As this year draws to a close, it may be tempting to review the year through the lens of regret and make (another set of) new year’s resolutions, but what if there were another way of looking at this time of year, that comes around, each and every year.
The holiday season is traditionally seen as the time of the year when we can relax, unwind, take time off work, take time out from our traditional routine, catch up with family and friends, switch off, check out, and indulge our desires, rewarding ourselves for a year of hard work.
It can be a much needed time to rest, reflect on the year that was and prepare ourselves for the year to come.
But we can often use this time in a way that does not support us to rest and regenerate, a way that indulges us to excess and a way that then needs to be cleared from the body (enter new year’s resolutions!).
The Christmas/New Year holidays can also be a stressful time for many. For those of us without family or friends, or separated from them at this current time of worldwide restrictions of movement, it can heighten our feelings of isolation and loneliness. For those without much money, it can sharpen our perception of our poverty. For those whose families are not always loving with each other, it can be an anxious, difficult and sometimes downright dangerous time.
Rates of domestic violence, child abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and suicide rise around this time as any sense of lack or emptiness in our lives is brought into sharp focus.
The problems in our own homes and communities are reflected in the world at large which is, frankly, in a mess. We can live in reaction to it, withdrawing from it, seeking relief from the tension of it, rewarding ourselves for living in it, or, we can renounce (say no to) and detach from (let go of) it all.
This does not mean leaving our jobs and going to live by the ocean or in the mountains far away from other people, but letting ourselves see what is not of truth in this world and choosing to not add to the lies and corruption of the world we have collectively created.
We spend a great deal of time blinkering ourselves, so we don’t have to see and feel the evil in this world. We react to it, and eat and drink in a way to take the edge off it, to dull ourselves from feeling it all in its entirety. We use many and various tools to numb, dull, stimulate and distract ourselves away from just being with the world as it is.
What if we were to let ourselves see and feel it all, and then use this awareness to inspire us to live in a different way, a way that does not add to the rot but which offers us and all those around us a way out of it?
Much of the way we have been created and have fashioned ourselves to be is the opposite of who we in truth are.
I know for myself, I was a big drinking, sweet eating, rather selfish woman who indulged her every whim and desire. I was nice to people, a ‘good’ woman, wife, mother and doctor, but secretly I could not wait for the moments when I could get away from everyone and be by myself where no one could bother me (but me).
But that is not the truth of who I am. I have come to realise I am actually a deeply sensitive woman who was living in reaction to people and to life. I now cherish myself as a precious and sacred being, who honours her body and everything she puts into it and who loves people and treasures her relationships with everyone around her.
I have not come to this awareness and understanding overnight, but gradually over several years, through the power of renunciation (saying no), and detachment (letting go).
This started with my physical body. Allowing myself first to feel what certain foods and drinks were doing to me – how they were affecting me, the quality of my relationships and my ability to serve through work – being honest about it all and then saying no and letting them go when it was clear they no longer served.
Alcohol was the first to go, as I came to realise I did not love it as I had thought, but was addicted to it, and how it numbed me, cut me off from people and allowed my body to be used in ways I would never allow if I were sober. I felt the horror of not being able to control how much I drank once I started, and not being able to control my thoughts, emotions or actions when I had been drinking.
Cigarettes went soon afterwards, as apart from the obvious health risks, the cost and the disgusting smell, I realised I was using them to numb myself from what I did not want to feel. I hated feeling numb and raw as it was in the beginning, it was beautiful to feel my senses coming alive again once the drugs left my system.
Coffee was next, as I realised it made me racy, edgy and irritable and was starting to affect my heart and my ability to rest and sleep deeply at night. I realised that I did not love coffee, but I needed it to get through the day, as I was so exhausted. But its effects were only short lived, and left me feeling even more exhausted when the coffee wore off, causing disturbance not only to my energy levels and mood, but my blood sugar, which required me to eat cake with the coffee to prop me up!
Once these drugs were out of my system, I then started to feel more acutely the effects of various foods: the bloating, lethargy and drowsiness after eating carbohydrates; the raciness and irritability after eating sugar; the dampness in my lungs, blocked sinuses and snotty nose after eating dairy; and little by little, one by one, I (usually reluctantly!) said no and let them go.
I started to feel why I ate foods, how I felt before during and after eating them, and this increased awareness kept me honest about what foods were really doing to me, and what I was using them for, which supported me to let go of those which did not truly support my body and my being.
As my body started to clear all the foods that were affecting it, it became lighter and clearer and more and more sensitive and continues to do so. My choices of food and drink have to be continually refined in light of this – not just what I eat, but how much I eat, when and why – if I am to honour my body, where it is at, what supports it and what does not.
And this extends to all other aspects of life like the time I go to bed and the way I prepare myself for sleep. I have come to regard sleep as a vital, perhaps the most precious, part of my day and to prepare myself accordingly. I wind down gently at the end of the day, eating lightly and not eating foods that make me feel too dull and/or stimulated, so that by bed time, I am ready to settle deeply, to let my body rest and allow it to do its night work, the work of healing and restoring my physical body and deepening and advancing the being inside it, preparing me for the day to come.
This aspect of the wind-down rhythm has actually proven the most challenging of all, for the way I am at the end of the day reflects the way I have been through the whole of it, and if any part of me feels like the day has not been enough, or that I have not been enough in it, I go looking for reward, stimulation, distraction … anything to not feel that I have not brought my all to the day. As I learn to detach from (let go of), and renounce (say no to) anything that interferes with me bringing my all, I feel more complete, more settled, and ready to let go of the day and prepare for the night of sleep.
In truth, it is all one day, and the way we take ourselves to sleep affects the way we are at night, which sets up the way we are in the day that follows, which affects the way we are the next night … for life is not a straight line, or a race to be run, but a cycle that goes around until we learn the lessons of this plane of life.
As it is just one day, that we don’t leave behind, but bring it all with us as we go, until we renounce (say no) and detach (let go) of that which is not true in our way of living, so do we not in truth leave behind the year and make a fresh start, for we take it all with us, in this body of ours. But we do have this space at the end of each year to deeply connect with our bodies and how they feel and to consider how the way we have been living has contributed to this, and to review the year that was and prepare for the year to come, and how we are to be in it.
The Christmas/New Year holidays can be a time to indulge our desires, but this can lead us to live in a way that leaves us feeling like we need a holiday to recover from our holiday! It does not really serve us to overindulge ourselves, to numb and distract ourselves, to check out, eat and drink to excess, and remove ourselves from life and people.
Anne this is such a comprehensive list of ‘how we can use this holiday time of year to review how we have been living and then to be absolutely truthful with ourselves as to what has been a truly loving way of being or not. It gives us the opportunity to prepare a self-care programme that truly nurtures our body and being in a self-loving way.
I deeply appreciate your honesty in sharing how you made the many changes to every aspect of your life so that you could live in ‘a true and loving way with yourself and all others.