It's that time of year when it's so easy to get caught up in mindless busyness, excess and consumerism that’s been significant in our culture for as long as I can remember. This year I did something rather radical and just spent four days on a completive and eco-centric retreat, slowly down and listening more deeply to the natural world and remembering what is important. I have a gift to share with you all and invitation to enter our traditional end and start of year festivities with more connection, care and generosity.
This time of year is associated with good food, cheerfulness and gift giving which often looks like stacked shopping trolleys, traffic jams and car parks entering shopping centres that become war zones for stressed out parents. The real cost is the amount of landfill that this one day creates for our environment that takes hundreds of years to break down and there is also the cost the whole silly season pressure has on your mental health and wellbeing. My gift to you this year is to share another way to do Christmas, holidays and New Year with nature, community and wellness in mind.
I'd like to invite you to join me in a ritual by following these careful steps to guide you mindfully through a slower season of celebration, care and connection.
Set your intention: The festive season ritual intention is to cultivate compassion for ourselves, the earth and each other by making space for mindful connection and offering each other experiences, gifts and nourishment created with love and given with kindness and generosity.
Prepare the ritual: In the lead up to December prepare your home or work environment, by this I mean be careful not to overbook for Dec-Jan calendar, allow spaciousness to rest and for quality connection and book a time and day in November to plan what that might look like. Make a sacred space to honour this festivity, think about what is symbolic for you in this celebration and capture it with objects that centre your mind around the essence of compassion, care and generosity. My ideas include pine cones collected at our local park, holy with the little red berries on the table I usually find in a nature walk and candles to burn the light of consciousness through the season. I like to unpack our precious heirloom decorations than I've have received from my ancestor who now dwell with me in spirit. I decorate our tree lovingly knowing the story and history behind each ornament, some coming from foreign land where my ancestors once walked. I purchase one special ornament each year that catches my eye and offers our family something symbolic of the year, time and place I purchase it. My children take much joy in participating in this ritual and sharing the stories each year as we unpack them and place them carefully on the branches.
Plan your ritual: Understand when you feel most resourced and book your catch ups around those times. December marks the last month of the year, the end of the school year for our youth and end of the 2019 calendar. Ways to mark this closing of an era include having conversations about achievements, challenges and opportunities to do better, these can also be marked by dance, music and mindful eating. Not all festivities need alcohol to be fun so be mindful if drinking alcohol is actually joyful or escapism and think ahead about healthier options if find yourself surrounded by heavy drinkers. Ways you might plan to celebrate include a brunch date, afternoon enjoying culture at the local market or picnic in the gardens might offer fresh connections rather than office drinks at the bar after work. Say no to anything that really doesn't connect with your values and where you want to be long term and if it feels right you can offer up something that does in return. For example if you've eaten out two times during the week already, try going for a long walk or short hike to connect instead and include some exercise in your catch up.
Shop Local Buy Wise: While shopping for gifts try to source locally produced, artisan created, unique and ethical products. By doing so you know it won't cost the earth in the long run, you will influence market trends in the future and you will be doing your bit to support your own local eco-system and community. Ideas for this include perhaps buy one gift and spending a little more rather than going for quantity. Also asking your goods be wrapped in paper and taking along cloth shopping bags and not buying plastic can also help reduce landfill. My daughters started a lovely idea creating gift boxes for their friends using recycles shoe boxes they paint up with pretty paintings and fill with self-care goods, scrap books, photos of good times from the year and treasures their friends will adore. The best part is they have been working on them for months now and put so much love and care in each gift box.
Eat Fresh and Seasonal: Celebrating with good food can be a real joy and the invitation this year is to do it mindfully. Shop for produce that is in season in the part of the world you're in and prepare it slowly and include the whole family in the cooking can be fun and great for connection. There is nothing better than sitting down and appreciating the hard work that goes into creating a feast with the family. If you have a veggie garden be sure to include some of your own harvest and ask your children to be part of the process of cooking from garden to plate. When it comes to meal time you don't have to share the traditional prayer of "Grace" but you may like to share a guided mindfulness practice including the invitation to slow to slow down, tune into the body, breath and gratitude for receiving the gifts that the meal brings you; including all the energy it takes to get it to your plate. Savour each mouth full and experience your food.
Rest and Reset: December is often called the silly season because people go over the top and get overwhelmed with the mad rush toward the end of the year and January is generally the period of time used to recover. So the invitation here is not to over do it in the first place, make slow and enjoyable connections and use your whole December-January season for joy, rest and resetting. By this I mean scheduling in space during December so your energy remains balanced and consistent and stress levels don't increase. Check in daily with how your mind, body and stress is tracking and don't let outside pressure, in. Cultivate joy and if that means sayings no, do it and align your connections with your bigger life values and craft community with this in mind. Our family has a tradition of spending a week at a private beach location surrounded by nature, trees and ocean, to rest, create, read, eat, exercise, enjoy conversation, live slowly, reflect on the past year and set some goals and intention for the new year. We call it our family retreat and will write more on that later.
Now you have the key ingredients to create a seamless ritual for your 2019 festive season that is environmentally friendly, can increase your joy and connection and set you up for a new year of meaning and value.