Grab Bag for the Holiday Season Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

Grab Bag for the Holiday Season

Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

by Erika Ginnis

 

I thought that for this article I would  touch on a couple of ideas and techniques that I have found useful during  the holiday season. This is the time of  year when the light seems like a  memory (even as it begins to change  and return), and the dark is ever around  us. It is a powerful time for inner  searching and deep magick. It is a time  of cycles both within us and outside  of us. In some ways, this is the time of  year when it seems like everyone, pagan or not, is bound up in the cyclic  sweep of the turning of the year and  the seasons.

Whatever your own personal opinions about the many traditions that  are celebrated during this time of year  (I personally love the holidays regardless of the name they go by — but  then again I have also been told I am  rather strange!) it is hard to dismiss  all that it brings up in us. All our childhood experiences good or bad are  there with us. All the hopes and  dreams, realized or not, come crowding back on us at this time of year. We  get together with family members  (many of which have little understanding of our particular spirituality), and  sometimes it seems like we become  someone we once were, or never were  but thought we were supposed to be.  It can also be that we love the festivities at this time of year, but those  around us are glum and depressed.  Perhaps we ourselves like this dark  time of inner reflection and long for  its quiet wisdom, but are annoyed by  all the revelers around us and feel the  need to go hibernate under a rock till  spring.

Anything sound familiar yet? Well,  you are not alone. I have personally  found that this period of time right  around Yule to be a great opportunity  for growth and change. The way I look  at it, “If my stuff is going to be up and  strewn all around me anyway, I might  as well take this opportunity to work  on some of it!”

One of the things that I become  increasingly aware of in relation to all  of this, is something that I call a “growth  period.” To define this very simply: “A  growth period is the time it takes the  body to adjust and process the  changes that we make as spirit.” The  holiday season is a time ripe for periods of accelerated growth. We are  confronted with our pasts, with family  issues, with the cyclic and therefore  mortal aspects of ourselves. Adding  this to the fact that it is already a time  of darkness and cold (at least in this  part of the world) can inspire some  pretty intense stuff.

Have you ever taken a class in  some kind of personal development  or spiritual work, and felt like you were  riding an amazing high, only to find  yourself a week or two later getting  sick, or wanting to hide from the world?  This is an example of a growth period. First of all, you make some kind  of change or work on something as  spirit. This happens very quickly, since  spirit isn’t bound by time and space.  Great, no problem, you can make all  these changes and wheeeee! Right?  Well, only partially; you are spirit, you  can change in an instant; however, you  have a body, and that body has to  operate in time and space. So what  happens is that your body needs to  integrate what you have changed. It  needs time to process the new energy.

While you are in this process, it  can feel a little odd. I think of it sometimes like a plant getting a new leaf.  When the leaf is just beginning to unfold, it is a lighter green and is a lot  more tender, more easily bruised. It  hasn’t developed the more waxy finish that the other leaves have.

This is analogous to how we can  feel when we are in a state of flux.  Over time, the leaf grows out and unfolds and becomes just like the others, and the plant is that much larger.  It is the process by which growth occurs. We are not so very different from  the plants. We don’t normally sprout  leaves, but our changes are just as  real and every bit as observable if you  know how to look.

Growth periods can be experienced in a number of ways. You may  want to sleep much more than usual  or not need as much sleep as you are  used to. You may want to have a lot  of sex or want to go out dancing a lot,  or maybe want to hibernate at home  all of a sudden. Maybe you want to  eat a lot of chocolate, or you may  catch a cold, or just feel generally unsettled. It may also be that you feel  better than you ever have and you feel  like the whole world is opening up to  you. These are all growth periods. A  growth period does not have to be  uncomfortable! It is simply the time it  takes the body to process the  changes that you make as spirit.

What is important, especially when  it feels more challenging, is to remember “This is a normal, natural and necessary part of learning and growing.”  Many of us like to try and skip this  part, or try and ignore it. We may feel  more fragile at this time and want to  protect ourselves by denying our  changes. Unfortunately, one of the  things that denial can do is to prolong  the process. If you acknowledge your  growth period, you can then begin to  communicate with your body about  what’s happening and what your body  needs. This will make it all go more  smoothly.

Sometimes all it takes is that conscious recognition that you are indeed  in a growth period. It can make it all  make more sense. Another thing to  remember is that  growth periods are  cyclic…. they have a  beginning, a middle  and an end! They  don’t go on forever; you  will adjust to the changes,  and you will have grown. A  former teacher of mine  used to use the adage: “When  you are up to your ass in alligators,  it’s hard to remember that you set out  to drain the swamp!”

As long as you are in a body, you  will have growth periods; it’s part of  the package. If you are into growing  spiritually, well, guess what, you will go  out of your way to have growth periods! I find that meditation really helps  to keep everything flowing. It may be  that the time that you want to meditate the least is when you need it the  most.

So this brings me back to this particular season. This would be a fabulous time to commit to meditating  daily. This is one of the times of the  year when we all are aware of the cyclic nature of our lives. It is coming up  on the New Year, we are running headlong into our childhood memories, we  are seeing people we might not have  seen since last year. We become very  aware of our own changes or lack  thereof, and it can be pretty intense.  It will very likely put us into a growth  period.

One of the techniques that I suggest people use for getting a handle  on where they are, in their growth, is  as follows: Find a quiet place where  you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. (Sure, you say, with all my relatives in my house, how will this happen? If all else fails, go into the bathroom, lock the door and say you’re  taking a bath.) Take a few minutes to  ground and center.

Let yourself become aware of what  your current growth period is; let the  information flow to you from your stillness. Ask yourself the question: “What  are the spiritual changes I have recently made, and how am I responding to them?” Let the answers flow.  Maybe you have been feeling odd and  unsettled and not wanted to look at  it, so have been on the run as much  as possible to avoid it all. Take this  opportunity to stop running and simply look at what’s happening and why,  and give yourself permission to not  take it all so seriously. Laugh a little at  the huge growth period you are in (if  this is the case) and realize that it will  pass and you will have grown. Even if  the issue that you are working on is  serious, treating it with just a little  amusement can help the energy move  and change more easily.

The next exercise can give you  more insight into what you are working on and can also be a wonderful  way to get in touch with your own  changes.

Take two sheets of paper and a  pen. On the first sheet, start the heading of a letter that  says “Dear  Spirit…”  and at the  end of the  sheet of  paper write  “… love, Body.”  Next, take  the other  sheet of  paper and at the top write “Dear  Body….” and at the end of the paper  write “…love, Spirit.”

If you haven’t already guessed,  you are going to write two letters. Let  your mind relax and let your body have  a voice; let it talk to you and let you  know what’s up, what it feels, what it  needs. Write it down in the first letter.  This is your body communicating to  you, the spiritual being. Don’t judge  what you write, just write. It may say  things like, “Dear Spirit, you haven’t  been paying any attention to me, I need  more exercise, I need more sleep,  please buy me some flowers.” Or perhaps, “I am trying as best as I can, but  I don’t know what we are doing or  where we are going, so I am afraid;  please let me know what’s going on.”  Or even, “I am starting to get a cold,  please  drink a lot  of water so  I won’t be  sick for the  holidays.”

Whatever the  communication, it is  a valuable  tool for staying in touch with the wisdom of the body and for knowing how  your body actually feels in this sometimes hectic season. Now realize you  don’t have to do everything the body  asks for. It may say, “I want to go escape to Hawaii until February,” but  what you as Spirit may decide to do is  go spend 10 minutes tanning and take  a walk in a conservatory of tropical  plants. What you may find is that the  very act of being listened to is enough  to totally change how your body feels.

Next up is the second letter. This  is a letter from you as Spirit to your  body. Take a minute and breathe and  relax. Get in touch with yourself and  you own inner voice. I highly recommend meditating as part of writing  both these letters if it is at all possible. This is the letter that begins  “Dear Body….” You may be surprised  at what you write. Let go of your expectations as you write and let it flow.  It may sound like, “Dear Body, I love  you, but I am not always good at communicating, but I am working on changing that. I want to work on prosperity  for the holidays, and so I have stimulated all the memories from our childhood so I can put them to rest. Sorry  I didn’t mention this to you before I  started….” Or, “I am really proud of  the way you didn’t get enough sleep  for a few days so that I could create  that wonderful holiday dinner. I am  going to make sure there is time now  to relax and enjoy the next week.”

It may also sound totally different than these examples, which is the  point. It is your own voice as spirit  communicating into this physical reality to your body so that you can begin  to work in harmony with each other. It  is all part of the same thing, but it has  different aspects and different voices,  which are each valid and valuable. I  often say that one of our most important relationships, one that colors all  our others, is the one we have as spirit  with our body. If we can begin to harmonize that one, the others are much  more likely to be successful.

Hopefully now that you have some  tools to use during this time of change  and renewal, you can let yourself enjoy what comes to you and be able to  learn from it. If nothing else, you can  know  what  is going on  when  you want nothing  better than  to  stay in  bed and eat chocolate until Spring  Equinox. It is just a growth period! Next  week, most likely, you’ll be planning  what new plants you want to add to  your garden when it thaws out, or beginning that new class you wanted to  take.

I will end with another saying I  heard a lot when I was a student. “Running your energy will get you into a  growth period, and running your energy will get you out!” Meditate, meditate, meditate, and I’ll see you next  year.

Blessed be.

Review of Grounding and Centering

Close your eyes, and turn within.

Take three nice, deep breaths,  breathe down into your belly and  soften it  as you  breathe.  Notice  how you  feel, how  your body  feels.

Be  aware of  your first  chakra. This is simply an energy center (vortex) that is located in the general area near the base of the spine.  For women, the center (vortex) that is  located in the general area near the  base of the spine. For women the center is usually near the area between  the ovaries (note: the chakra positioning doesn’t change if you have had to  have your ovaries removed for any reason). For men the location is slightly  lower in the body because the chakra  placement is associated with the testicles.

Be aware of this area, and allow a  cord of energy to flow downward  from your body…

through the chair you are sitting  in…

through the floor and  down through  the building you  are in…

through the  foundation and  into the deep  earth beneath.

Allow your grounding to flow down  into the earth past all the rocks and  layers of the planet, past the water,  deep into the earth into the heart of  the Mother. Until it reaches the center  of the earth.

Allow your grounding cord to connect securely into the center of  the planet.

Be aware of your grounding  cord being securely connected  also to your first chakra. Allow this  connection, breathe and release energy and tension down your grounding.

Now that you are grounded you  can take the next step and center yourself. Take a nice deep breath and bring  your awareness into the center of your  head. That safe neutral place behind  your eyes and back a bit.

Notice how you body responds. It  might have a reaction to you being centered. Let that reaction simply be, notice it. If you experience any discomfort, release it down your grounding.

Be aware of what the center of  your head is like right now. Is it light?  Is it dark? Is it crowded, or empty?  Cold or warm, big or small? Are you  aware of sensations, sounds, images,  scents? Relax and breathe yourself  into the center of your head. Get comfortable and begin to own this safe  neutral place.

Continue to use your grounding to  release energy from this space so that  you can make more room for you to  focus there in the present moment.

6 Tips for Less Stress & More Joy This Season

6 Tips for Less Stress & More Joy This Season

The clock is ticking toward the holidays, and  two very different feelings  are flashing on your emotional news feed:  impending joy and impending doom.

OK, maybe doom is overstating it; dread may be closer to the mark.  But let’s  face it, many of us are finding ourselves up at 3:00 in the  morning checking  our to-do lists and reviewing incessantly the parade of  possible catastrophes:  “Will my brined turkey be a disaster?” “Will  everyone be happy with their  gifts?” “How much weight (and debt) am I  going to gain?” “What if my family  doesn’t get along?” “What if I’m not  ready?” “What if I totally fail?!” Wait,  are we preparing for the  holidays — or final exams?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s time to change our relationship with the holidays. We don’t have  to  break up with them, but just know that as with all things anxiety,  the holidays  aren’t the problem; it’s the story in our head about the  holidays that needs to  change.

So, don’t gather up the mistletoe or menorahs, waiting for that  starting gun  to say: “On your mark, get set, stress!” Instead, put down  the supplies, take  off your running shoes, and change your expectations.

The holidays are not a control-freak boss or a mother-in-law poised  with a  perfection-sensor critiquing your every move — more likely,  you’re doing that  number on yourself. The holidays are an opportunity —  your opportunity — to  acknowledge and celebrate in the ways that you  would like.

So, this year, give a gift to yourself. Be daring. Choose how you  want to  celebrate this season. Yes, you do have many choices in the  matter. Whether  that’s a tailgating party, a marathon family reading of The Hobbit,  or  the more traditional hot cider in front of the fire, don’t let the  anxious  chatter — “You should, you must, you’ve failed!” — ruin it for  you. Find your  own meaning, there are no right or wrong answers. If  it’s real to you, it’s  real.

Here are six ways to help you have more joy and less stress this holiday  season:

Get Specific and Fact-Check Your Worry

If the mantra in your head is: “I have to make this the most perfect  holiday  ever,” it’s time to release yourself from the impossible. The  constant worry  that this thought generates is sure to distract you — if  not derail you — from  enjoying what is. Take a minute and on one side  of a piece of a paper write  down what your worries are about the  holidays. Your worst picture of what could  go wrong. Then, on the other  side of the page, write down your answers to a  different question: What  do you think will actually happen? Or, put another  way: The next  morning, how do you think things will have actually turned out?  Pick up  the paper and read it from time to time, then notice what happens in   your body when you read your answers to those second questions. It’s  like  someone unplugged you from the stress machine and you’ve tapped  into the truth.  Make sure there’s room for reality in your head and at  your holiday table.

Don’t Script, Live

If you back up and look at the most cherished moments from holiday  times in  the past — the raucous game of charades or football, the quiet  moment when  everyone was happily entertaining themselves in the living  room while the snow  was falling out the window. What happened before those moments? It  wasn’t that anyone said, “Hey, let’s make memories  here — let’s all sit in the  living room and occupy ourselves  contentedly, okay?” Things just evolved. So as  much as it is great to  have plans and ideas, flexibility, spontaneity and being  open to what  might happen provide the greatest possibilities.

Let the Mistakes Be… New Traditions?

Forgot the cranberry sauce? Maybe a guest has a great idea for how to   innovate an alternative. Miscounted the spaces at the table? A  Christmas picnic  or a lighthearted impromptu game of musical chairs  before sitting for dinner  might be the memory that sticks for people —  and may give birth to a new  tradition.

One holiday bonding experience happened one year when we were hosting   Christmas dinner for friends and discovered that our kitchen had a  mouse. We  called our friends and asked if we could bring food to their  house and cook  there. The last-minute change, the pulling together in a  pinch, solidified our  friendship. Mistakes and glitches are often the  shortest distance between two  people if you have the right spirit about  it.

Pace Yourself and Schedule in Down-Time

Having a week off for the holidays can feel like winning the lottery:  You’re  flush with time and yet, like winning the lottery, when you  start divvying up  the pot of who is going to get what– or, in holiday  break terms, who you’re  going to see when — you may end up feeling  broke, with nothing left for you.  Rather than end winter vacation  feeling like you need a vacation, do what  marathoners do. Pace yourself.  Schedule in some coasting time. Would you like  to sit and read the  paper (or similar) once during the holidays? Put it in your  calendar.  Block out the time and enjoy. Repeat when possible.

Finding Joy: Savoring the Moment

I like to think about the one thing that I want to notice during the   holidays. Yes, I know I’m scripting it ahead, but bear with me — my  ability to  live in a clutch-free or cling-free manner of zen  present-centeredness is still  under construction. For me, it’s noticing  that moment at the holiday table when  everyone is contentedly eating and  conversation is flowing and my only wish is  exactly what I am  experiencing right then. Sometimes that picture doesn’t  happen, and  something else happens that hits that spot. Be on the look out for  that  one moment where you stop worrying about what’s next and you’re   thoroughly savoring what is.

Turn the Focus Outward: Help Others

Anxiety and worry turn the focus inward — the critic in your head  has a  strong bias toward “that’s not good enough.” Unplug that  microphone, get out of  the spotlight and focus on others: Volunteer time  if you’ve got it, contribute  if you don’t. It doesn’t have to be a pot  of gold, donating clothing or canned  goods can make a great difference  to a family in need.

So this year, forego the worry and give yourself more breathing room. In  so  doing, you will give joy, gratitude, and contentedness a wider berth  to find  their way into your life for the holidays and beyond.

Copyright Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety (DaCapo, 2012).

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 7)

About.com
Day 7: A Nordic Yule Blessing                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca     
                                                                       
The Norsemen of old had a custom that if two people who were enemies met under a bough of mistletoe, they must lay down their arms. This time of year, set aside old conflicts. Take a moment to meditate upon the relationships you have, and try to find ways to get along with people who normally antagonize and anger you.
 

A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

Yule is a time to set aside animosity between yourself and people who would normally antagonize you. Set aside your differences, and think about finding peace in the spirit of the season.


Beneath the tree of light and life,

a blessing at this season of Jul!

To all that sit at my hearth,

today we are brothers,

we are family,

and I drink to your health!

Today is a day to offer hospitality

to all that cross my threshold

in the name of the season.

Additional Reading                            

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the holiday season becomes a time of conflict with their non-Pagan family. They may not understand what it is you celebrate, or there may be old wounds that surface each year when family gets together that have nothing to do with your beliefs. Regardless, read on for tips on how to Survive the Holidays With Your NonPagan Family.

Tomorrow: Snow Prayer                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide