18 December 2019

Tough relatives? The emotional challenges of Christmas – and a simple solution

So here is the challenge. Honour the celebration of Christmas, honour the gathering of family and friends, cope with people we have difficulty with, and yet honour our own emotional health and wellbeing.

While many simply love Christmas; others find it leaves them feeling stressed out, sad and disappointed.

So this week we go way Out on a Limb to consider the emotional side of Christmas, plus news of a meditation retreat I will contribute to with Ruth and Melissa Borich and meditation teacher training in 2020, but first


              Thought for the day

                          Love is our true destiny.
                          We do not find the meaning of life
                          By ourselves alone
                          - we find it with another.

                                               Thomas Merton

I love Christmas.

I love the metaphor. Christ embodies love. Christmas celebrates His birth. Christmas is a festival celebrating the birth of Christ which metaphorically represents the birth of love within us all. Bring it on!!!

For me Christmas is a time to check in with any forgiveness needed, to be reminded of who to express gratitude towards, how to manage gifts in a world where most people already have too much stuff, and most importantly, consider how I might be more loving now and in the coming year.

Yet Christmas can be difficult for many.

How to manage what can often be complex gatherings of families and friends that include people with whom we may well have complex histories?

Well, many seem to approach such events attempting repression and fearful of unwanted explosions.

So a tip straight out of mindfulness – with a touch from the wisdom teachings.

It is very difficult to manage our own emotions well, let alone manage someone else’s. Particularly when it comes to people we need to see and who have expected patterns of behaviour we do not like, try this.

Leave them be. Given no physical abuse takes place (and that is clearly not OK), try acceptance. If Uncle Roger has been like he is for 40 years, chances of him being different in 2019 are slim. Same with Aunty Flo or whoever else is the worrying one.

If the need is to attend an event where they will be present, accept well in advance what they are like. Expect them to behave in their same old way. And if by chance they have seen the light you would like them to see since last meeting, and they do happen to behave in some miraculously different way, well simply accept that as a bonus.

But given they are as usual, try delighting in what they are like.

Yes, rather than sinking into aversion, try actually delighting.

Be aware, be present, observe how they are and at the same time, do what you can to let go of any judgement and commentary.

Rather than reacting, rather than railing against their behaviour; recognize it, accept it and a bit like a wise old woman watching children play, smile and maybe even laugh a little.

Can you feel the difference in this attitude?

Can you feel into the different atmosphere this approach will create? Instead of fear, dread, maybe loathing, there comes acceptance, humour, maybe even some warmth.

At the end of the day you may well find yourself thinking or saying to someone close, “Did you see old Uncle Roger today. Just like always; it is almost comical the way he behaves.”

And you know what, Christmas would not be the same without him.

And maybe there comes a smile…

This is love in action, mindfulness style. This is love in action using our will to manage our heads – and our hearts.

So may the true spirit of Christmas touch you deeply, and may this awakening of love be felt more strongly in all our lives both now, through the festive season and into and throughout 2020.

                  Happy Christmas!

EVENTS in 2020
Sometimes people appear confused when I turn up working, given I seem to be getting older and have retired from various commitments. Please be clear, I have not retired from everything!

I did retire from my fulltime job at the Foundation 10 years ago this week. I have reduced my public speaking significantly and I have not led any meditation retreats for a couple of years. But 2020 promises to be quite active.

MEDITATION RETREAT  -  pre-Easter - Reclaiming Joy.

Ruth has asked me to join her along with Melissa Borich to co-present her popular pre-Easter retreat.

Details : CLICK HERE.


Ruth and I will present the 2020 meditation teacher training program for the Foundation in two parts.

I must say how pleased I am to be involved in this again in 2020 as I simply love training.

Also delighted as this time, as well as 5 days of residential training specifically on teaching meditation, we will present another 5 day specific training on contemplation.

Little is written on this super useful subject, and I have not heard of any other trainings that do focus upon it.

Details : CLICK HERE

In other arenas, the meditation app I have been involved in developing is being made more specific to assist people to overcome some of the key challenges associated with chronic degenerative disease.

Then there is another major meditation project intended to help younger people learn more about meditation and Perennial Wisdom via a residential program in a beautiful and inspiring natural setting, but more on those things soon…


  1. Thank you for that lovely reminder about how to handle possible Christmas difficulties. I'm smilimg already and focusing on the real reason for Christmas celebrations where love, warmth and kindness abound.

    Thank you also for your caring and compassion through the year. Your posts are always meaningful.

    Have a great Christmas. Love Pauline

  2. Thanks for reminding me not to get stricken at this Special time of year, and also thankyou
    for your loving and meaningful blogs during the year