The title of this post is a quote from Ram Dass.
It’s that time of year, time to gather with loved ones, appreciate all the goodness in our lives, prepare a delicious meal to enjoy together…. “What did you say while passing the mashed potatoes? You don’t approve of my choices? Well screw you!” Oops, there goes all that calm, peaceful energy I’ve been cultivating. What just happened?!
We’ve all experienced some version of this. You feel great, full of joy and in control of your life, able to take disappointments in stride. You’ve learned so much about how to handle yourself in difficult situations and you’re really proud of your progress. Then you go home for a holiday, and everything blows up in your face. Suddenly you’re five, or fifteen, years old again; you revert to old behaviors and patterns that haven’t showed up, well since the last time you spent time with your family. Why is it that our family can so easily trigger us into confrontation or frustration in five seconds flat?! And, more importantly, what can we do about this?
Here are five strategies for staying calm and grounded during the holidays.
1) Honor your onion.
No, not this one although it's pretty awesome. Personal development and growth is like peeling back layers of an onion, there’s always more. Resolving one issue around feeling criticized doesn’t mean there isn’t another layer of issues needing work. Family does a great job of getting us to that next layer. It may feel like a repeat of an old pattern, but if you’ve done a lot of work on yourself, it’s more likely that you’re simply peeling a new layer. Honor it and appreciate your progress.
2) Be the Buddha.
Jack Kornfield, a mentor of mine, told a wonderful story about a woman who would go home to visit her parents after converting to Buddhism. She would tell them about Buddhism, mindfulness, and the changes in her life. Her parents would nod and sort of listen but never changed their own habits. One day, the woman came home and simply gave up on trying to convince her parents of the merits of her practice. Instead, she focused on embodying everything she had learned. She meditated every day, staying grounded and calm. At the end of that visit, for the first time ever, her parents asked about meditation and how they could learn more. When reflecting back on the experience, the woman said, “This last time, instead of telling my parents about Buddhism and meditation, I simply became the Buddha.”
Whether it’s meditation or something else that has changed your life, rather than trying to explain it to your family, see if you can embody the ideals of your new wisdom instead. This is the best way to influence others.
3) Clear Your Energy
A very helpful tool I’ve learned to let go of other people’s energy from my space is a practice called grounding. Here is a free meditation to try grounding yourself. You ground into the earth, pull the earth’s energy into your system, and release the energy of other people or events that no longer serve you. This will help you stay centered, regardless of what or who is going on around you.
4) Find a Quiet Space.
Family can be overwhelming, making it easy to forget to take time out for ourselves. Be sure to set aside alone time to decompress, go on a run, do yoga, meditate, journal, SOMETHING that rejuvenates you and allows you to separate from the group’s energy for a period before re-integrating.
5) Be grateful to your teachers.
The best lessons are hard, and family is our greatest teacher. And, great teachers can be very challenging to be around because they are always challenging us. Instead of taking on the attitude of, “I’m too busy being triggered to deal with my triggers!” find a small piece of you that can be grateful. Your family is pointing out the areas that still set you off, and these are your areas for growth and opportunity. Be grateful for the learning opportunity.
If you practice these five strategies, you’ll find yourself passing the mashed potatoes with a smile on your face – instead of shoving them into someone else’s face.