Cultivating Calm in the Chaos

 My dad decorating the tree for our last Christmas with him in 2016.

My dad decorating the tree for our last Christmas with him in 2016.

The holidays add to the busy-ness and bustle of our lives, yet at the heart of the season is a focus on slowing down to connect more deeply to light, love, and gratitude. We come together with family and friends. Through celebrations with lights, food, gifts, and decorations, we honor each other and age old traditions. All of these positive heart centered practices can so easily turn into stressful to-do lists and over-scheduled calendars. While the lights strung on trees and illuminating houses and glowing from candles shine brightly, so many feel their inner light dim from exhaustion and pressure. All too often the holidays pass us by in a blur of color and white lights, the sound of bells and gift wrapping being torn open, the smells of sweet somethings baking at back to back holiday parties. Our lives are moving at an unprecedented pace already and the holidays just increase the speed of life’s sleigh-ride. How do we create pause in the chaos? How do we slow down the season? There is no joy in rushing about, especially in a season meant to magnify the joy and abundance that are the very antithesis of the holiday spirit.

 Tree lighting ceremony 2017. Photo thanks to Matt Chenet

Tree lighting ceremony 2017. Photo thanks to Matt Chenet

While we humans speed up, nature and animals slow down. Darkness falls earlier. Creatures great and small go into hibernation. Plants go dormant. Trees let their leaves flutter to the ground, cocooning the earth in an insultated blanket for they wisely know it is a time for rest, for stillness, for quiet restoration. The air turns crisp and cold winter winds whisper: now is the time to nestle, to turn inward, and above all, to nurture yourself.

I listen to cardinals calling to one another, red streaks soaring in the grey, mindfully preparing for the colder days to come. My mind chatters with the holiday to-dos, the gifts to buy, the parties to put on the calendar, the cleaning to do. I take a deep breath in and out, letting go of the worry beginning to pull at my neck from tensing shoulders. I look around, taking in the trees; crimson and golden leaves still clinging to the top branches. Breathing in the smell of rain slipping through the cracked window, I wonder at the trees and how they trust instead of strive toward their transformation. Their ability to let their leaves go without rushing or resisting brings to mind a favorite quote my dad often recited: nature never hurries yet everything is accomplished.

 Slow down your morning. Watch the sunrise. Thanks to Matt Chenet for the photo

Slow down your morning. Watch the sunrise. Thanks to Matt Chenet for the photo

 Savor your time with your family.

Savor your time with your family.

How different would the holidays be if we relaxed into them, trusting that we do not need to hurry, that all will be accomplished with ease? What if we replaced the frantic hurry and holiday hustle bustle with a mindful, meditative approach, embodying the qualities of the natural world? The irony in all our rushing is that we deny our loved ones the very best gift we have to give: our true presence. Is there anything better than feeling someone is 100% in the moment with you, deeply listening to you, undistracted by their phones and plans and productivity mindset? And what about giving ourselves that gift too; the gift of being truly present with whatever is unfolding in our lives in each and every moment?

There is never a good time to begin slowing down, yet we have the choice in each and every moment. Soon December will end but we don’t have to wait for the new year to begin again. Each day of this holiday season we could choose a calm centered approach to all our tasks.

May we all slow down to savor the season, and cultivate joy in each and every moment. May the light form our hearts illuminate our radiance and the magnificence of all those around us.

Practices, tools, and resources that help me find calm in the chaos

Daily journaling (I love Sudie Rakusin’s Dreams and Shadows journal which inspires me to be creative daily)

Mandala drawing (see examples of my mandalas and read about my personal creativity practice on my website)

Coloring (I enjoy the coloring books by Sudie Rakusin as they have women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and style, reminding me to embrace my body just as it is)

Lo & Behold face-masks for self care and natural beauty

Yoga (we will be offering free all levels yoga classes at the Franklin Hotel Dec 5th and Dec 12th from 5:30-6:30pm and free weekly yoga at the shop begins again January 9th)

Meditation (I am currently in Sommer and Paul Sobin’s Emergence program which I highly recommend)

Walks in the woods (I have been loving going to the trails at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens and Merritt’s Pasture)

The Passion Planner, a planner that helps me schedule what matters and hold space for reflection.

 Take time to reflect

Take time to reflect






Betsy BertramComment