This is an especially interesting time of year. On the one hand, the holiday season is incredibly festive and illuminated. Everywhere we turn we see the bright, joyous lights of the holidays marking this special time. We gather, attending and hosting numerous holiday parties, engage the extroverted parts of ourselves and raise a glass to life.
On the other hand however, these are the shortest days of the winter season. The winter solstice falls on December 21st, reminding us that the darkness of winter is here for a reason. As night falls early, nature's cycles beckon us to slow down, to rest, reflect and hibernate during this time of year. Many of us regard January as our time to re-engage our ambitious, get-up-and-go approach to life, naturally making the end of December our time to go inward and recoup before we pick up the pace again.
Earlier this week in my monthly women's group, we discussed this paradox of being pulled towards external exuberance and internal restoration simultaneously. Many of us expressed feeling overwhelmed by holiday party obligations, shopping, hosting duties and year-end deadlines. While we love to see our friends, families and co-workers, we were quick to admit that we were craving a few quiet nights at home before 2012.
Our conversation gave me pause and had me realize just how overwhelming this time of year can be for many.
How do we get the full festive holiday experience while honoring our physical, emotional need to slow down?
In sitting with this inquiry, I feel we have the opportunity to celebrate the light while cherishing the hidden gifts of darkness. If we choose to be mindful about it, we can create balance this holiday season.
CELEBRATING THE LIGHT
Christmas and Hanukkah fall at the same time this year. Each of these holidays is marked by lights. As Christmas nears, we are surrounded by the quintessential holiday lights that remind us that something special is going on. It is a time for celebration, faith and cheer. As a child I remember walking down "Christmas Tree Lane" in my neighborhood and counting all the houses that were covered in lights. Although I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas, I remember feeling a sense of excitement and wonderment as we passed others who were sharing the delight of the lights and holiday season. It is a deeply joyous, spiritual time for many.
Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the miracle of light. Pause for a moment and take in this obvious blessing that we sometimes take for granted: the miracle of light. It is my favorite Jewish holiday of the year. In addition to the festive, social aspect of this holiday, this holiday is my favorite because for 8 nights we take time out to light candles and celebrate light. Lighting candles is ceremonial, sacred, meaningful. We do it during rituals, when we meditate and in honor of our birthdays. It is an opportunity to pause, become grateful and remember to be in awe of life. I also see it as a chance to celebrate how illuminated my life is and how brightly the inner light of my friends and family shine.
Here are some questions to stimulate your appreciation of the light all around you at this time:
* How can you truly celebrate the light of life this holiday season?
* What are you grateful for?
* Who and what are you in awe of?
* Before going to a holiday party, pause and ask yourself: What am I REALLY celebrating tonight?
* What miracles exist in your life? How are you blessed?
* How can you spread the holiday light to someone in need?
* In what ways do you have faith? What restores your faith?
* What are you praying for?
CHERISHING THE DARKNESS
Darkness is something we often want to run away from. To many it represents fear, hardship and confusion. I invite you to consider a different perspective: the beauty and blessing of darkness. Darkness can also represent stillness, rest and peace. It is by contrast to the dark that we actually can see the light. Imagine the beauty and stillness of a starry night out in nature, away from the city lights. It is stunning how many stars are actually visible across the backdrop of the dark night sky!
Darkness also represents going inward. While this is scary for some, in truth, it is one of the most beautiful, powerful practices we can engage in. It is through going inward that we get clarity, return to a place of trust vs. fear and restore our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical tanks. It is by going inward, reflecting and resting that our creative ideas suddenly re-emerge and our capacity for others multiplies ten fold. Ironically, it is through the inner peace and stillness of darkness that we access and strengthen our inner light.
On a physical level, darkness makes us sleepy. Melatonin, a hormone that makes us tired, is secreted upon exposure to darkness. As night falls, this hormone is released, allowing us to easily fall asleep. As the days shorten, we are called to go inward. Nature demands it of us. It is our time to rest, replenish, reflect and restore. To learn more about melatonin and other variables that impact your sleep/wake cycles, download my free article on
The Six Secrets To Splendid Sleep.
I invite you to turn your phone off and schedule time on your calendar for napping, meditation, alone time, baths, massages and personal pampering amidst the holiday buzz! Here are some questions to get you started:
* How can you create in-between moments of stillness amidst the holiday rush?
* Will you commit to sitting in silence for 5-10 minutes first thing every morning until 2012?
* Before entering a holiday party, sit in your car for 3 minutes and practice deep breathing. Go inward and ask yourself: What am I really feeling? How can I experience this party in the most balanced way?
* What can you say NO to? I give you permission to set boundaries!
* What does your ideal quiet night at home entail? Promise yourself one night like this before 2012.
* When you take a few moments and quiet yourself, what do you hear?
* What does your intuition tell you that you need?
May your light shine bright and your tanks be full.
Wishing you balance, joy, celebration and personal time for rest and restoration this holiday season!
I welcome your comments!