Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Blues...and We're Not Talking Jeans

As the Holiday season approaches, it seems that our feelings, good and bad, are magnified. Hallmark commercials bring two tears instead of the usual one (come on, admit it...). Faith in goodness, humanity, perhaps even God come easier this time of year for some. Generosity of spirit and pocketbook abounds. Yet at the same time, regrets present themselves. Roads not taken, lost loves, family members who will not be at the table, even the daily news seems deeper, more heart-wrenching.

Break-ups, suicides, and accidents grow around the Holiday season. Some people just try to trudge through the cocktail parties, shopping, and family gatherings. Some people stuff their feelings with greasy cocktail party food, Venti Peppermint Mochas (with Whip of course), and boozy cocktail after boozy cocktail. Some shut down completely.

I believe that this season of sensitivity is a gift. Life is more palpable, and after all the numbing that happens in this society, we can all use a little tangible feeling. I had a great teacher, Craig MacDonald, in acting school at Syracuse University. We had to do a Meisner exercise where you create an impossible task (like making a log cabin out of toothpicks with no glue or something equally absurd) under dire circumstances (if I don't make this log cabin out of toothpicks with no glue, my boyfriend will dump me). The exercise was difficult for most of us because it's hard to experience those huge, uncomfortable feelings when they're not really necessary. But something that Craig told us made a huge difference to me and my understanding of emotionality. He said, "They're just feelings."

They're just feelings. They won't kill us. And perhaps, they'll even heal us if we allow them to come through. This kind of work is often done in meditation. Instead of avoiding feelings, one sits with them, breathes into them, and literally observes them pass through, diminish, release.

If a meditation practice is not something that you feel that you can add to your To-Do List this crazy time of year, I totally understand and have another suggestion...

I have a theory of why so many people's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I believe that it's not the turkey, the stuffing, or the pumpkin pie. I believe that it is because we all take time leading up to that day and on that day to think of what we are thankful for. I believe that nothing makes one feel better than to express gratitude.

I encourage you to do what I have been doing as an assignment from my mentor and yoga therapist, Robert Birnberg (who can be found here.) In the morning, you write down (or at least think about) all the things you are looking forward to that day. Try to make them positive (this is going to happen rather than this isn't going to happen), concrete (make them real. Rather than, I will feel 'balanced' (which means nothing), try 'I will get everything in my inbox done today and then I will go to the gym for my favorite yoga class'), and specific (I will check Facebook 2 times today and will stay on Facebook for five minutes each time). In Sanskrit, this practice is called bhavanization. A bhavana is a visualization. Then, at the end of the day, write down all the things that you are grateful for. Do this for one solid week and see if it does not brighten your Holiday.

Seriously. If you want to be happier this Holdiay Season, do this 'work.' (It's actually quite fun).

Commit to doing it and do it.

I promise you it will help you. Pass it on to people you think could use a lift this time of year. Please let me know how it works for you. I think you'll be pleased and so much happier!