One of my favorite holiday memories includes a ritual I used to practice every year as a child.
Once the tree was adorned with lights and colorful ornaments, and presents were tucked all around, I would clear out a small space and lie down with my head underneath its willowy arms. It was probably an amusing sight to see! A small child with her head pressed up against the tree stand, hidden from view, legs sprawled out into the living room. Sometimes my little sister would join me, and we’d lay there together, side by side, half hidden in a world of our own making. We’d lie there for what felt like hours. Mesmerized by the view of our beloved holiday tree from below.
This is what the adults in the room didn’t know–the secret to enjoying the holiday season was hidden underneath that tree.
Underneath the tree was a stillness found nowhere else in the house. In the flurry of the holiday activity, the phrase “all is calm, all is bright” was made tangible, embodied. With my little head hidden away from the rest of the world, I would close my eyes tight as I arranged myself as close to the center of the tree as possible. Once fully covered by the boughs, I would slowly open my eyes to the beauty, wonder, awe and magic in the view above. Layers of color, swirling lights, muffled silence, fragrant sweet sap and pine, the steady rise and fall of breath in my chest, and my baby sister there to share it with.
As an adult, getting under the tree is a little more difficult (both physically and metaphorically!). But the lesson is clear: take time to savor stillness, wonder, and connection. For most of us, our ideas of what we hope the holidays will be like can be inconsistent with the actual experience of it. Holiday nostalgia often evokes images of quiet snowstorms, sparkling lights, bundled families, treasured traditions, simmering drinks and specially prepared foods. Holiday reality, however, often brings overwhelm or disappointment, and we can sometimes lose ourselves and our connection with others in over-planning, over-spending, over-indulging, and over-committing.
So I invite you all to join me this year underneath the tree and practice mindfully redirecting your priorities and attention–one day at a time. Let’s reimagine and redefine how we live out this holiday season.
- Say no to the good opportunities that come your way to leave room to create and savor the great or most important experiences for yourself and for your family. Like an appreciative “no” to the next dinner invite and a hearty “yes” to hot cocoa and music around the fire.
- Deemphasize the material and prioritize the simple, ordinary beauty around you: reclaim love in a season that has become entangled with money.
- Check your expectations at the door. Be available to what is actually happening in the moment, and cultivate an inner flexibility that helps you to stay open and present. Rather than hoping Aunt Ruth will finally love the gift you put a lot of thought into giving her (when she’s difficult to please), savor time together exchanging memories and laughs (and let the gift giving be what it is).
- Prioritize more space for connections with people rather than rigidly checking off your to-do list. Hold a hand. Sit down and make eye contact with the person in front of you. Play a game. Let go of the endless stream of work to be done and take everyone out for a walk.
- Stop “shoulding” all over yourself! Aka: should go to every event we’re invited to, should have made this by hand, should have a pinterest worthy table, should have baked that from scratch, should have made it to the gym more…
- Release old traditions that no longer provide peace and joy, and create new ones that foster stillness, wonder, and connection.
- And refer back to Amber’s thoughtfully curated tips to tame overwhelm in the inevitable cluttered moments as the year comes to a close.
What helps you create more stillness, wonder, and connection throughout the holiday season?