Now is the time to make sure that you are prepared for the Holidays in EVERY way. Breathe new life into traditions, into relationships, into consumerism.  Maybe even just breathe a little.

There is an inspiring story told in the Bible (Ezekiel) about a valley of old bones that had new life breathed into them. Ezekiel used the image of dry bones to describe the feeling that the Israelites had lost all their familiar traditions while in exile. Then he gives them the good news. He says that even the driest old bones can have new life breathed into them. How? With grounding, healing breath. In Hebrew language they used the same word for breath as they did for spirit. No accident, I suspect. For the Hebrews, spirit was the whole person in harmony. The ancient Rabbis had a beautiful image for spirit. They saw spirit as being a house guest in the body. Therefore, you should care for all aspects of your life as if God is present. In your very breath, the divine dwells.

Introduce a breathing practice into your day and watch your energy increase, your mood improve, your body strengthen, your mind sharpen and your spirit revive. Start now and be ready for the Holidays.

Combine a breathing practice with don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements to prepare for an awesome Holiday season.

1. Don’t make assumptions

Before you see family, take some cleansing breaths. Breathe out assumptions, and breathe in acceptance.

Albert Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” The story that you carry with you about family is persistent and makes all the sense in the world to you. But what if most of it is fictional?

An old Buddhist tale tells of two monks traveling through woods. They come upon a woman standing at the bank of a river. She needs to get across, but is unable to make it alone. The elder of the two monks picks her up and carries her through the rushing water. Once they’re all on the other side, the woman leaves the monks. The younger monk is stunned at these events. They’re not allowed to touch women so intimately, and he doesn’t know what to make of his older friend’s behavior.

Finally, after stewing over the incident for several miles, he says to his traveling companion, “How could you touch that woman back at the river the way you did? Have you no respect for our vows?” The elder monk turns to his young friend and says, “Are you still carrying that woman? I put her down at the river bank over an hour ago.”

What stories about family are you carrying into this holiday season? Someone is quiet, therefore they must be angry with you. Someone is late, therefore they don’t care about you. There may even be some truth to the story, but it’s still a story. You choose whether you carry assumptions into the holidays or start afresh. Breathe new life into family by letting go of the stories and assumptions that drag you down.

2. Don’t take things personally

How much of the tension you feel around family are you making about yourself? It might not be about you at all. Take some cleansing breaths before seeing family. Breathe out drama. Breathe in acceptance.

An Irishman once came upon two people brawling in the street and asked, “Is this a private fight or can anyone get involved?”

Don’t you often do the same thing with family? When someone is pushing your buttons, most of the time they are involved in their own drama. Is there anything gained by getting involved? Just smile and breathe and move away.

You don’t need drama to feel alive and important. You are alive and important because you house divine love in your mind and body. Drama doesn’t help you to thrive. It distracts you from your essence as a vessel of peace in the world.

Try this holiday visualization-

Picture yourself as a harp with all kinds of large and small debris swirling around you – words, feelings, innuendos, assumptions, drama. Some float toward you, passing right through the spaces between the strings, and glide on by. But others hit the strings, striking a chord that reverberates way back to your past, bringing up old hurts. It strikes a long, discordant note that jangles your nerves and throws you off balance. Notice what passes you by but don’t chase it. If something sticks, say to yourself, “Okay, what can I learn here to make beautiful music in the world?”

3. Speak the truth

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Before you see family, breathe out pretense and breathe in authenticity. More good can come from working through even the harshest truth than concealing it behind a veil made up of spared feelings or saved face. Speak your mind, and share your truth clearly.

Know your own boundaries with family, be clear about them, and stick with them.

There is a powerful scene in the movie The Family Stone. With all the Stone family home for the holidays, including a narrow minded and uptight new girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker), the dinner scene is explosive when the girl friend suggests that a gay couple should think twice about adopting a child in case the child becomes gay. She suggests that being gay is abnormal and is a challenge that people don’t need in life. Her opinion is like a red rag to a bull at this table. Various people around the table try to save the situation with humor, until Mr. Stone slams his fist on the table and says “Enough!” He won’t have this talk in his home.

Maybe there will come a time for you to say “enough!” this holiday season. Thrive in your own truth this season.

Vietnamese Zen Teacher Thich Nhat Hahn offers this reminder:

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech . . . I vow to cultivate loving speech. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering . . . I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain, and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break.”

4. Do your best

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The question is how forgiving you will be – with yourself and with others. Your life experience to date brings you to this point. Your accumulated wisdom and strength enable you to bring your best to this moment. Do your best, stop expecting perfection and your best will be enough.

In the words of the Tao Te Ching, “’Do your best then step back. This is the only path to peace.”

Choose to thrive this Holiday season. Choose to breathe new life and spirit into the traditions and relationships that are important to you. Even if they appear dead and lifeless, there is always hope. Breathe in peace and breathe out drama. You don’t need drama. It doesn’t help you to thrive. It’s a distraction from your essential purpose on earth, which is to live and love fully and liberate others to do the same.

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  1. This is great advice not only to make the Holidays better but to follow on a daily basis in order to improve the relationship you have with yourself and others. Don’t make assumptions and don’t take things to personally.

  2. Janet says:

    I’ve just finished reading Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” and they are probably the best blueprint for living I’ve ever come across.  I love how you’ve applied them to the family and inner dramas that seem to make the holidays such a trying time for so many of us. Breathing in and breathing out this gift of inner and outer peace and harmony!

  3. So true, so true, use wisdom and not assumption. I made a mistake this morning and thankfully could laugh at myself afterward.
    I had to go to Walmart (a store I normally avoid, but the only store open at 5 a.m.) to purchase an out-of-season item. Consumerism is everywhere, or is it Christmas decorations everywhere? 
    I walk up and down isles, looking for the item before asking an employee to go in the back and find it in the out-of-season stuff. As if I know where it is.
    I walk past the busy employee who is listening to his personal music, he appears oblivious to anything outside his space. So, I don’t ask him.
    I find another employee and inquire about the item being in the warehouse. Hwever, we retrace my steps. I’m getting impatient.
    Finally, he approaches his co-worker, listeinng to music, and asks him if they have the item I need. Immediately, the employee answers and tells us exactly where to find the item. He was not oblivious.
    After purchasing the item, I filtered through the last 10 minutes and realized how important it is to see things with fresh eyes. To live for the now. If I carry around my opinions about Walmart, the public or employees, I waste time. The rest of my day went much better!
    I do not ask for help because usually the workers don’t know much. But, I ask for help. Busy workers everywhereI walk by a busy worker, who is listening to loud music and decide against asking him (he looks to preoccupied to be very helpful). I decide to ask the next worker. He hesitates but starts looking in all the isles I just looked in. Finally, he walks up to the preoccupied worker and asks him. This 

  4. Barry Lee Marris says:

    Dr. Duncan Littlefair quoted a teacher he had at the University of Chicago who said, “When, for the time being, you have done all that you can do, be content, and with the mood of a half-holiday, take comfort in leaving the rest to God.”  It was Tao Te Ching’s message as well, as Ian points out, and a good life lesson to remember when it is time to rest.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I’d appreciate some “Do’s”.   I’m looking for ways to breath new life into old bones.  My old traditions are dead and gone… but I believe there still must be magic in Christmas, somewhere.  After all, it IS about Light and Love and Joy and Peace and Hope.  It must be something about the human experience… the goodness amongst the negativity…. but how to FEEL this and how to ritualize and celebrate it in a new and meaningful way…. new life into old bones.  Perhaps it’s a matter of sitting with the question and Breathing.
    Any suggestions?

  6. Joan Cook says:

    Mmmmh, Rebecca, I hear you seeking.  My husband and I have been at C3 for 6 years, and in that time I had to travel from a place where I needed to replace my old traditions to “here”, where I remember those things fondly, sing the old songs to honor family, friends, and healthy spirituality, and revel in the holiday good fellowship.  Really, that is what this holiday has always been for me, anyway.  The gifts, meals, and even prayers are symbolic.  For me, it all speaks to my desire to let go of worries, resentments, or fears for a few weeks, and cultivate optimism, generosity, tolerance toward those closest to me, forgiveness for myself.  On top of that there is that lovely dose of hedonism!  I eat outrageously rich food, decorate with flashy lights, glittering gold, rich textures and colors.  Then I get to share the food, the flash and the tastes with friend, love, and even stranger.  Nope, I haven’t lost one bit of the Christmas magic since loving C3;  it only gets better.

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