Writings

Merry Christmas


Today is Christmas eve. Merry christmas everyone!

My parents are not coming down this year, and I miss them. Just by being around them I feel like a child again and the lack of their warm care and love is felt a little extra this time of year. But I will still spend tonight in the warm bosom of family, we're hosting my in laws. I so enjoy having and hugging them especially since we haven't had a friction free relation in the past. I'll tell you more about my sweet in laws in a later blog.

Merry Christmas
I know that for many people today and tomorrow can be tricky, stressful. Family, or not family is a highly charged emotional subject that gets heightened by the holidays. I am lucky enough to have one that I love and like to be with, But even though I like to be around them now, I know all about what it feels like, when spending Christmas eve with good, undemanding friends instead is such a relief.
During my childhood years, we always spent our Christmas eve together with our relatives and that definitely added to the complication and stressfulness of the festivities. So many more things unsaid, and all the dysfunctional family relations with their weight of history were highlighted and multiplied by the importance given to the occasion.
So I know about that particular brand of stress. I think it is probably our greatest source of apprehension when the holidays are here.
Of course not everyone has a conflicitve family situation and many find mainly joy in the warmth of friends and family during the holidays. But I know there are many of you that have unsolved issues in this delicate matter. And Christmas seems to highlight that fact, just deciding who you're going to spend it with, can be a burning question that brings up a lot of complex feelings. I meet a lot of people from all walks of life in our retreats and so many of them have a very difficult and more than often emotionally challenging relationship with someone in their family. This dilemma is not exclusive to one demographic, rich, poor, women and men are all equal in this respect. Noone can escape the intricate mine field of how we feel about, with, and without, our family.
If you are one of them and you are spending the holidays in their company, the next couple of days will probably cause some anxiety, but maybe this year, as a Christmas gift to yourself and your loved ones, you could translate some of the useful tools from your mat or cushion to the situation. As always yoga comes very handy. It is so practical. To use it's effectiveness exclusively in your yoga space is a huge waste of resource, it's so helpful when applied to life situations. Particularly when you understand that honesty and ultimately the courage to express it and the skill to not be hurtful when addressing the issue, is the catalyst for a more healthy, more real relationship with anyone, and particularly so, if that anyone is part of your family.
Below are some of the ways that I make use of my practice. A way that has helped me feel freer with my family and through that freedom cultivate a very honest, loving appreciation of them :

1. The pause. For all those who have a difficult relationship with their family. A good start to commence the festivities with your base in awareness.

Start your practice right before the first meeting, especially if it feels loaded by too much time without contact, or if there is something on your mind that you want to talk about admit or confess to, unspoken stuff . Give yourself a little time and space for the moment to sink in. Breath awareness, body awareness and relaxation of both breath and body gives you that space. Try to stay open and see if you can refrain from predicting some sort of inevitable outcome from the visit, and keep remembering that regardless of whatever it was, guilt, begging, a sense of duty, that made you decide to spend this time together, you chose to be here. Take responsibility for that choice and focus on your contribution, your end of the relationship. Set your internal GPS to awareness and openess before you meet, stating your intention of clarity and honesty clear to yourself and in doing so you set the tone for this visit. Remember your resolve to be happy rather than right, and then welcome them from where you are.

2. The pause 2. For those whose biggest issue is people pleasing, and sweeping all that is unsaid under the rug. Fear of conflict and difficulty to be 'yourself' being the main issue.

We want to badly to be liked, there are those of us who give in and shut up about things that affect us, in order to be liked and not have to face conflict. That means that there's often a part of us that hosts a silent protest inside, and all that is not said, if not skilfully recycled, gets trapped in our bodies, creating tension and knots.
If you recognize yourself here, use your practice to steer towards honesty and openess.
Let's take the example of Christmas dinner, when there are less escape routes. If at any point you feel judged or critizised, or simply feel uncomfortable because there is something you are not saying, take a toilet break. Go to the toilet. Lock the door. Unbutton your pants and let your belly soften. Let the story of your perception of what just happened diminish by not giving your attention to it. Favour instead the movement of your breath, as low in the abdomen as you can find it. When the mind calms down a bit, try a deep breath, Let the exhale help you relax your jaws, neck, shoulders and abdomen even more. Let your resolve to stay in the drivers seat of your experience straighten your spine and stay with the straight spine and soft belly. Give yourself as much time as you need, and once the peak of the storm blows over, examine your feelings. Not what he/she said or did, but what you feel. Under almost any strong painful reaction lies hurt, and that together with the inability to express yourself honestly makes you feel like a bit of a victim. Try to move past the excuses of why you are entitled to feel indignant. Try to see their side, you probably know where they are coming from, and ask yourself if there is any way that you can express this feeling honestly without too much righteousness and blame. If there isn't at least you have acknowledged a truth about yourself. See if you can face it without self pity/doubt/loathing.
If you feel capable of opening up, go back to the dinner table and talk about how you feel. In many cases you will draw a blank and get not understanding or empathy whatsoever. Doesn't matter. You came clean, and that is a big deal.
Just as an empty glass slowly fills up, when given a constant income of drops, your drops of awareness and honesty will slowly start replacing self doubt. Your feelings about yourself and whoever you have difficulties with, get more spacious and allow for relaxation and a greater ease in any circumstancein. And through your contribution of more ease, 'the other side', can find the space to communicate more honestly with you. Clarity dispells doubts, and when coupled with love, as is hopefully the case with your family, it's a very powerful creative force.

So my friendly advice, is to use your yoga skills this holiday. That is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas

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