The 21st of December represents the Winter Solstice... the time in our Earth’s relationship to the sun, which creates the shortest day and longest night of the whole year. It’s a reminder to turn inward toward peace and quiet, a perfect time for contemplation and reflection, a way of reassessing our journey through the closing year with opportunity to prepare for the new one just ahead.
The ancients, who structured their lives around seasonal fluctuations of light and dark, knew the secret to a dark midwinter’s night: it’s the perfect excuse to quit working and do very little. They intuitively knew that their metabolisms were slowing down, that the human version of hibernation was built into our DNA, and that the worshipful thing was to recognize the very special magic of the hush of new fallen snow on a dark midwinter’s night.
Of course, it’s the supreme irony that our modern holiday season that coincides so perfectly with this naturally occurring “time out” comes with its own perfect kind of stress.
Moving from Consumerism to Consciousness
The tradition we moderns have is one of wallowing in a consumer fest of unmitigated shopping, spending, and accruing of debt, enveloped this year with the special frosting of a recession that won’t quit. What we will invariably have on our hands again is an almost psychotic rushing about with ten million things to do, gifts to buy, parties to go to, family obligations, travel in overcrowded planes, and a propensity to overeat and over imbibe.
What if it doesn’t have to be that way this year? What if you were to create your own traditions and methods for righteously honoring your own definition of this time of year, gifting yourself and your family with peace and wellness? How would that affect your holiday spirit?
Basically, this means to…
How can we simplify our holidays? Here are a few suggestions. Choose from what makes the most sense to you.
- Make your own gifts.
- Visit craft fairs for unique handmade items in support of local artists and craftspeople.
- Patronize small owner-operated boutiques (and avoid department stores).
- Make donations to environmental groups or humanitarian charities in the name of your giftees.
- Create gift certificates of your time or skill sets as gifts.
- Decorate with natural elements.
- Engage others to REALLY help you with meal planning and execution.
- Have honest discussions with all the folks you are in an obligatory gift exchange with, and agree to spending limits. Opt for donations to non-profits instead. Re-ordering the way we all perceive money and spending is an important gift the recession has given all of us and helps us circle back to smarter and more sustainable ways of living.
Dealing with Stress
The Ayurvedic technique, stimulates the T-Cells, and involves tapping your first two or three fingers on the center area of your breastplate.
Tap strongly on this area (about 1 or 2 inches below the indentation in your throat), where the thymus is located. While tapping, chant “YUM” (pronounced YOOM) in a low voice (Yum is the sound mantra that activates the energy around the thymus/heart chakra.)
The Heart Chakra, or Fourth Chakra, is associated with the thymus. A balanced heart chakra means we have lots of love and compassion to offer the world around us. When we are stressed, this capacity is diminished (no wonder stress makes us “sick”!). To me, the overriding theme of the holidays, is, and always had been, unconditional love and compassion for others, especially the poor, sick and disenfranchised. This exercise is a great way to remind us of these ideas.
In Yoga, we recommend any pose that emphasizes the opening of the chest area, to stimulate the thymus and heart energies: Upward Facing Dog or Cobra, and any type of backbend (Bridge, Wheel, Bow, etc.). A simple back bend pose, and fun to do with children, is to lie down on your back, on your bed, and slide your head and shoulders over the edge toward the floor. Raise your arms over your head and see if you can touch the floor behind your head. The edge of the mattress should be right under your shoulder blades, which will push your chest up and out slightly. Relax your neck and let your dangle. With small children, you can hold their ankles down on the bed and let them hang safely over the edge for as long as they want.
Here’s to a healthy, happy holiday season!!