Jesus, Buddha, and other esteemed spiritual figures could supposedly spend time with even the most vile folks without having it affect them. Most of us aren't quite that enlightened. When I hang around people who are detached from their highest and best selves, my connection frays, too. And for many of us, there's no time when more frazzle occurs than during the holidays, when far-flung family members come together.
There's a scene in the old movie Home for the Holidays where the main character turns to her unpleasant sister and tells her that if she were a stranger whom she met on the street, she'd toss her phone number away. Alas, in the real world we're stuck with our relatives, both the good and the bad ones. In short order, we'll be breaking bread, going shopping, perhaps attending religious services, and even spending whole days with people we may actively dislike.
Here are my tips for keeping yourself elevated no matter who surrounds you:
Prepare your own vibration. Meditate, listen to uplifting music, do some deep breathing, take a short walk in nature--whatever helps you center yourself and feel good. Do this in the morning and in stolen moments throughout the day. If you have young children, encourage them to do it with you. When you're in your own aligned space, it's much harder to be pulled into arguments, gossip, or political discussions you'd rather avoid.
Make a mental list of their good traits. Even the most obnoxious relative has at least a few traits you can admire. Ticking them off in your head before you see them helps you hone in on those aspects when you are together. If possible, try to ascribe positive motives for some of the things that most bother you: When your mother pries into your personal life, for example, it's because she cares about you, or even though your brother still hasn't returned the cash he borrowed years ago maybe he intends to but is still struggling financially, or your crazy Uncle Larry who gets drunk every holiday meal certainly likes to have fun. Speak these positive attributes out loud, to your partner or your children if you have, to solidify your focus on them.
Bring the compassion to your relatives that you do with other people. Of course, it's harder to feel sorry for, say, a liar when you're the one who's been constantly lied to. But if someone told you about a chronic liar (or shamer, egomaniac, blamer, overall nut...) that you didn't personally know, you'd probably sympathetically assume they had a tough upbringing or have a mental disease. Whenever possible, drop the historic baggage your family members' negative traits stir up in you and see them the way a compassionate stranger would.
Cleanse the air in your home after they're gone. There's a reason a deserted monastery, church, or ashram feels so peaceful, and why even an empty dance club hypes you up. People leave bits of their energy in the spaces they inhabit. If negative relatives spend time in your home, take a few minutes once they leave to spiritually cleanse the air, by turning on soothing music and burning scented candles, incense, or a stick of sage.
Supplement those unpleasant folks with positive one. Ask your favorite friends to drop by for a drink or some tea during (or just after) the holidays. Or think of some acquaintances you admire and enjoy that maybe you've refrained from having over, perhaps for fear they'd think your place isn't nice enough. Realize that people connected to their higher essences aren't the type who judge, and invite them into your home. Their positive energy will counter the negative people and help you reconnect to your own higher core--the space you want to be in when your relatives return home and start calling.
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new book Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids.