Adopting a Mindful Awareness Approach to the Holidays
Adopting a mindful approach during the holidays can help lift spirits, calm nerves, and feed the Soul. In his book,Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, author and renown mindfulness teacher, encourages practicing the attitudes of non-judging, acceptance, non-striving, and letting go to develop mindful awareness of our experience in the moment.
Becoming mindful involves becoming more aware. As we anticipate, plan and prepare for the Holidays, idealized thinking increases the likelihood that unrealistic expectations will trigger negative emotions and uncomfortable feelings for us as the ideal becomes more real and our expectations remain unfulfilled.
Being aware of our uncomfortable emotions presents us with an array of choices about how to relate to them. In the tale of Tom’s Holiday Gift to Judy, Judy is presented with the choice of how she will relate to her disappointment, sadness and feelings of loss around her romantic connection with her husband Tom.
In the first scenario Judy reacts with fear and tells herself stories about her fear-based feelings, which results in the experience of emotional numbing and the disconnection from not only Tom, but also her self.
In the second scenario, as Judy chooses to adopt a mindful attitude of non-judging, accepting, non-striving, and letting go, the outcome is entirely an entirely different experience for Tom, Judy and her family.
The Tale of Tom’s Holiday Gift to Judy
Tom is shopping for the perfect holiday gift for his wife, Judy, who has mentioned on several occasions that a new dryer would save her time because the one they received as a wedding gift ten years ago takes too long to dry their clothes. Since Judy currently struggles with time management issues after recently returning to school full time, maintaining a part time job and continuing her equal contribution to shared household chores, Tom waits in anticipation for the expected look of excitement and joy when he presents Judy the holiday gift covered with four rolls of bright silver paper and donned with a large red velveteen bow temporarily stored in the garage.
Judy struggles in private with deep feelings of sadness and insecurity around the loss of romance in her relationship with Tome and fantasizing about Tom engaging in witty, lively banter with female colleagues, as they once did. After initiating several conversations with Tom about the importance of renewing their marriage vows Judy devotes the past few weeks to re writing her vows while Tom agrees to a private ceremony on their 10th wedding anniversary. Judy buys Tom the perfect holiday gift, a ring to symbolize the renewal of their bond together. Wrapped in gold paper with a small red bow, Judy waits in anticipation to present Tom with his gift.
Excited to present his the holiday gift, Tom leads Judy ceremoniously by her arm into the garage before embarking on the long drive to Judy’s family holiday dinner.
The First Scenario: Judy’s Fear Based Reaction to Tom’s Gift
The moment Judy sees her large silver gift; she feels her heart sink, and her stomach tighten. She instantly begins telling herself stories about Tom’s loss of romantic feelings for her and uses these stories as explanations for her uncomfortable feelings of disappointment, sadness and disconnection. As Judy entertains the stories about Tom, she is operating under the assumption that her feelings arise because of Tom’s behavior. Judy’s stories reinforcing her fear of a lost connection with Tom and result in creating an ever greater disconnect between them. As she lifelessly peels off the silver paper and musters the terse smile and hollow laugh, she feigns a weakly delivered “thank you” to Tom’s for his gift. As the loss of love stories about Tom continue playing in the background of her mind these stories only serve in removing her from being present for the unfolding moment to moment experience of traveling with Tom on the long drive to the holiday dinner with her family.
The Second Scenario: Judy’s Mindful Awareness Approach for Receiving Tom’s Gift
The moment Judy sees her large silver gift; she feels her heart sink, and her stomach tighten. Breathing deeply, she allows herself to become even more aware of her uncomfortable feelings and accepts the momentary experience of disappointment, sadness, and disconnection without judgment. She resists striving for anything other than being present with her experience and tells no stories to explain to herself how her feelings are a response to Tom’s loss of love for her. Allowing heremotions to flow, they move quickly and fluidly through her experience like a wave that crests and falls and Judy lets go of any potential these emotions might have held to influence her perceptions of her identify and the fundamental truth of her relationships with Tom. Judy stays present to her experience moment to moment and feeling alive and energized she tears off the silver paper giggling and laughing as she reaches to embrace Tom with a long heart felt hug expressing gratitude to Tom for listened and hearing her plea for the time saving machine. The long drive to the holiday dinner with her family was too short for all the witty banter they shared together and the warm feelings of being connected with Tom continued to play in the background of her mind as Judy enjoyed the experience of being fully present at the family holiday dinner with Tom.
My Best Wishes for the Mindful Experiencing of Curiousity, Awe and Joy as we move through the Holiday Season and into 2012 Together!