It’s colder and darker… And yet, for many of us, December is also quite busy with holiday preparation, diverse celebrations, family, social gatherings, extra travels, finishing up projects and perhaps an end-of-the-year last rush of activity!
Although it might seem normal, the usual “December busy-ness” might also seem a little paradoxical given that we are approaching the shortest day of the year (at least here in the Northern hemisphere).
Winter “hygge” and Holiday stress
Indeed, looking at the winter scenery around us – leave-free trees, rain, snow, colder air, fewer birds, less daylight – nature seems to invite us to pause, cocoon, and look inward.
Spending more time in the comfort of our homes with closed and loved ones is at the heart of Christmas’ spirit, enjoying more “hygge” (the Danish concept of indoor and social coziness that has now gone international!). However, I also know from my own experience and people around me that holiday times and Christmas can also be frantic and overwhelming. Indeed, expectations about what we (and others) should do, finding presents, planning, etc. – not to mention the still ongoing pandemic – can bring up a lot of stress.
One thing I know about dealing with – or preventing – stress is that adding more things on the schedule does not help. Neither does distracting from it or pushing through and wait until the holidays are over.
Whatever degree of stress we might experience, it can be lessened right now. Wanna give it a try?
Clarifying the cause of stress
Stress, like any uncomfortable experience or feeling (e.g., grief, anger, sadness…) is caused and sustained by our resistance to be with what is actually happening, and not what is actually happening per se.
For example, in these times of new restrictions and increasing virus spread, I have been worried that I might have to cancel the upcoming New Year’s Retreat. Worrying brings stress. Until I know whether I actually need to cancel it or not (and luckily so far I don’t!), my experience of stress is coming from my resistance to the feelings related to a possible cancelation: anger, shame, disappointment, to name a few, and being with my incapacity to control political decisions. Event though what eventually happens will have an effect on me, my current experience of stress is not due to situation I have no control over, but rather to how I deal with the situation internally.
Similarly, being frustrated because of a long line is not due to the long line itself, but our resistance to waiting, having to change our plans and dealing with the feelings caused by a possible delay.
Does that make sense?
Lessening resistance in the moment
My point is: Instead of trying to change a situation that is hard (or impossible) to change, we can use our power to change how we relate to the situation.
One way to work with how we relate to the situation is to work with lessening our resistance to what is in the moment – particularly what we feel right now in our body.
Softening, right there, as you read this. A breath. A stretch or two.
A minute with your eyes closed, just listening.
Making space for what you are feeling. Alone, with a friend, or a guide/counselor of some sort.
Writing it out. Moving it though.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the alleviation of deep stress or intense suffering is a one-time fix. Neither am I stating that we should dismiss the extermal issues and problematics that are or have been affecting us deeply.
What I am trying to convey, instead, is that we have the capacity to work with whatever happens within ourselves and we can train this capacity by attending to the moment as it is.
My suggestion is to do a regular “check-in” practice.
If you are willing, right now take a moment to honestly check in. Start by simply paying attention to your body, your breath, this moment.
What such practice does is that it trains you in detaching yourself from the current stories or situations creating stress. Gradually it moves your attention to the feeling in this very moment, which most probably is safety and OK-ness.
When we repeat “checking-in” with ourselves regularly in this way, things begin to feel OK for longer at a time each time. Each frustration, upset, and negativity we experience due to unexpected events becomes an opportunity to check in with ourselves, be present, and let go of the resistance to what is happening beyond our control.
This is how we begin to “wake up” to our true nature, which is already free and peaceful. Such practice helps us become clearer about what is right for us to do and prioritize, and the quality of our presence felt by others improves.
How to start?
“Yeah, Cédric,” you might think. “It sounds good, but I am not sure where to start and my schedule is full. Should I cancel my holiday plans?”
Lol. Not for me to decide. But nothing needs to change dramatically. You don’t need to move to a desert island, divorce or quit your job (lol again 😊).
You can start right now, as and wherever you are. All what is required is your willingness to take a couple of minutes here and there.
For example, when you sit at work, take a minute on your chair and close your eyes.
Each time you hit the bathroom during the next two weeks, listen to your breath for a minute.
When you bike, walk or drive from work, stop for 30 seconds and look at the sky and the scenery around you.
When you sit with your phone and check the social media or your messages, pause and put your phone aside for 5 breaths.
One of my former clients would take 10 deep breaths in the shower each morning.
Possibilities are endless and for you to experiment. Explore and have fun!
Obviously, you can find tons of support online if you have doubt about your own discipline to do it on your own. The “online jungle” of mindfulness resources can be overwhelming, so here are a few suggestions:
- My friend and excellent teacher Tina Fresco has offered “Time for peace” (in Danish only, “Tid til ro”) videos throughout December, 10 min each day to check in with yourself. They are still freely available.
- Pair up with a friend. Agree to text each time after you have done your check-in practice.
- I have a couple of guides on my blog page (10-min or longer) freely available, some in Danish and some in English.
- Create a special “space” in your home or office, which reminds you of checking-in with yourself. Perhaps it is just a symbolic object or picture on the end of a shelf, a post-it on your mirror, a cushion in the corner of your bedroom. Make it special for you and clear to others that it is your sacred “me-time-and-space”.
To go a little deeper…
When you start to go a deeper in your yoga practice, you will notice that meditation is a natural part of it, and eventually, that learning about yourself and personal growth (also called “Svadhyaya” or Self-Study) are a natural part of yoga.
If you feel like diving a little deeper in meditation and self-study, I am offering a 4-times series each Sunday in January, starting Jan 9, “Svadhyaya, meditation and self-study course”.
We will explore ancient yogic wisdom/teachings linked to diverse meditation techniques to get to explore ourselves, establish more balance and inner peace, and experience the depth of yoga beyond asana. Max 10 participants to ensure a safe space. Check it out and sign up: Svadhyaya meditation and self-study series.
Give presence for Christmas
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Beyond your lovely presence, if you are giving gifts this year, offer your loved ones an opportunity to drop into presence and find some inner peace. Here comes a few ideas:
A massage or a special “me-time” treatment just for them. Personally, I can recommend Susanne Henrichsen for acupuncture, Brit Kim for Ayurveda, and any of my colleagues from The Yoga Flat (check their profiles at the treatment page).
A private yoga session with your favorite teacher? 😉 I offer privates for solo and small groups for yoga and/or meditation (check my privates page, to dive into or discover yoga), as well as 1:1 session in holistic coaching and therapy (for a general reset, re-balancing and healing of body-mind-heart, on the chair or/and on the table, read more here).
A book that makes sense to you and invites one into presence. My favorite ones include: “Anam Cara” from John O’Donohue, “The Power of Now” from Eckhart Tolle, any poetry book from David Whyte, and most of what the publisher Soundstrue offers (my personal inspiration bible)! Check Soul Books bookshop, a lovely place to find inspiration in Copenhagen.
A membership or punch-card from your favorite yoga studio (e.g. Pakhus Yoga, Yoga Flat)
A video program and the like for presence. One year ago, I also designed with “Mærk Mere” a 6-class online program (in Danish) to help you reconnect to your center, at your own pace, and feel more balanced and grounded on a daily basis. It is still available for purchase here.
A workshop in the new year… For example, the SVADHYAYA series in Meditation and Self-study, 4 Sundays in January, great to share with a loved one with who you would like to go deeper or for their own exploration. A workshop on “Precious Space – open your hips and mind” at Pakhus on Jan 29, so you start the year spacious and inspired, or something else that is meaningful to you!
Most importantly, whether it is Christmas shopping, family gatherings or business that makes you busy, remember that the holiday season is also an opportunity to rest and reconnect to what is truly important – to what cannot be “bought” anywhere, and yet is right there within you.
And before I go…
May this Christmas and Holiday season be a time filled with wonder, peace, and warm, heart-filled presence for you and your loved ones.
May your transition into the new year be smooth and soothing, so you feel fresh and open to receive what is yet to come.
May you always remember the preciousness of your own presence for yourself and those around you.
I cannot wait to see you soon, perhaps before the end of the year, and if not hopefully on the other side. (PS: check Yoga Flat and Pakhus Yoga for their holiday schedule!). New classes on Wednesday morning in Dalgas Yoga from January.
And very last but not least, mark your calendars! Next retreat is planned from May 10th to 15th in Slovenia: Yoga Retreat Slovenia. More info yet to come… Send me an email to stay updated when details are ready!