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Getting Radical with Compassion: how to stay mindful over the holiday season

Another blog from the past - this one offering a few ways to stay true to yourself over what is often a tricky time of year.

As I reflect on this post in it's original 2017 form, I would like to acknowledge how much we have all been through individually and globally since then - not just the pandemic, but times of isolation and war, and much financial and environmental hardship. It seems that there is a heaviness and grief that has become a palpible backdrop in many of our lives.

Allowing yourself to feel how you actually feel is perhaps the most essential gift you can give yourself and others. And then mindfully, purposefully, REST. Rest in your bed. Rest in the sensation of warm sand under your feet while you walk on the beach. Rest in the delight of a decadent piece of cake on Christmas day. Rest in poetry that speaks to your soul. Rest in a shared laugh with someone you love, or the feel of the softest fur against your skin while you bury your face in the belly of your furry friend.

Just Rest. And in resting, renew.


For many of us the countdown to the Christmas holidays has begun. The traffic is congesting, the queues are growing, and expectations for that break are taking shape in our minds. For some, this is a much-loved time of year. But for others, it's one of the most challenging - financially and emotionally not at all merry and bright. No matter which side of this fence you tend toward, here are some tips for staying mindful during this time of the year:

  • Be true to how you feel - Maybe you miss your family or a grieving the loss of someone close to you. Sometimes the holidays can highlight what we feel we are missing in life, especially if we are separated from those we love.  Meeting how you feel, (the sadness, the grief, the loss) is the first step in allowing those emotions to pass through you. Whatever we ignore will persist, whether that's a task put aside for later, or an emotion buried that morphs into something larger and eventually more unwieldy. 

  • Practice heartfelt listening - This is a time of year when we're often surrounded by friends and family we haven't necessarily seen for some time. This can be challenging as we come face to face with family expectations, how we want others to be around us, how they expect us to behave around them, etc. But it's also a chance to reconnect - or even truly connect for the first time. We often communicate to tell, to relate to - can we communicate to simply be with instead? Set an intention to listen wholeheartedly - observe your thoughts, judgements, beliefs as they arise. Ask others how they feel about what they're telling you and notice how they respond to you because of this. Observe the impact this has on you and your overall sense of connection. And then repeat step one.

  • Ask what you most want for yourself - As the New Year approaches we naturally start to think about how we want to improve ourselves: enter the New Year’s Resolutions, which we all know often fail. One of my meditation teachers, Dr. Richard Miller once said that self-improvement can be a subtle form of self-hatred because it implies you’re not good enough - that something’s wrong with you. Why not instead ask what you truly want for a fulfilling life? If you want to lose weight or take up a new hobby, what’s the real reason for that? What core value would be fulfilled by this achievement? Take time to connect to this essential mission in life. Let it light you up with purpose and influence how you interact with the people around you, even before the New Year arrives. You might be surprised to find that you’re already living it into existence in a myriad of ways.


At the heart of mindfulness in this and any time of year is heartfelt authenticity - permission to meet yourself as you are and live each moment from that place as best as you can. As the Dalai Lama has said, "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." So I invite you to get radical and rest in compassionate connection with yourself this holiday season - to stop doing without guilt, to grieve without shame, to offer kindness however you know how, and know that you are enough just as you are.

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