By Julie Piatt
[NOTE: This guest post is intended as a companion piece to accompany and expand upon my conversation with Rich on Episode #60 of the podcast. I hope you enjoy it, as well as the holiday recipes we discussed, which will be published over the course of the week – Julie.]
The holidays are supposed to be such a lovely time of year. They represent festivities and celebrations around family, friends and co-workers. Rituals and traditions are honored that have been in our individual ancestry for ages. So why is it that many of us feel depressed, stressed and frankly not quite keen on celebrating anything at all? I’ll admit it — it happens every year with me. Why? I feel myself asking in my small “Whoville” voice. “Why? Santa Claus, Why?”
I have an inkling…
If you observe the natural cycles of the seasons, you will no doubt notice that the holidays fall in the dead of winter — at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere. This is a time when — on a symbolic, and in some cases a very real tactile level — all life is dying away. Frost covers the trees’ barren branches; bears are hibernating; and birds are nowhere to be seen, having already migrated to warmer climates. The days grow shorter, the nights longer. Most of us feel inert, immobilized, maybe even paralytic — seeking little beyond quietude. A warm bed. A nourishing meal. And a crackling fire after the sun sets.
The mere exertion of energy can be a struggle; forget about partying and celebrating amongst large crowds. And yet this is what’s expected of most of us, despite how counter-intuitive it may feel to what is naturally occurring in nature. I don’t mean to be a buzzkill. I love celebrating family, friends and I adore ritual and tradition. But the honest truth is that I don’t feel much like celebrating in December. I find myself asking, “can’t we just do this thing in the Spring instead?”
“Santa is Coming”. He’s relentless. And persistent. And the kids know this. The stores keep packing in holiday inventory earlier and earlier each year to offset the economic struggle. The process starts to eat away at us. We start wondering if we will have enough money to live up to the expectations we place upon ourselves and we are strategizing how to fit it all in. Sadly, for many of us, if we lack the means to immediately underwrite the gift purchases, we throw caution to the wind and just charge it on a credit card. “’Tis the season, after all!” is the hot motto for impulse shopping. And we aren’t about to feel guilty about it, dammit! It feels so good to give something to someone we love. Yes it does! That is, at least until we get the credit card bill in January and then that knot of fear in our stomach we buried for dead starts to rise to the surface in a full blown resurrection of panic.
Don’t despair. We can still celebrate the holidays, experience joy, laughter and be responsible and nurturing to ourselves. We can all make choices that support us to emerge from December healthy, happy, whole and connected. Here are some ways that help me and my family maintain sanity during the holidays.
1. Say “No” to Purchasing Gifts: Alright, so that’s a bit of a utopian extreme. On some level we are all consumers. And the consumerism inevitably gets dialed up during this time of year. You’re going to buy gifts. But let’s give ourselves permission to at least whittle it down to, say, one purchased gift per person. Don’t equate the depth of your love for your loved ones with the amount of money you spend on them during the holidays. Better yet, rather than buy your gifts, ponder the idea of making them. Special things. Memorable things, made with love. This is what stands the test of time, and creates valuable, lasting memories.
2. Say “No” to Purchasing a Tree: Rather than buying a Christmas tree, instead find a living tree already growing in your yard or street and decorate that one. Make popcorn chains. Decorate the tree with existing toys from your children’s rooms. Get creative and turn the whole affair into a family-oriented art project. Pretend you can’t buy christmas ornaments. What would you use? Gardening tools? herb bundles? Scarfs and hats? Utilize what you already have handy and create something unique and memorable. You might be surprised just how much fun you can have with your kids on this one. And believe me, they will remember — and cherish — the experience.
3. Say “No” to Credit Cards: Make a pact to not charge one thing. Spend only what you can absolutely afford and instead come up with creative, family oriented contests around the giving process. Divide the family into teams and create something original that is a custom gift made from the heart. Put a ceiling amount on the cost which will always breed more creativity. Limitations always birth something new. In other words, if you can’t buy it, then you must create it. The offering could take the form of a video, a song, a painting, a game, a dance. Anything at all. Chances are, you will have much more fun working on the project with your children or family members. And most certainly, the gift exchange will have more meaning than just buying something at the mall.
4. Say “Yes” to Regifting. It can be a very humorous and sometimes rewarding exchange. I’ve been pining for a guitar of Tyler’s for quite some time. And I would so enjoy some of Rich’s compression gear. I’m sure I have some groovy jewelry my girls would enjoy. I’m getting inspired just writing about this. Spend a little on the gift wrap or custom paint and wrap the re-gift swag (there is real power in the presentation). Let hilarity ensue. Then enjoy the irony.
5. Say “No” to an Excess of Parties and Social Obligations. Just because you are invited doesn’t mean you have to attend. True wellness means establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. If an obligation is just too much of an energy output to manage, graciously pass. Only attend the events you have a sincere desire to participate in. Otherwise, stay home and nurture yourself. Don’t worry, they’ll live. The point is to emerge for all of this in January not just physically and emotionally intact, but feeling energized and excited about the New Year — isn’t that the point? What a novel concept.
6. Say “Yes” to a Plant-Based, Whole Food Diet Free from Gluten and Refined Sugars. If you read this blog, then you shouldn’t be surprised by this one! No matter how busy you may be, ensure you nourish yourself with a smoothie packed with fresh (preferably organic) greens, veggies, fruits and superfoods BEFORE you venture out to a party. That way you will be less likely to find yourself eating foods that are not healing for you. Prepare and take more than your share of healthy home-prepared options to potluck gatherings. Maybe your dish will be of service in shifting someone else into a plant based lifestyle. Or even better, bring your Vitamix (or BlendTec or other blender) and set up a green drink bar. Feeding others is considered one of the highest spiritual blessings you can offer.
Adapting family traditional recipes and dishes to be animal free, PlantPowered, and (refined) sugar free is not as difficult as you think it may be. Stock up on the herbs and flavorings that make dishes ring true to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Holiday meals. What are the herbs, foods and flavors we associate with these meals? Sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, apples, pumpkins, cranberries, mushrooms, celery, pecan, walnuts, marshmallows, pineapple, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. Leveraging these flavors is very helpful in designing a plant based, animal, dairy, gluten and refined sugar free holiday meal. Click to see my recipes for Gluten Free Vegan Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes and Almost Raw Pumpkin Pie (hyperlinks will be added as these recipes publish throughout the week).
7. Say “Yes” to Meditation. For the duration of the holiday season, make a commitment to yourself to set aside quiet meditation time each day to recharge your body, mind and spirit. This is of particular and paramount importance in balancing yourself to manage the barrage of holiday oriented social and familial obligations, particularly if you have what I like to call “super-charged energy” with one or more members of your family. What you don’t want to do is come out the other side bruised and scarred asking yourself, “I wonder how different the holiday experience would have been had I just meditated every day?”
8. Say “No” to Direct Confrontation: Holidays can be highly charged emotional experiences. To best navigate these treacherous waters, see # 7 above — I can’t stress the importance of meditation enough. And, avoid direct confrontation and drama at all costs. Emotional explosions are very detrimental to you and to others around you and the holidays just are not the time or place for this kind of encounter. Instead, try this 5-step process for clearing the charge before the family holiday gathering.
1. Sit in a comfortable seating position, spine straight, muscles relaxed, eyes closed. Imagine yourself surrounded by golden egg shape of vibrant moving light.
2. Ask that the higher form of the person you have a “super-charge” with to be brought before you. Tell this person either in your mind or out loud everything you want to say to him or her. Include things you are angry about, your hurt, sadness, and resentment. Tell him or her what you wish had been different; include any regrets. Keep going until you’ve said it all. Take your time and make sure you cover all of it. Be very thorough.
3. Now, ask your higher self to remove any connections to this person and mentally visualize cords or connections being disconnected. You may feel this in certain parts of your body. Continue breathing and let it all go. Ask to activate the qualities of complete forgiveness and complete forgetfulness.
4. State and intend to be removed from participation in this energy exchange with this person in any form. State and claim your free will and sovereign power in your life.
5. Finally, thank them and the Universe for this gift of learning and bless them. See them move out of your field. And see yourself fully calm, contained and self sustained. Practice staying in neutral loving compassion knowing that each life has it’s right to it’s own choices and life. You can be released and relaxed in this new awareness. You are no better than any other person, nor worse than any other person. This neutrality is peaceful and calm. All is well.
I sincerely hope you find this information helpful.
Here’s to a happy healthy sustainable holiday season!
P.S. – Want to learn more about our plant-based lifestyle and how to implement it into your life? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition- the online course Rich and I created in partnership with MindBodyGreen.com. 3.5 hours of online streaming video content broken up into segmented topics, plus an online community and loads of downloadable tools and recipes.