| Anne Williamson |

It's November 1. You're still tearing open Halloween candy and storing away spiders, skulls and pumpkins. Perhaps Thanksgiving plans have been set, but the day itself is a surprising three and a half weeks away. And, if you purchase a tree at all, most likely you won't consider doing so until after the turkey - or tofurky - has been cut. All this may be true, but so is this... the Christmas season is here. 

Turn on a TV tonight, walk in a store tomorrow, and you're almost certain to see it: red and green ornaments; white lights; a jolly old man and his elves; ads trying to convince you the product they're selling is exactly what you, or mom or dad, or partner Tom, or little Johnny needs. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it assaults you. It cannot be ignored completely.    

This isn't necessarily bad. Many of us enjoy Christmas; I know I do. But, even if you don't or it's not your tradition's holiday, it's still worth asking, "Is this season as joyful as it can be for me? My family? Community? Is it really the most wonderful time of the year?"

For most of us, this season carries with it a hefty dose of "have-tos," "shoulds," and "we've always done it this way." Some of this is unavoidable and thus acceptance is the sanest response. Much of it, though, is a choice. We can choose to celebrate the season in ways that bring real joy.

Why don't we, then? Experience has shown me two big stumbling blocks. First, tradition. Traditions can be lovely. I imagine all of us participate in cherished traditions each year. They also can be stifling - metaphorical elephants on the chest rather than practices that open our heart. The trick is knowing the difference. You'd think this would be obvious, but it's not. Lousy traditions successfully hide, even from ourselves, all the time. The reason why is the second stumbling block: we don't take the time to listen for what really brings us joy. Thus, culture, habit, guilt, and fear decide for us, and we find ourselves simply repeating last year.

This need not be the case. A different way is possible. We simply need to give ourselves the space to listen for what brings us and others real joy, and the gradual permission to let the rest go.


This is exactly what we'll be doing this week is groups: listening for what will bring us and our communities real joy this season and then making plans to make it happen. However, if you can't join us this week, I invite you to start here:

What is one thing you need more of this holiday season?  Maybe it's more quiet, unplugged moments... by yourself or with family. Perhaps you love to cook and want to do that more... or want to do that a lot less. Maybe you need more laughter. Whatever it is, set it as an intention, even put it on your calendar. Then, and here's the important part, take something else - something ultimately unimportant, something that doesn't bring you joy - off your calendar. Just let it go... and let the joy in.