The holiday season is in full swing. For many of us it is a time of love and laughter with friends and family…and for some it is a time to face difficult family dynamics without losing our cool…or our minds. This is the season when people come into my office asking how to handle this mother-in-law, this uncle, this sister-in-law, and that brother. And it is the time when I remind these searching souls to look at this as a wonderful opportunity to practice compassion. I encourage each of them to become a compassion ninja. Ever at the ready to take a breath, not take the hurtful word personally, to step aside from the struggle, and to instead find the compassion in their hearts for the person they are having difficulty with. Let’s be clear, I am not saying that we don’t have a right to be annoyed at rude and unkind comments. What I am saying is that we have the ability to choose our response to any circumstance…and if we can choose a response that serves us best, we are the better for it. When we are able to look beyond the hurtful words, and understand that quite often there is simply human hurt and upset that really has nothing at all to do with us lurking beneath those words, we may find the compassion we need to let the words roll off our shoulders, allowing us to step aside from conflict and keeping our holidays peaceful.
The Compassion Ninja code:
- I set my compass for compassion – Before you head out to your holiday gathering, take a few moments to sit quietly and set your intention for the day. Will you carry compassion in your heart? Will you remain nonreactive? Will you focus on the love in the room? Whatever you choose is fine, just set your compass in that direction before you go.
- I stay calm and nonreactive – Remind yourself that your response is your choice. Don’t be goaded into joining arguments you don’t want to join…the choice is always yours. Simply saying “I love you too much to argue,” or smiling and changing the topic can slide you past an argument that you just don’t need to have.
- I Breathe – Before, during and after the party. Breathing gives us a chance to pause. It starts a physiologic process that helps keep us calm and focused.
- I remember that I am not alone – Remind yourself that you are part of the human race…at this very moment you are a member of a larger group of compassion ninjas ready to face misbehaved family members! You are not being punished, merely having a fully human experience.
- I hold onto my joy – Don’t take anything too seriously. Have fun and enjoy your holiday! When we let ourselves get too worked up in anticipation of upset, upset is just what we will find. So focus on what you love and enjoy about your family and friends…and love and laughter is what you will find.
- I practice compassion – Try starting your day with a simple, brief compassion meditation. The more you practice, the more the neural networks in your brain change, allowing you a quicker, easier, more automatic compassionate outlook…kinda like going to the brain gym!
Try this brief 7 minute guided meditation I made for you on YouTube:https://youtu.be/xyJaFS70YQE
Here’s hoping your holiday season is filled with the light of compassion and loving kindness.
Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D.