No time of the year brings about more mixed emotions than the holiday season. How are we supposed to feel? We look forward to the holidays, we can’t wait until they’re over. We want to decorate, we don’t want to decorate. They bring joy, they bring pain. There is another way. We have the opportunity to create space in our homes for healthy and happy holidays.
During the weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day (and beyond), we may feel like we’re on a carnival ride, zipping from high to low and back again. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It might not surprise you to hear that there’s an energetic reason for all this seesawing.
The holiday season presents us with a stark juxtaposition of yin and yang energy. Winter is yin, but the busy-ness of the holidays forces us to be yang, throwing our natural rhythms into confusion.
Yin and yang are the two opposing energies that were introduced through Taoism and are found within many Eastern-based healing modalities, including feng shui. Feng shui is the art and science of arranging living spaces in harmony with the earth’s energy. It is based on Taoist principles, particularly the Five Elements cycle, which is a further exploration of yin and yang energy.
Yin is the quiet, passive, still energy; yang is active, energetic, and moving. Seasons are one of the primary ways we see the Five Elements cycle, the yin and yang. Winter is yin; summer is yang. In fact, the Winter Solstice – when day is the shortest and darkest – is the highest expression of yin energy.
In the Five Elements cycle, Winter is the Water phase. The season’s Water element is a quiet, contemplative energy ushering in death and rebirth. We can see this reflected in nature when the leaves have finished falling and the ground is cold and still. It’s during this time when many internal decisions occur and then manifest come springtime, which ushers in the Wood phase.
The veils between heaven and earth are at their thinnest in the Water phase. It is a time to go inward, a time for reflection, journaling, and meditating. It’s no wonder that many religions have chosen this time of year to celebrate their deities. Holi-days were originally intended to be Holy Days.
Unfortunately, this is completely contrary to what our culture calls us to do.
Travel, presents, commercialism, decorations, and family obligations take center stage and are often combined with financial strain, inordinate pressures, and loneliness. Perhaps we as a society have devised these distractions as a way to not face the Water phase. After all, the Water phase is a time of looking inward, which most of us would like to avoid.
When we go against the natural rhythms of nature, we go against the Tao, or the Way. We miss important phases of birth, death, and rebirth through the seasons that are essential for new things to come into our life and old things to pass away. Instead of a time of awareness, it becomes a season of doing just the opposite. Instead of facing our inner world, we face the outer world in the form of traffic jams at the mall, uncomfortable questions from family members, boundary violations from relatives, or annoying travel snafus.
Here are some ways you can take advantage of the Water phase to make the upcoming holidays holy for you.
Element: Water Nurture and Nourish
1. If you haven’t already, dedicate some area of your home as your sacred space. A sacred space is a place you come to re-center your energy. When you go there, your nervous system automatically knows it can chill. Creating physical space is essential to creating personal space in your life.
Make your sacred space functional to the activities that help center and ground your energy. This could be your favorite cozy chair, a bathtub, or a dedicated meditation and yoga space. What accessories do you need? Maybe a side table for books, incense, and portable speakers for music. Create a sense of space that you love being in.
As we head into shorter days of the wintry Water phase, counterbalance your energy and your home’s energy with a few Fire elements. Fire elements bring warmth to a space. Consider adding your favorite wool blanket, spiced tea, and some low ambient lighting. Turn off overhead lights and turn on decorative lamps, candles, or a subtle string of lights to add the warmth of the Fire element.
2. Only decorate for the holidays if it brings you joy. If you feel an obligation to decorate, then don’t. If it makes you happy, then do. Decorations can add to the amount of stuff we already have in our home – a metaphor for taking on additional stress that we probably don’t need. In other words, don’t voluntarily add things to your life if you’re already stressed, which can be physically and emotionally overwhelming. Don’t let the holiday pressures for decorating clutter up your life to where you miss the magic of the holidays.
If decorating for the holidays brings you joy, then by all means deck the halls. Just be mindful not to overclutter your home. What may seem festive, might just add to the visual clutter. Like any décor item in your home, make sure you love it. Just because you got a stuffed Santa in last year’s grab bag doesn’t mean you have to display it. Instead, decorate with intention.
The holidays are full of symbolism and memories. For some people, it’s a great time to display religious or spiritual deities. For others, it may be a time when family rituals hold special importance with decorations playing a role. The last family photo with my mom was taken on my iPhone on Christmas day. A framed version will always be a special part of my Christmas and throughout the year.
Use holiday decor that organically blends with your existing interiors. For example, if you use a soft, monochromatic palette in your home, then decorating with bright red and green colors won’t feel good. Instead, opt for more natural holiday décor items with a hint of silver or gold accents.
The more your holiday decorations integrate with your existing décor, the more appropriate it will be to keep them displayed throughout the winter season. This will help relieve the pressure come New Year’s Day to put the decorations away. You may even decide to keep the string of lights on the Ficus tree year round.
3. At this time of year we can find ourselves closer to source energy if we take the time to connect. Focus more on your internal world, instead of the external. The more you can touch that, the more inspiration you will receive that will then be put into physical manifestation come Spring – and that is the true gift of the holy days.
Take advantage of the longer, darker nights. You may notice that your dream state is more accessible this time of year. Keep a dream journal nearby so that you can record them as soon as you wake up while you’re still connected with your subconscious mind. The more you record your dreams, the more they’ll make an ongoing appearance.
Build in extra quiet time, including sleep. This may sound impossible, which is the exact reason it’s so important. Our self-care practices tend to go out the window just when we need them the most. Instead, amp them up. Meditate longer, write morning pages, try a 12-days-of-gratitude practice, sleep longer, and dream sweeter.
The Water phase is the time of year many animals go into hibernation. Take the cue from nature and create your own cozy den for rejuvenation. Your bedroom should feel like a refuge for sleeping, dreaming, and journaling. Even if it’s not your designated meditation space, don’t let that stop you from a before-sleep meditation. A guided meditation or meditation music to take you into sleep may be just the transition you need for a good night’s sleep.
4. Create a restful haven in your bedroom. Reduce visual clutter in the bedroom, in addition to hidden clutter under the bed or in drawers. Our energy body can feel energy even if your eyes can’t see it, especially in the sensitive sleeping state. For a more restful sleep, books should be kept at a minimum in the bedroom. Have only on your nightstand the books you are currently reading. Have a lamp on your nightstand that creates a cozy ambience while also allowing you to read and write without strain.
Create More Time for Yourself
With extra obligations on your plate, from holiday parties to entertaining family, it’s essential that you build in some time for yourself and for self-care. By adding 15 minutes here and there you might just discover that these can be year-round practices to build in everyday. Start with going bed just 15 minutes earlier. Instead of automatically moving on the next episode of your Netflix show, press Pause. Program your coffeepot the night before. While your coffee’s brewing in the morning, sneak in a meditation. You’ll have a better chance at wrangling the monkey mind before caffeine hits.
When midday rolls around, give yourself a time out with 15 minutes for some quiet time. Put headphones on with relaxing music or a guided meditation to chill the nervous system. And finally if the shorter days are slowing down your blood flow a little too much, then hit the yoga mat at your favorite studio. With the shorter days and the cooler temps, you may have the urge to head home after work. This makes for the perfect opportunity for a home yoga practice.
Carve out an area in your home for doing yoga. With a designated space, you are more likely to make it happen. It only needs to be the size of your yoga mat. When not doing yoga, store your mat and accessories in a basket or other organizer. Feel free to keep it sitting out to use as a visual reminder. Out of sight will be out of mind and turning on the TV will be that much more tempting. Just a few poses will do wonders for your holiday slumbers.
Enjoy a chamomile nightcap or try mixing lemon, turmeric, and honey with warm water. With cooler temps, it’s easy to forget to take in plenty of the actual Water element. Avoid Fire element drinks at night, such as caffeine, carbonation, or alcohol that stimulate the nervous system.
12 Days of Gratitude Practice
Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs and practices, the holidays are ripe for getting in touch with your higher power. Gratitude is one of the best ways to do just that. By placing your focus on positive thoughts and experiences for which you are grateful, you instantly take yourself to a higher vibration.
Take a few minutes each day for 12 consecutive days to journal what you are grateful for. This is an easy practice before you go to bed. Keep a Gratitude Journal on your bedside table. It can be a small notepad designated for gratitude or an ongoing journal. Jot down a few things you are grateful for during your day. Start with the prompt, “Today I am grateful for….” Even on the worst of days, you can find a few things to be grateful for. Taking a few moments to note these will immediately shift your energy positively and attract more of those good things to you. Go to sleep with gratitude and you will wake up on the right side of the bed every time.
Complete the 12 days by the end of the year (or keep it going!) and then follow it up with a 12-day Manifesting Practice to jump-start the New Year.
The number 12 holds significance among religions and in mystic sciences, representing the passage of time in combination with nature and turning form into matter. This is a sacred way to close out the year and begin anew.
Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season
Schedule time for reflection or a spiritual practice. With the extra emotions flying around, it’s important to ground yourself and come back to center.
Create a sacred space in your home where you can quickly drop in instead of check out. Add inspiring pictures, quotes, or affirmations to your space for instant inspiration.
Don’t feel pressured into decorating for the holidays. If you’re home is already cluttered, it will only add to the distractions.
With shorter days, use candles to create a warm, cozy, and romantic vibe. Why not candlelit dinners every night?
Add a little sparkle to your living room or bedroom with a simple strand of white lights.
If you decide to decorate for the holidays, try discarding one item for each holiday decoration you set out.
Sometimes the holidays bring up emotional memories, use it as a time for reflection and healing instead of distraction. Connect with your core through meditation, journaling, or healing modalities.
Maintain self-care practices and, in fact, take more time out for yourself to schedule and engage in yoga, massages, or connecting with nature.
Spread self-care practices with friends and family too. Yoga is infectious. As soon as you start, your dog, cat, and family members will want to jump in too. Take turns picking out a pose and make it fun. Invite a friend to go to yoga class, get a facial, or attend a group meditation.
It is certainly possible to have a peaceful, enjoyable, and reflective holiday season. With more attention to your home space and more intention to how you invest your time with yourself and loved ones, these Holy Days can be the most refreshing and revitalizing time of the year.
Even if your holidays aren’t postcard perfect, there is always something to be grateful for. My gratitude practice consists of sitting down each morning with my coffee. I feel into my heart and am overcome with gratitude for simply being alive.