The winter holidays are just around the corner. For some of us, this time of year is one of invariable joy and excitement. Shopping lists are double-checked, halls are decked, and guest bedrooms are prepared once more for seasonal visitors.
But for many of us, particularly as we get older, the holidays just aren’t as cheery or enjoyable as they once were. Often, this is because something feels different or “missing” compared with earlier years. The reasons behind this shift can vary:
· The death of a loved one
· “Empty nester” parent (your child/children have gone to college, gotten married, or otherwise “left the nest”)
· New family dynamic (remarriage; family blending)
· Relocation/new house
· Generalized or seasonal depression (please contact your medical doctor if you feel this might be part of the problem)
Embracing the New; Accepting the Now
If this holiday season has brought you the feeling of loss, loneliness, and maybe even fearfulness, you’re not alone—even if maybe, it feels that way right now. It’s important to look at this from a big-picture perspective. Rather than daydreaming about the way things used to be, or feeling frustrated or depressed by perpetually contrasting and comparing past vs. present holidays, consider all these changes as one big invitation to instead find a quiet new peace in the present moment. Learn to not only accept your new solitude, but truly embrace it—and in time, even learn to appreciate it!
Ilchi Lee, meditation expert and best-selling author, recently wrote “I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation”. Within its pages, Lee offers insightful, encouraging thoughts about how to best approach and accept solitude as you age. Two excerpts from the book are below:
“I want to say this to you: Don’t fear loneliness; accept it. And enjoy solitude.
Everyone comes into the world alone and leaves it alone. So a human is originally a lonely being. Young or old, rich or poor, famous or unknown, a president or a street cleaner, everyone experiences moments when the loneliness of existence suddenly touches them deep within.
Some seek other people to alleviate that loneliness, while some are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, or various forms of entertainment. Some live mired in depression or give up in despair because they can’t endure the loneliness. Others, though, face the substance of their loneliness head on and experience an awakening of consciousness through deep reflection on the essence of human life. They choose life on a new level of spiritual maturity, and they gain inner joy from the experience. I don’t believe that such a life is limited to special people who pursue spirituality. We are all born with a spiritual nature. What’s important is how we sublimate loneliness regarding the essence of our being.”
“Do not fear loneliness. Great wisdom and love come to us from solitude and loneliness. That path of a human is essentially lonely, but when that solitude has reached the extreme and gone beyond, it changes to great gladness and peace. That’s when you know great compassion. Great compassion can be felt when it transcends human affection. It’s easy for human affection to give birth to attachment. When you are leaning to one side and relying on or stuck in something, you cannot feel the whole. You feel the whole when you are completely alone and lonely. When the loneliness of being reaches deep into your heart, a bright light breaks out of the darkness. Then great solitude changes into brilliant light.”
Rediscover Yourself This Holiday Season
As Lee says: don’t fear solitude. Enjoy it!
With a little Internet investigating, there will be no shortage of local opportunities to help you rekindle your inner joy once more during the holidays. Consider the following ideas and consider embracing one or more, on an ongoing basis if possible.
· Volunteer your time and energy at your local community center, spiritual center, food bank, or other nonprofit organization. Preferably, try to find one that provides tangible assistance to those needing extra help at this time of year. If you find yourself with nowhere to be on the day of a holiday, you can often find community events taking place where you can put your time to good use.
· Connect with your community by first reconnecting within. Consider attending a self-exploratory workshop or retreat to learn more about your True Self.
· Create useful gifts for those most in need. Contact your local homeless shelter, women’s shelter, halfway house, or homeless coalition for a list of their current most-needed items. Create grab bags full of toiletries, bottles of water, non-perishable snacks, and other essentials to drop off.