The Changing Meaning of Holidays
How are you doing with the holidays? As I’ve gotten older and my children are off doing their adult lives, the holidays have changed meaning. Holidays have always been about family: children, grandchildren, parents, siblings. Now it’s not. While I know that these changes are normal and to be expected — I didn’t — expect them I mean.
So here we are at the end of 2017. I am experiencing different emotions than I have in the past: some acceptance, some grieving, some curiosity about new possibilities. I thought you might have some similar feelings so I thought I would share an exercise that helps me. It is very simple. It is also supportive in many ways. The practice is known as Tonglen. It is an old meditation practice that comes to us from Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan, the word Tonglen means giving and taking, or sending and receiving. Appropriate for our winter holidays, yes?
Participating in this meditation will help you realize that you are not alone in your feelings. I find it very useful when I am IN an emotional upheaval but it can certainly be practiced it at any time. There is no need to reserve it only for painful emotions or chaos. You can also practice it when you’re feeling gratitude to connect with others who are also experiencing gratitude.
I call this meditation Connecting to Others with a Blessing—it speaks to me more that way. I suggest that you read through the exercise so you don’t have to break concentration to read it. It’s really simple and easily remembered with just a reading or two. Ready?
Connecting to Others with a Blessing
You will want to close your eyes and take in a couple of deep breaths. Breathing in…. and out…. Breathe in easily and effortlessly, then breathe out slowly and gently. With each out breath release any tension you are holding in your body. Continue to breathe and allow yourself to expand and become more relaxed and comfortable.
Do your best to pull in from your feelings and emotions and just become an observing presence. That observing part of you is your true Self, your Divine Spark within. It is distinctly detached from your circumstances and emotions. It never changes even though your life does. Connect with that deeper wider center within you. Now imagine that the deeper wider center within fills your body completely. Continue to breathe in… and…. out. Each time you breathe in, feel this part of you expand as far as it will go—outside you, to fill the room your are in, to fill your neighborhood. Will it reach beyond the clouds? This is your true nature. The part of you that is connected to All That Is. It is without limits.
Now, from this centered place, allow yourself to feel any emotions that are present for you. They may be difficult emotions like sadness, anger or grief. They may be gentler emotions like gratitude, empathy or kindness. Whatever the emotion is, yes even if it is a hard one, breathe it in. Take it into your heart.
Now, this time as you breathe out I invite you to offer a blessing or prayer for anyone who may be experiencing this same emotion that you are at this exact same time. It can be as simple as “I send a blessing to everyone in sadness at this time.” Repeat this by breathing in very emotion you’re experiencing, and breathing it back out with a blessing for others. You share this experience with thousands of others around the world. Your efforts lighten the emotional burden for you and those thousands of others. Suffering is a little lighter in the world today because of you.
I encourage you to take this sense of connectedness and blessing with you. Let the feeling of connectedness transform your holidays. Even if you’re not with loved ones, or your holidays are unrecognizably different than they once were, you are not alone. There are countless others that are feeling similar emotions, and you have just connected with them.
Wishing you peace and joy filled holidays. ♡