This week I am travelling from Venice to Florence for five days of holiday with my husband Mark before travelling back to Venice on Friday to lead the last weekend of the Level 2: Responding with Compassion training. Then back to the UK for Christmas.
It is very clear that Christmas is coming soon from the beautiful and elaborate light decorations bedecking every tree and shop in Venice & Mestre.
The image that is sold to us of Christmas is as a relaxing time spent connecting with friends and family, and I wish this for you all. However, the reality for many can be quite different, with many extra hours working to prepare for Christmas, with periods of intense loneliness and/or the prospect of the triggering of old habitual patterns.
The experience of Christmas, may not meet our expectations of it, often leaving us with a sense that something is wrong. So it can be interesting to reflect on our expectations of ourselves and of others at this time of year and perhaps carry out a reality check.
Remember that the human condition is not one of perfection. Rob Nairn reminds us that we are all neurotic messes, and that’s OK. This applies to us and to our holiday companions and so we can let ourselves and others off the hook of perfection and allow ourselves to be compassionate human messes!
The holidays also give many of us a chance for some time off work. If you have some spare time, can you set aside a day or a half a day for some Christmas retreat time?
My recommendation is to base the retreat time on self-kindness, perhaps relying on a book for support. Perhaps an old book that you go back to regularly and that really speaks to you. Mine would be:
‘Start where you are’ by Pema Chodron.
Then here is my recommended schedule:
Mindful movement (or walking) and then sitting practice
A nourishing Mindful breakfast
Read 1 or 2 Chapters from your selected book
A practice session of sitting, movement (or walking) and then sitting again including a kindness or compassion practice.
Then a Mindful walk out in the open, in nature if that is possible, paying attention to any trees, plants, birds and to the weather, whatever it is.
Then a delicious Mindful lunch.
After lunch, a body scan and rest
Read 1 or 2 more Chapters from your book
Then a practice session, same as for the morning
Then Mindful preparation and eating of an evening meal, followed by a reflection on the day and journaling.
Read 1 or 2 more Chapters, a nice relaxing bath or shower and early to bed.
Just adapt the schedule to the time you have available.
-Heather Regan Addis