Several weeks ago one of my yoga teachers announced the she was offering a 7 week “holiday bliss” yoga nidra series, with each week, or practice, focusing on one of the seven chakras. Forever full of ideas and one who loves to plant seeds, I asked my teacher if she was also planning to pick a holiday word for each practice.
A woman in the class poo-pooed my idea. I don’t remember her exact words, but whatever she said was very bah humbug, along the lines of “why celebrate the season?” Perhaps she was feeling put off by the commercialism of the season and how manufactured the holidays can feel. Perhaps she was trying to articulate that not everyone celebrates the holidays. Or perhaps she was speaking from a place of pain. For many, the holidays can be a difficult time of year. Wounds around loss are triggered. Whatever this woman was feeling on the inside, I get where she’s coming from. I’ve been there.
A few months after my relationship ended, the holiday season arrived. I wasn’t ready to celebrate. It was much too painful. I avoided all things holiday. No tree, no presents, no cards, no cookies, no holiday music, no parties or celebrations. I don’t remember why, but I found myself in the decorations aisle at a store a few weeks before Christmas and the pain was heart wrenching. Cards, trees, ornaments, presents…all of this was a painful reminder of all the Christmases I had celebrated with “my person,” of how fun and special Christmas had been, and how that tradition had been “taken away” from me. Looking back, I see that my words and feeling that something was “taken away” very clearly illustrates how victimized I felt. But it’s ok that I felt that way. I was in a lot of pain. I was grieving. I lost something and someone that was a huge part of my life and I needed to experience the fullness of that loss before I could start to heal and move forward into my new life.
A little over three years later (this is Christmas number four post ka-boom) and I still haven’t hauled out the ornaments and put up a tree. (Putting a tree in a tree stand by oneself is a pretty difficult undertaking and I take such care in hanging ornaments that decorating the tree becomes quite a project). I still haven’t sent out cards and I still haven’t done any gift giving, other than a few little things where I felt “obligated” to give gifts. This year I *might* make some cookies. That first Christmas post ka-boom I decided I wouldn’t celebrate Christmas again until I had a reason to celebrate. And now I’ve sort of decided that I want to wait until I have someone special in my life with whom to share this season before I once again immerse myself in Christmas traditions and when I do, it might look different than my old life.
Honestly, it’s been good to have some time away from the holidays to get perspective and insight. I’m not sad that I’m not immersed in the flurry. For many, this season is a very stressful time of year and for me it’s nice to not have the extra stress of setting up and taking down a tree, shopping for gifts among the crowds, getting cards and packages sent off in the mail, all the parties, family gatherings, preparing holiday meals, and so on. So much gets packed in within a span of a few weeks that there isn’t much time to relax and reflect and absorb the season and prepare oneself for the New Year.
My second Christmas after my relationship ended I began a new holiday tradition, a tradition of gift giving to oneself, of practicing self care. I took myself to Costa Rica for a week long New Year’s yoga retreat. Last year I returned, arriving on Christmas day. I planned it that way. I wanted to begin experiencing my Christmas present to myself on Christmas day. I was greeted and welcomed with many a “Feliz Navidad.” The simplicity of the expression and greeting was very meaningful, a true gift. Oh, and the “Christmas” tree I discovered on the beach that was made of drift wood was pretty special too.
Feliz Navidad – Playa Guiones, Costa Rica
What a JOY to be re-united with yogis with whom I shared New Year’s the previous year. In the beach community of Nosara, Costa Rica I found a new place to go “Home for the Holidays” and in the yoga community, I discovered a new family. This year I’m headed to Mexico for the New Year to CELEBRATE with a new yoga family and experience the wonder of a new “home.”
In my time off from Christmas, I’ve re-invented the holidays for myself. For me, this time of year has become an opportunity to give a very meaningful gift to myself – to be in community with like minded souls and develop new friendships, to clear my mind and rejuvenate, and to discover and set intentions for the upcoming year. The holidays have become less about the hubbub and flurry of Christmas and more about the transition into the New Year, saying good-bye to the previous year and opening myself up to the New Year and all that awaits, allowing the momentum of the retreat experience to carry into the New Year.
To date my holiday retreats have been near the equator along the warm beaches of the Pacific Ocean and I’ve discovered that the sand is a great canvas for discovering what’s in my heart and the qualities and states of being I want to cultivate and manifest in my life.
Looking back I see that for the last two years I captured words and images in the sand that are often associated with the holiday season. Yet these words are not exclusive to Christmas or New Year’s. These are powerful, affirming words that can be intentions we set and manifest in our lives every day of the year. And if we make a practice of cultivating these qualities and states of being in our lives, we will transform our hearts and our lives and inspire the lives of those around us. And isn’t that the most beautiful, empowering, and inspiring gift we can give ourselves and to others? to transform our hearts, allowing our being to be filled with pure, limitless LOVE that we can give to ourselves and to others? I BELIEVE it is and so this holiday season I am gifting myself once again with a gift that will keep on giving.
CELEBRATE with me words of ALL seasons!
HOPE photo provided courtesy of my friend and member of my Costa Rica yoga family, Heather.