by: Jill Sockman

Tuesday night was the first night of a four-week series that I’m offering during this holiday season. When the message came through to put it on the calendar, I wasn’t clear on why, if anyone would be interested, or in what way it might be of service. But what I knew for sure was that this time of year can be chaotic, frantic, overly busy. It can elicit feelings of happiness and excitement and, just as much, feelings of loneliness, separation, and frustrated confusion at the state of our world and its priorities. The best medicine I know of for all of that is community.

We started the evening with conversation about why participants committed to these four evenings in such a busy time of year.  And while the answers varied, some themes ran consistently throughout all six groups. I’m guessing our sample is in some way representative of the whole, and this perhaps sheds some light on where we are as a collective this time of year and what we need to thrive through the season:

A desire to be connected. Considering we spend so much time “talking” with others over text and e-mail and “checking in” with friends and family on social media, many of us feel more disconnected than ever before. I recently came upon statistics about the huge percentage of our population that regularly experiences loneliness and it is staggering. We want to belong – to ourselves and in the world. We are looking for meaningful in-person interactions and live conversations about things that matter. Seek them out and treasure them. Nourish and invest in those relationships.

The need to stay centered. I’m beginning to understand that no matter how disciplined I am in my practice or how many tools I have in the toolkit, there are many forces simultaneously and constantly pulling me away from my center and what I know to be true. Apparently I am not alone. From troublesome thoughts and habitual mental spin to tirelessly addressing the shoulds, wants, needs and demands of friends, family and work, it takes more than a morning meditation practice to live consistently from center at any time of year, much less during the holidays when the strain on our time and energy is even greater. We want to be present, stay present, and show up authentically and in alignment with our truth. Letting go of the extraneous, turning away from distraction and regularly touching in to the present moment as it is are ways to stay centered.

To find groundedness. I just learned as I typed that groundedness is apparently not even a word, but I think you know what I mean. Days and weeks whiz by and we so easily get stuck on go. It’s physics: objects in motion will tend to stay in motion. In other words, it’s easy to let the action of daily life become an endless spin of activity until we fall exhausted into bed- only to get up and do it again the next day. What is it to be grounded? To experience steadiness, stillness. To feel tethered and held by spaciousness and grace. It is impossible to feel this, experience this, if we don’t fight physics and stop the constant motion. To be still and to breathe is to find steady ground.

A place to fill my cup. Most of us are in the mode of giving and serving a lot of the time. I think this is a good way to live, but it is not sustainable if we are not also dedicating time and attention to filling our own cups. It’s never someone else’s job or responsibility to make sure we are full- we must be accountable and doggedly dedicated to what lights us up, brings us joy, and fills our hearts. We must seek it out, make it a priority. This is not a selfish practice. Rather, being full allows us to bring that fullness to everyone we meet and everything we do. Your joy is not a luxury. It is a necessity.

Most of you who are reading this are not joining us on Tuesday nights. But I am guessing that as you move into December and whatever holidays you celebrate, some of the things you need are the same as what we discussed on Tuesday evening. And so the challenge is, what can you do?

As always, the most important part is to acknowledge that you do have needs and to identify what they are. Sounds simple, but all too often we are so focussed on the to-do list of life that we put ourselves on the back burner. Take time to ask yourself what you really need. Can you commit to habits, rituals and practices to take better care of yourself in the coming weeks? Connected, centered, grounded and full, might you be better able to be present during this beautiful and challenging season and shine as you were made to?

As we close the book on 2017, thanks for being with us. May you find peace in your heart and mind as you move into the New Year.