Over the past few years, I’ve experienced conflict over how to celebrate the Holidays. I’ve been concerned with the rampant materialism and the need to not contribute to it in any way. This has included my feelings for both the often gaudy and extravagant decorations, as well as the expectations of giving people gifts, often things that they don’t really need or that aren’t benefiting them in any way other than to add to the craving for personal materialistic gratification. At times I’ve felt so strongly about this that I’ve even considered opting out of the whole “Holiday” thing entirely.

I’m happy to say that I was able to resolve many of these conflicts this year, simply by shifting my perspective a bit. My wife, Kathi, always feels strongly about wanting to decorate for the holidays, to put up the Christmas tree (whenever possible, on the day after Thanksgiving), and to hang lights and other decorations. I’ve always gone along with her desire to do so, but have felt some inner resistance to it and conflict over how I really felt about it in terms of contributing to a materialistic and superficial expression of “things”.

Something she said about it this year really resonated with me though, and has helped me to resolve these feelings of conflict. She’s always conveyed that for her, the Holidays were a time to express and experience connection and closeness with the important people in our lives. She mentioned that for her, decorating, especially when we’re going to have guests during the Holidays, is about creating an inspiring environment that contributes to the experience of connection.

Kathi is masterful at creating inspiring environments, so her decorations for the Holidays always have an esthetic sense of balance, beauty, and perfection about them. One of the treasures that Kathi has brought to my life is a greater awareness of the impact that environment can have on us, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. She is consistently able to create environments that transcend the outer appearance and inspire a deeper sense of tranquility, warmth, and nurturing. It is in a real way, a sacred space.

People often talk about how they love seeing Christmas lights and decorations with a certain nostalgia for how it makes them feel. But I’ve realized that there is really something much deeper at work here. It’s not just about “warm fuzzies” in any purely superficial sense. It’s not about mere gratification or “feeling good”. It’s about transformation and transcendence and connection. It’s about celebrating the deeper and truer value in our lives.

It’s about sharing and generosity and gratitude. It’s about Love.

Peaceful, esthetically inspiring, warm, welcoming, and nurturing environments have the ability to impact us subliminally but profoundly. Often without even realizing consciously how we’re effected by them, they help to shift us into a deeper state of inner peace, of receptivity, and of communion. When we had my family over to our house on Christmas day, I noticed how everyone was seeming a bit worn out and stressed from all the rushing and shopping and preparations over the preceding days. And I noticed how they relaxed in the environment that Kathi had created. They were at ease and more receptive to sharing the connections between us. I realize now that “Comfort and Joy” are not merely nice platitudes. They represent a deeper potential to be realized and shared.

And once I reframed the whole thing in these terms, and better understood specifically the potential value of both decorating and of giving gifts, the conflict I’d been feeling went away. I’m still concerned with avoiding anything that reinforces a materialistic approach in any way. But I’m much clearer about how to do that.

We can decorate and choose gifts in ways that align with our goals of connection, inner peace, compassion, connection, sharing, and gratitude. We can do it creatively, and artfully, and with inspiration. We can come from a place of inspiration, express that inspiration, and share it with others, leading to the possibility of their own experience of inspiration, connection, and joy.

We can choose gifts mindfully, with the desire to give something that actually contributes to the life of the person we’re giving it to in some way. Regardless of whether we’re completely successful with this, the thoughtfulness will be conveyed, and gift-giving can actually have deeper meaning than mere materialistic gratification.

When we think of decorating as creating an inspiring sacred space, it completely transforms the way that we decorate. We eschew gaudiness and gross displays of affluence in favor of artful and soulful expressions of peace, tranquility, joy, and “Home”, with all that that word connotes.

And this, to my mind, is the true magic of the Holidays. It goes to the heart of the childlike sense of wonder and makes it clear how we can recapture that wonder and magic. And it also flows forth into our lives throughout the rest of the year, reminding us to experience wonder and inspiration and magic and connection.

I hope your 2016 is abundantly filled with all of these!

What I Learned from the Holidays
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