When I look back on all the Christmas' and Thanksgivings' I have been through, it occurs to me that I have never really treated those days different from the rest of the year.
Yes there were more presents, more parties and more food. At the completion of December 25th and December 31st, despite how much I had accumulated in my belly or in presents I was still the same me. Year after year I woke up the next morning and went right back to the routine that I had been living for so long.
There was a period of years in my 20's where I had become more conscious of the choices and habits that I created as a teenager. It was clear to me that I had some bad habits: laziness and gluttony. Every day of the year was becoming more painful as I witnessed the momentum of childhood habits take over my adulthood consciousness.
Christmas wasn't excluded from those habits. In fact, it was an excuse to indulge in laziness and too much food because "everyone was doing it." The nonchalant and self-justifying attitude that I brought with me to December 25th was a direct reflection of the attitude I had carried for so many years of my life.
There is something different about Christmas...In its uniqueness,
a) It may inspire me to be nicer to the world than normal.
b) It could bring up difficult past karma due to the lengthened amount of time spent with family members or spur me even deeper into a frenzy of sensory indulgence.
A teacher recently told me "If you go against the grain when few others are doing it, then cosmically you have change on your side."
What did she mean by that? She meant change goes further when no one else is doing it because it is harder. It means I can extract even greater wealth and learning right now.
Because the holidays are considered special, they can often have unfair expectations piled on top of them. When these expectations (projected onto other people) are predictably not met, silent burdens of resentment and disappointment store up.
It is precisely because the weight of expectation looms at Christmas that it is the best time of year to turn attention inward toward fulfilling my own expectations as opposed to looking outward to get someone else to fulfill them for me.
This is the perfect moment to make a significant internal change. And the only internal change that naturally sustains itself and other habits is discipline.
So...a few years ago, the holidays became the time for me to be at my best game, my best game in work and my best game in taking care of myself personally. Instead of waking up on January 1st with a headache and wondering how I can make amends for a season of bad choices, I wake up on January 1st as if it was February 1st. Not only do I have a full fledged plan for the next year, I have already been implementing it for at least one month.
Every day of the year it is always easier to respond to others kindly when I am respecting myself. Respecting myself means I make better decisions with my time. It means that when I am analyzing happiness, I am looking beyond the momentary fulfillment of my five senses. It means that I spend my free time in a way that uplifts my consciousness and not vice versa.
Discipline to take care of mySelf is the keys to opening self respect’s door. It's not that I need to be disciplined and productive with every ounce of my free time to build self-respect. It is that I need not pass another day making the same status quo decision that produced the same level of consciousness for so many years.
If I want to make a long term change, I must start very small. Small changes give way to medium changes give way to large changes. The thoughtful use of will power begets more willpower. The converse is also true: the unthoughtful wasting of time depletes the limited willpower reserve that the undisciplined individual possesses.
So how can you treat the holidays differently? Meditate, exercise or eat healthy! Starting with any one of these three will improve how you regard yourself. You could even integrate all three into your life now.
Make a plan before you bomb yourself at the three parties you are attending this weekend. No one else has to wake up in your body tomorrow.
My suggestion is to begin with the one habit that you will definitely follow through with no matter what. Make it a habit you have control over. Exercise is a good place to start. Your future success in this habit will bolster the confidence and drive that is required to pursue more healthy habits.
If you are impatient to also address more healthy habits, begin building multiple habits simultaneously. The key is to hold one habit firmly and the other habits lightly. When you think about the firm habit, think to yourself, "I will run on the treadmill for 20 minutes today if it's the last thing I do." And then you go and do it even if it's 12:30am, because you said that you would and you need to learn to trust yourself.
When you think about the light habits, think to yourself, "Wouldn't it be nice if I meditated tonight? My life might improve in such and such manner..." In my experience, holding a habit lightly actually opens a spacious vista in the mind that makes it more likely to succeed than if you are internally holding a gun to your head.
Each excuse we make for ourselves to put off creating a better mindset and a happier life is exactly what it feels like, an excuse. So what better time to get to the grind than the birth of the King within yourself. Let’s get to changing!