The holidays: Live it or lose it
To the editor:
Imagine you are riding your bike down Periwinkle and crossing your path is a raccoon dressed with flashing ornament earrings. Or perhaps you stop by the local gopher tortoise hole and find it swathed in garlands and candle lit with the fragrance of baking cookies. Conversely a pelican may deflate your holiday spirit by dropping you from the yearly party invitation list.
Welcome to the holidays on the islands. It’s the season to create, decorate and celebrate. The endeavor to augment our environment and ourselves and to practice ritual is clearly a unique factor that distinguishes us from animals and other predecessors in our humanoid lineage. Throughout history, humans have sought to adorn themselves and their dwellings with ornamental, moveable objects and permanent designs that are symbolic. Just as our need to sleep, eat, move and be together are human needs, the need to create to express ourselves and expand our world, can be seen through all human cultures past and present.
The adornment and decoration that is everywhere through the holidays can be linked to many motivations including celebration, honor, connection, communication, comfort. As a valuable creative endeavor, self-expression has many benefits. It is a form of natural intelligence, and we are drawn to it by our biology. One of the primary jobs of our mind is to solve problems to find new combinations and “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” This is at the heart of human development both individual and species. We have survived because we creatively adapt. An innovative approach to living allows us to practice adapting to changing circumstances.
We can enter the holidays in a spirit of play – exploring possibilities and staying fresh to the moment. Or in the place of genuine and enlivening celebration we can fall into an overly scripted pattern of behavior just going through the motions. We may even resent what we perceive as demands (parties, gifts, time) that are placed on us. Our rituals can become rote and stale, driven by advertisements of the ideal that is unattainable or fantasies about the past that never existed.
How do we bring new life into familiar rituals and open ourselves to the joy of the season?
Here are some ideas:
- ake time to relish the sensations of the holiday. Focus on your breath for just a moment to slow yourself down. Allow your attention to incorporate bodily sensations expanding and deepening each experience. Stop and smell the cookies. Listen to the music as though you are hearing it for the first time.
- As you decorate be in the memories of the special times shared with loved ones connect with the stories. Allow the bubbly as well as the poignant and even sad feelings to percolate. Treasure all of these gifts.
- Notice when you are filled with expectation or judgment. Instead, be aware of each experience as it unfolds. Cherish uncertainty leave some things unplanned.
- When or if it feels overwhelming take a break. Put quiet time in the schedule.
- Bring yourself home to your meaning of the season. Use this as the filter for your activities.
You can begin consciously and creatively designing your approach to the season and discover new life in familiar rituals. Presence is the best present to yourself and to others. We’d love to hear how you apply these ideas at SecretSignals@yahoo.com.
Holly Maiz MA, DTR
and Virginia Jones Psy.D.