“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
Americans are consumed with guilt. Or at least that’s what advertisers want us to believe. There are guilt-free potato chips, guilty pleasures, and guiltless gourmet. And now, in December, magazine covers offering guilt-free gift guides, which (I’m guessing) means we now feel guilty if we’re spending money or shopping. (Or if we don’t already feel guilty, then we should?)
So what’s wrong with feeling guilty? It’s stress in disguise, one of those toxic emotions that can lead to disease. In a recent journaling class when I suggested writing about guilt (to help let it go), one of the women said: “But guilt is part of me, I’m Jewish, it’s in my DNA, it’s who I am.” When feelings of guilt come up, think about whether it’s valid or not, or if it’s due to childhood conditioning. Are you truly guilty of being self-centered or indulgent? Or are you guilty because you feel you should be perfect, be capable of doing it all, or don’t deserve to occasionally put yourself first? Yes, finding a balance between the two can be a challenge, but if we stay mindful we can make choices and truly enjoy them, with no regrets and a clean conscience.
I chose this theme for the December Twelve Mindful Month chapter because it is the most challenging time of year to deal with guilt over choices we make. In the book, I discuss how to plan your diet splurges so you can stay on a healthy track without feeling deprived of holiday treats. (Kind of like spending splurges.) But you have to plan your time splurges as well. Forget the notion you can do it all: Something’s got to give! For me, this year is busier than ever, due to my book venture, but I am not giving up my favorite holiday ritual of baking Christmas cookies. It connects me to my childhood when I helped my mother bake them year after year. Most of the recipes have changed, but the joy in the tradition remains the same. I won’t have the time to make as many varieties this year, and I may have to shorten (or even forgo) some yoga sessions and walks, but I’m okay with it. If we are too rigid and let workouts – or work – interfere with holiday fun or traditions, then our life is not in balance and we miss a lot of pleasure.
No, we can’t add more hours to the day (if only!) But – maybe we can at least create the sense that we are. In a study published in Psychological Science, people who experienced a daily 60 second session of awe felt time passed more slowly, were less impatient, and were more willing to volunteer their time to help others. So I’m in! I’m making a guilt-free choice this month to take a daily 60 second moment of awe to help me stay present and calm in this busy season. Awe can be a stunning scene from nature, an incredible feat, or an intense or spiritual event. And in December, it’s easy to find it. Look for it in the eyes of a child awed by holiday lights, animated shop window displays, or the first snow fall. Look for it through a child’s eyes or through remembrances of your own childhood and feel that sense of wonder as if you were seeing things for the first time. Be awed by talents of others: the actors, the choir or orchestra, the dancers, the stage set. Get up early to witness the sunrise, or watch the sunset, and be in awe of the gift of another day. One of my “awes” this week: I am filled with awe and gratitude for all the support each of you has given me for Twelve Mindful Months.
Awe leads to the recognition that there is something much greater than the self out there and that you are part of a whole universe and connected to all beings. Want to feel less rushed, more appreciative of the holiday season, and yes – guilt-free? I invite you to take the challenge with me: Choose to be awed daily.
Wishing you all abundant joy this holiday season!