comfort and taking your time.
As we Buddhists say: May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you live with ease.