3 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday with Family & Friends

Christmas is a holiday I look forward to every year. My mother taught me the joy of Christmas, as she enthusiastically planned dinners, decorated the tree, and invited cherished loved ones to visit.

I feel the joy she feels, and am conscious of passing this beautiful feeling on to my children.

However, I am also aware that this genuinely abundant feeling can get caught up in the misdirection of materialism. It can also get lost in the politics of merging two traditions (in my case, my husband's and mine), and sharing enough time with each family member and dear friend.

For years, these three "issues" caused me unnecessary stress. I focused on those three only, and forgot about my primary value of the joy of the season. For years the gifts had to be "even", the hours with each side if the family had to be even, but the traditions that created that joy? Well, I had to do them. After all, the tinsel placed just right and the stocking overflowing with gifts were what Christmas was all about...wasn't it?

Then one year I decided to forgo the anxiety (and perhaps just got a little bit wiser), and focused on the moments of happiness, and the activities that brought me joy.

How did I shift my thinking? I formed these three holiday rules:

Focus on the moment.

When I created a visiting schedule, I focused on the people I would be seeing - I enjoyed adding names of loved ones. I didn't focus on those I wouldn't see that day.

Then each day, I became fully present with those in the room, virtually eliminating worries.

2. Simply do your best. And know that your best is good enough.

When I spend my time with family, I give my best to the family who is present. When I see friends, I give my best to them. If I need a 20 minute shut eye, it is better to take it if there is time, than to power through a whole evening being tired.

When we focus on joy (or another favorite core feeling), then our mind isn't cluttered with "what ifs," and should I's." Instead, we can put our best effort into being joyful.

3. Practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the core teachings of Christmas. It relieves us of the heaviness of our human responsibilities.

Instead of being caught up in our errors, we can forgive ourselves and move into a lighter perspective, into a more joyful outlook. This benefits everyone involved.

We can also forgive others for their human learnings. Remember, we can only do our best.

And wouldn't you know it, when the desire for joy was my primary motivator to be in the moment, to do my best, and to be more forgiving, then I en-JOYed the holidays even more!i also noticed that when the planning details were no longer the focus, then traditions merged nicely, we spent lots of time with family, and giving gifts created happiness, while getting gifts was merely a pleasing side effect.

Hope you feel your best during the holidays, filled with love, and loving moments.

Feel Thanksgiving Gratitude Each Day

Today is Thanksgiving in the US.

When I live my moments in gratitude, each day seems lighter, more up lifting.

Recall the last time someone cut you off in traffic. Most likely you felt frustration and annoyance. Natural feelings, and appropriate to experience them. However, how did you react?

You always have a choice in your reactions, though sometimes feelings are so overwhelming that you feel you must follow them. With frustration, you may shout and clench your fist. With annoyance you may grumble and hit your horn.

We can feel those feelings, let ourself experience the tension in our body, then take a deep breath and change the thoughts developing in our mind.

Perhaps the person cutting you off is distracted by problems at home. Maybe they looked at a text on their cell phone. You can choose to feel grateful that you are alert enough to hit your brakes and stop an accident, or that there was no one behind you to run into you. You can choose to appreciate that your children were not in the car.

You can choose to feel gratitude. In any situation in life, say to yourself, "what am I grateful for right now?"

Next time you make this choice, notice the moment lighten, your mood uplift...just a little.

Today, I feel grateful for you, my inspiration. Thank you for being part of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Next week, we continue with part two of "Awakening."

How do you "Awaken" and what is Awakening?

We are each on our own journey in life. Each with our own lessons, struggles, and joy.

In our journey, many of us will, at some point, Awaken.

What does this mean, to awaken?

Some people, at a very young age, have a sense that Something exists beyond their flesh and blood. They seem to know there is the world beyond, and connected to others - the energy exchanged, the love that affects a child, the anger that withers an opponent, or the emotional and reactionary choices they make that affect their environment and those around them.

Others have a realization just as they are about to pass at the end of their life.

Most of us start with the simple knowledge that there is more to life than our physical being, and some greater purpose than our daily activities. We search for understanding through religion, spirituality, psychology or experience.

And when a new piece of knowledge resonates with us, when the truth of it feels profound, we acknowledge the "Aha!" moment or feel the tingles of truth while the hair on our arms rise.

Throughout your life, I'm sure you can recall some "Aha!" moments. The moment may have been something simple, such as a sudden understanding of how to process a math problem. Or perhaps it was a greater understanding of human nature, such as realizing why a friend always responded a certain way.

In my experience, I most often felt my "Aha!" moments when a universal truth resonated with the core of my being. As if a light switch went on as I finally realized why I had chosen the path I did.

What does AHA! mean to you?

At one point I was feeling that switch so frequently that I took to writing them down, knowing that there had to be some universal insight to the pattern of profound moments. In fact, the insight was quite personal, not something that would change all of mankind. They were shifts in my own development, growth moments that propelled me into a new awareness. However, by the time I figured this out, I had absorbed the knowledge so completely that my response was, "well, duh! That is just common sense!" It was as if I always knew these discoveries.

And perhaps I did, on some subconscious level. In fact, THIS awareness (that the knowledge was always there...somewhere) triggered a new level of understanding.

Which led to my participation in classes that were on the "fringe". Soaking up others' teachings in intuition, afterlife, and unseen energy, I practiced conscious ways of thinking such as "noticing" and "observing". By doing this, I observed how my thoughts and senses were connected to my environment.

I began to notice how a certain feeling (a spacious calmness is how I can best describe it) would precede a small crisis at work, and I began to look for that crisis before it hit. It was as if my subconscious was preparing my conscious self for action. With new awareness of my senses, I also noticed unique smells that would symbolically demonstrate to me, how someone may be behaving in my environment.

For example, I remember arriving at work one early morning, the first one into the air conditioned office, when a skunk smell wafted by. Before my expanded awareness, I would have written it off as simply strange. With my new insight and observations, this scent helped me to be ready to respond to the "skunk" I would interact with in a meeting later that day.

I also practiced new behaviors such as focusing positive energy on a crystal necklace then wearing it under my business clothes. This necklace helped to remind me to be positive (or confident, or action-oriented, or calm in the face of stress, depending on the situation I was preparing for).

As I learned more and more awareness activities, my own "Aha's" came flowing so fast I didn't have time to write them all down. Learning, and slowly Awakening to this other side to life became a part of my day. And I no longer hid those crystal necklaces, because they were no longer "fringe" in my own life. My energy practice became normal, as did constant observation of my own thoughts and actions, and how I could change my very human responses to mirror my soul's Awakening.

Is there a point when one is fully Awakened?

The thing about Awakening, is that the more you know, the more you realize there is to learn. And as we learn, the more clearly we understand that we are all connected, that our thoughts and actions affect others, that we can become compassionate in all situations, and that we always have a choice in how we respond (though we sometimes forget). And in Awakening, we realize that the profound knowledge gained is the same as simple love and empathy for the humanness of each other.

...I have been writing and revising this post for many weeks. This subject is so expansive that I find it difficult to define. In fact, part two is next week. Every day, I continue to discover and relearn aspects of Awakening.

If you have insight or examples to share that this post has triggered for you, please share with us in the comments below! We continue to learn from each other.