I wonder how Christmas has been for you.
Christmas can be beautiful, intimate and magical, and also awkward, disconnected and even haunting… and sometimes both at the same time, or just somewhere in the middle, rather dull and flat, with lots of TV and social media!
How was it for you this year?
Whether you are a Christian or from another tradition, psychologically speaking, I guess you understand that the life of Jesus is meant to be an example of the principle of unconditional love in the Universe.
So, I hope you don’t mind me being so bold, but whether you are having a good time or a difficult time, I imagine sending you and all beings, love and connection. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
It can be heart-opening, trying to do this yourself. Imagine sending all beings love, connection and healing.
There are 3 “marriages” in life: the marriage with your work, the marriage of love and the marriage with yourself.
The Christmas holiday can really confront us with the current state of our “marriage of love”. Have you been with loved ones, friends and family, or have you been alone? If you were with people, how was it? What is the emotional health of those relationships?
First, let me talk about if it was difficult. Then let me talk about if you had a great time.
If things aren’t so emotionally healthy or connected, this can fill people with shame, or self-blame. But all families have “stuff” and the “stuff” in your family or in your psyche may not even be yours – but passed down through your family history. Trauma can be passed down through several generations. You aren’t to blame!
So, my invitation is to be gentle, curious, and deeply compassionate about your own emotional state, your connection with loved ones, and how your family connects with one and other.
- Are there good relationships in your family that could be improved or deepened by spending some intimate time together, or even sharing a phone-call? How could you build on a connection that already feels welcoming?
- Do you have an unhappy relationship with someone that could be improved by you, by just making a call, or having a cup of tea in a way that feels welcoming to them?
In the face of multi-generational trauma that can get passed down in families through the generations, I always tell people to build a circle of friends who love you pretty much unconditionally, and believe in you and your life. I call this group “your tribe”, others call it your “sangha” or community.
- For the friends and acquaintances who are potential friends, would now be a good time to call them?
- Do you have enough friends? If not, who do you know who you could build friendship with?
- How could you plan to develop your friendships and relationships in the New Year?
- If you want to meet new, like-minded people, where are you likely to find them? What sort of activities might they go to? When do you plan on going yourself?
Be kind with yourself, be curious about old patterns in you that need healing, and also take action if you have the courage.
As E. M. Forster said in Howards End “Only connect…Live in fragments no longer.” The journey of 1000 miles is step by step, perhaps tiny steps. And if you cannot take even a tiny step right now, that is okay too. Be loving and accepting of yourself.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
So what is my advice if you were one of the lucky people who had a great time at Christmas? If you were one of those where (by-and-large) the relationships were good and you were intimate and connected as a family or as a couple. Brilliant!
It is so much easier to build on the positive than to have to transform difficulty into something positive.
Whether you had a difficult time or an intimate and connected time, take a few minutes to think about what you are grateful for. Being grateful builds more of what you are grateful for.
Think about how you can build and deepen the love in your family. There is always more to offer on the path of love.
Then ask yourself if you could bring this love to a slightly wider circle. Are there friends who you could love in this way? Could you deepen your expression of love for them?
Then think about your wider community: which of your friends or acquaintances need help? Are there homeless people in the area? Could you enjoy being generous with them. Don’t be loving out of a sense of duty. Be loving because an enjoyable feeling arises in your heart at the thought of it. If you are not sure which it is, experiment, stretch yourself. There is no harm in trying. Then evaluate: did I do this out of a sense of duty or because it brought me a sense of joy. What we want to develop is the spontaneous arising of love rather than being dutifully compassionate through gritted teeth.
Finally, is there anyone you could forgive? Remember, although it could be very healing for them for you to forgive them, the secret of forgiveness is that it is even more healing for the person doing the forgiving. Letting go of a stone in your heart is good for your own heart.