As the holiday season approaches, my practice often gets busier. People come in for treatment because they get stressed by the year-end hustle bustle, because they get injured in a moment of negligence among millions of duties and deeds, and also because many of them get “holiday blues” in this time of the year.
I hear some people expressing longings for family and connections because they are away from the loved ones or have lost ones whom they love; I hear others talking about their irritation about repetitive holiday rituals with the family and the desire to be just let alone and not bothered; and I hear a lot more people complaining about getting ready for the holiday just like getting the work done before a due date — the stress, the rush and then the relief of getting things crossed off the to-to lists.
In the past, during holiday season, I often dreamed about “getting away from it all”. For this Christmas and New Year, my husband, my almost 2-year-old daughter and I are going to take a road trip down to Arizona. I was excited by the idea. However, very quickly, I noticed that at the back of my mind, a voice said, “That means no Christmas tree, no presents, no family gathering and no holiday atmosphere.” I feel the immediate unsatisfactory sensation in my guts. How crazy it is! I can’t help laughing at myself — I seem to see what is lacking so quickly! I was anticipating the future lacking and wishing for something that I would not have even before I start the trip!
We wish for kind of experience that we don’t have. We wish for things that we don’t have. We wish that our parents, our spouse, and our children could be different. We wish that the world could be different. During the holiday time, we subconsciously re-live the childhood fantasy: Maybe this holiday season, Santa would bring me the kind of thing that I wish for and my life would be all better. What is is never good enough. As we are busying wishing, we stew our mind in the “lacking” experience and we get stressed, absent-minded and unhappy.
As I notice the heavy sensation in the heart and the dissatisfaction in the guts, I decide to re-focus on the upcoming trip and the planning that I was doing on hand. As I start to pay attention to what I have and what I do in this moment, I start to feel happier and excited again. And if I flip back to the wishing-for-what-I-don’t-have channel, I experience that same unhappy feeling. It’s very interesting to observe the different mood, thoughts and experience that they each create as I flip back and forth the two channels.
It is quite simple. If you look at what you have, you feel good and if you think about what you don’t have, you start to want. Wanting is lacking. Wanting takes you out of this moment and leads you right into the kingdom of unhappiness.
Here is the story of an unhappy old lady turning into a happy old lady. The lady was so unhappy that she used to cry everyday. A monk asked her why. She said, “I have two daughters, the older one sells umbrella and the younger one sells shoes. When it rains I cry because I worry that nobody will buy my younger daughter’s shoes; and when it doesn’t rain, I feel sad that my older daughter will not sell any umbrella.” The monk said, “You should feel happy because when it rains, your older daughter will have a good business and when it doesn’t rain, your younger one will sell many shoes.” Upon hearing these words, the unhappy old lady turned into a happy old lady.
So if you are alone for this holiday, cherish the solitude and quietness; if you are going to join your family for celebration, enjoy the connection and togetherness. If you are busy preparing for the holiday, have fun with your experience of being busy.
What you have is for you to enjoy. And what you don’t have, why worry about it?
Have a wonderful holiday season just as it is!