Taming the Holidays

“Ping!” my car doors locked as I headed toward the grocery store, dodging rush hour cars veering into tight parking spots then carts barreling into the entrance.   No one was smiling. Including me.

For years I’ve dreaded the Christmas holidays and for nearly as many years, I’ve sought to santa headache-1understand why.  Dysfunctional Christmases of my youth reveal anticipated Norman Rockwell (virtual) holidays severed by the reality of family arguments and chaos.  Young adulthood in a city several hours away still felt the angst of coming home for the holidays. By midlife when stores began pushing Christmas before Halloween and then Labor Day, I felt so weary of Christmas that I too jumped ahead, seeking spring’s relief (post Easter Bunny).

Wise counsel lessened the Christmas Madness.  “Make the holidays what you want them to be,” my friend said, “Not what others think you should do, or just because it’s always been done a particular way.  Create your own tradition or celebration.  You decide how much and what you want to do.”  Wow!  What a life changing concept.

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Several decades and layers of understanding later, I realize I can be free of holiday chaos and not be a scrooge.  Each year, I reassess my participation and focus on what is most important, what stirs my soul.  Baking cookies went by the way side.  Too many calories, too tempting, and too time consuming.  Besides, by January my regret would weigh as much as the extra pounds.  I reduced one hundred Christmas cards with personal messages to only contacting those farthest away or the elderly.  This year, those Christmas cards evolved to “giving thanks” cards in November — a more relaxed time to express heartfelt sentiments. Once I consciously chose to ignore marketing’s mantra to buy-buy-buy, and the stigma that Christmas should look like XYZ, I felt more free.

Back at the grocery store, a woman’s cart blocks the bread aisle.  Politely offering, “Excuse me,” I attempt to push past, discovering she is mid conversation on her phone.  Others wheel through the aisles, their eyes downcast to the left or right.  I wonder if they’re taking time to reflect what Christmas is supposed to be about or if they are consumed with get-get-get, then how to pay-pay-pay for all of the (mostly unnecessary) stuff.  Flashing Christmas lights and blinding glittery ornaments compete with well-worn carols and shopper specials blaring through the loudspeaker.  Rows of cash register dings punctuate long lines of overwhelming chatter and ring tones ranging from sirens to barking dogs.   No one smiles.

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I recall recent blog posts and news stories on Smartphone and social media addiction.  Unhappiness.  Loneliness.  Accelerated rates of depression linked to the number of hours on a device.  I see it on the faces around me.  And while my participation in these things is little to null, the over stimulation of Christmas is magnified for an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like me.

Do you have a hard time with the Christmas holidays?  Are you one of those persons who hear the shotgun start at Thanksgiving, rush breathlessly to Christmas, then drop across the finish line of New Years?  How do you cope with this season?  Do you wish you could blink your eyes and the holidays would be over?  (Not to rush your life, but…)

You have more control over this than you think you do.  And once you let go of the shoulds and obligatory traditions, engagements and gifts, you set yourself (and often pocketbook) free.  Consciously choosing to make the holiday manageable equates to a more enjoyable time for you and everyone around you.  Try it.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

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You Decide

There’s been a lot of hype about the impending total solar eclipse.  I’ve never been one to do something just because “everyone else is doing it.” The same with technology. I don’t have to have the latest and greatest, or any at all because “everyone else has one.” To me, that’s a lazy excuse for not making conscious choices and for robbing myself of my individuality. I’ve felt the same about the upcoming solar eclipse.

I haven’t had a desire to view the eclipse, even when friends are traveling for optimal viewing or scrambling for special glasses. I don’t know what your plans are but you may want to take into account the less discussed ill effects of the total solar eclipse, and some protective measures you can take at the time.

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According to Indian rishis, the energy field is so strong when there is an absence of lunar or solar electromagnetic radiation that these ecliptic areas of space become unique fields of electromagnetic radiation and affect man’s duality of consciousness.  Exposing oneself to the vibratory effects of an eclipse is unfavorable.  Be vigilant to avoid being affected by the eclipse’s inauspicious influence and adjust your actions and awareness to accommodate larger universal energies:

  • Being outside amplifies the effects on one’s electrical body.  Instead, stay indoors and chant mantras such as the protective Maha Mritunjaya mantra.
  • Do not cook food, and fast if possible. If any food is sitting around, keep it covered.
  • Three days before and after an eclipse are considered unlucky for important new beginnings such as marriage, starting a business, and other important actions.

Someone who traveled to Ayers Rock in the Outback of central Australia to have a full vision of the sky and developing full solar eclipse said that almost immediately, and for the following year, he experienced enormous loss and difficulties.  He deeply regrets viewing the eclipse and said he would never do it again.

As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I have felt exhausted as the eclipse approaches and  have cancelled many activities in the name of self-care.  My conscience would not rest easy if I did not pass along this less-known information on the approaching eclipse.

However, as a tiny update to this post, since sharing this info with friends has created lively discussion on various interpretations on this eclipse,  I have now personalized my own observance of this significant day.  Moments before the eclipse began, I picked a colorful garden bouquet.  Now, I am staying inside listening to the Maha Mritunjaya mantra and writing my intentions for the coming year.  I will then shower away past emotional baggage during the height of the eclipse.

This is all in the spirit of Take what you like and leave the rest.” I would love to hear how the total solar eclipse affects you and what you decide to do during this time.

 

“Flexibility”

I begin each day picking a word for guidance out of the cobalt blue glass container.   Just a little something to set my intention for the day before the mental chatter of the “TO DO list” dictates my time and ultimately my mood.  Today, the message is flexibility.  “Good choice, I think to myself already knowing that the weeds are growing as well as the tomatoes and basil…that my border collie is waiting for her morning Frisbee…the phone doesn’t stop ringing, e-mails are mounting, the grass needs to be cut, and I’m trying to get in a daily walk.  Oh yeah, did I say I have responsibilities of a job to pay the bills too?  I’m guessing you can relate to this and your list is probably even longer.

Someone suggested placing no more than 5 items a day on my To Do list.  That’s never seemed possible yet yesterday’s unfinished tasks glare at me rather than offer a cheery “Good Morning.”  Intellectually, I know this sets me up for feeling unaccomplished and sometimes overwhelmed.   (Being an HSP, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.)

My MO is tackling a project and staying with it til the end (while feeling guilty that other tasks wait for attention) but as Dr. Phil says, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”  Sometimes yes.  Sometimes no.  Probably no, more often than not.  Living with a workaholic does not support my efforts for balance and flexibility yet underscores the importance of it.   (I learned that the hard way years ago but that’s another story for another time.) For now, I need to take small bits at a time.  Weed one section of the garden, mow one acre, respond to e-mail only at designated times of the day.  Reprioritize as necessary.  Go with the flow.  Be flexible.

Even the word flexible seems to have a nice bend to it and immediately conjures up an image from a quote I read long ago:

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“…A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind…”  – Lao Tzu

To not be flexible is a death of sorts.  If I first make time for stillness (meditation),  the day will gently unfold, rather than feeling like I’m tackling each task like a football pro.  Again, I am reminded of Lao Tzu’s wisdom:

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.          Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

He wrote this in the 6th century B.C.!  Just think about that.  It was long before technology, computers, planes, cars, etc., but the population was fraught with worry and running around frantically even in those times.  Perhaps these are simply life lessons for being human. 

Lao Tzu’s sentiment has appeared before me a few times this week. No surprise.  Thank you, Universe.  Yes, everything will happen as it’s meant to be, on its own schedule.  Gardening has taught me that.  Sometimes I need a reminder.  I’m human.  Now, I’m going to take a deep breath and do some Qigong in the garden with my border collie then let the day unfold as it will…

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Nature Doesn’t Need a Smartphone

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The peonies are blooming now.  This is how I mark my time.  I do not use a “smart” phone but rely on Mother Nature.   The late May calendar shows white and lavendar colored phlox, lilies of the valley, and deep purple, almost black columbineWild geraniums dot the pachysandra, and grandfather rhododendron (15′ high) arrived for their Memorial Day spectacular.

Foxglove, mugwort, irises, roses, and astilbe will join others to color my pages of June.  Sometimes I can hardly wait.  But then I catch myself to breathe in the beauty of the moment.