Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Do you dread the holidays? Even in the days of Covid and social-distance or video gatherings, can the thought of seeing your family cause you anxiety, maybe evoking painful memories? Maybe thoughts of home bring up memories of being measured against siblings, and always being found wanting. Do you find yourself resuming childhood roles, feeling the same feelings, having the same arguments? Frustrating isn’t it? Maybe your family doesn’t support your life decisions, and reconnecting over the holidays means being challenged, and feeling always on the defensive. Or maybe, your affectionate, loving family doesn’t know that you are getting divorced, getting fired, or gay. Do you wish you could just stay home with Netflix and Chinese takeout rather than face family drama? Would you like to see your family AND keep your sanity this holiday season? Mindfulness Meditation can help.
First, find yourself a quiet place to sit, where you won’t be disturbed. Gently close your eyes, and start breathing slowly and deeply. Allow the muscles in your forehead to relax, your face to soften, your jaw to unclench, your shoulders to drop. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body. As you softly breathe, allow yourself to imagine your family greeting you in the best possible way. Visualize spending time with them in the most enjoyable way you can imagine. Picture yourself speaking authentically and being accepted just as you are. When you notice your thoughts have wandered, do not judge yourself, but gently and kindly return your attention to your breath. As you relax and gently breathe, allow yourself to enjoy this imagined visit.
Practice this meditation at least daily for a week or so leading up to your holiday visit. While you know that you cannot change anyone else’s behavior, the practice of visualizing yourself being comfortable and authentic can change how you show up. That is, rather than arriving, feeling tense and just waiting for the criticism and judgment to begin, you can potentially arrive feeling at ease with yourself and with the expectation that others will respond accordingly. You may even find that you are able to relax and enjoy yourself, regardless of how others behave. Again, we know we cannot change others, but in practicing being at ease with ourselves, it will affect how we act in the presence of our families, and thus increase the possibility of having a more pleasurable experience.