Another December has arrived and once again we are busily preparing for the holiday rituals that will take place as the year winds to an end. This is a perfect time to stop for a moment and really think about the meaning of your own celebrations, so that you don't end up spending a fortune in time and money with nothing real to show when it is over.
This is the year that you should dedicate yourself to staying in the present moment as much as possible, no matter how crazy and hectic your schedule becomes. If you race through each day of the season, mindlessly completing the items on your to-do list, you can become exhausted, depleted and resentful and totally miss the joys of this special time of year.
The solution is to give yourself some special gifts this year. I'm not talking about gifts that cost money or are indulgent, like a spa day, a fancy night on the town, or an exotic vacation -- though those things may be just what you need right now. But these are some "splurges" for the Soul -- activities that will help you find meaning in these holy days:
1. The Gift of Solitude
No matter how busy you are, take some time out to be totally alone during part of one day or evening. Try to find a place to go where you will not be around other people and turn your phone off or leave it behind for at least one hour. I live in the mountains and it's easy for me to snowshoe on a trail above my house and walk in solitude for an entire day. But if you live in a city you may have to be creative: find a park where you can sit in an out-of-the-way grove, visit a little-used section of your local library, or find a time when you have your home to yourself, with no internet, television or radio to distract you.
The idea is to be totally alone with your thoughts for an hour. During that time, take some deep breaths, think about the holiday that is approaching, reminisce about good times in the past, and contemplate what is most important to you about this season. Think of at least one thing you love about the holidays and plan how you can emphasize that activity or feeling in your life this year.
2. The Gift of Spontaneity
Be watchful for opportunities to do something special that is not on your to-do list: wander through a local neighborhood to look at the lights, stop to listen to carolers on the street corner, take in the special window displays downtown, make a snow-angel or build a snowman if you live in a cold climate.
3. The Gift of Wisdom
Spend some time reading from one of the great Wisdom texts available to us: the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Kabbalah, I Ching, The Gospel of Thomas, Tao te Ching, the poetry of Rumi or countless other sources. Immerse yourself in the beautiful language and thoughtful sentiments in these ancient writings. As Rumi wrote: "Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."
4. The Gift of Hunger
This may not sound like a gift at all, but I encourage you -- just once during these holy days -- to skip a meal. In this season of baking, feasting, partying and frequent overindulgence, it is an interesting experiment to go without eating for part of a day. When you have felt hunger for a few hours you will actually appreciate the abundant food that surrounds you and remember those who are not so fortunate at this or any other time of the year. You might even want to donate the money you save from that meal to a local soup kitchen or charity.
5. The Gift of Stars
Though it may be difficult for some, depending on where you live, I recommend going to a place one evening where you can look up and see the stars. Lie back for a brief time and study the vastness of the universe, reminding yourself how small we really are here on our beautiful planet. All of the rushing, shopping, buying, wrapping, baking, and entertaining that fill up your schedule are not really important when you consider the entire expanse of creation. But the Love that you feel and share with others rises above everything as what really matters during this holiday season.
And finally, no matter which of the above gifts you choose to give yourself this year, I suggest that you spend some time writing about the experience in your journal. Remember to express your gratitude every day for this amazing life and all the blessings that have been showered upon you, during these holy days and all year long. May you have a December to remember as you bring this year to a close and share your gifts with the world!
And please accept a small gift from me this year: if you are interested in starting a journal or enhancing your journaling practice, you can download the "Journaling Starter Kit" on my website at www.karenwyattmd.com (no obligation -- you don't even have to sign up!) Enjoy this gift of reflection from me to you and may your days be blessed with what really matters!
About the Author:
(Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician and the author of the award-winning book "What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying." She is a frequent keynote speaker and radio show guest whose profound teachings have helped many find their way through the difficult times of life. Learn more about her work at www.karenwyattmd.com.)