12 Tips to Revive the Joy of the Season and Your Feminine Self
Welcome to the holidays – this darkest time of the year. Imagine this...Until we had gas and electric lights, humans in the northern hemisphere settled into the season. We were naturally more quiet and introspective. Harvest was over. It was time to rest.
Winter wasn't about big shindigs. Yes, there were celebrations of returning light near the Solstice on December 22, the shortest day of the year... Hanukkah and Christmas, Diwali and Kwanzaa. But mostly people were quiet. We slept and rested a whole lot more. It's not surprising, then, that the conventional way of doing the holidays doesn’t work for most of us. All that over-the-top celebrating is out of sync with our body's rhythms.It’s fun in the moment – sparkling lights against the darkness, the extra cookies and cocktails, and present giving and getting. But it’s the weeks of topsy-turvy highs and the crash and burn that follow that make New Years resolutions such a commonplace – and purifying – necessity. If you’re ready to experience the holidays with a feminine flourish, attentive to what would actually feel good to your body and being, play around with these invitations from my forthcoming book The Pleasure Playbook: 12 Paths to Awakening, and see what latent lights begin twinkling in your life.
May you cultivate the joy of connection and intimacy – the pleasure of this season – with yourself, others and the world around you.
First, just stop! For 30 seconds. Maybe at a stoplight, while waiting on line, or as you sit down to a meal. What do you notice? Look for color and contrast… white birch bark in a dark wood, those tiny multi-colored lights against greenery. Let yourself just be instead of constantly doing. This is the essence of the feminine. Find moments within every day just to take in what’s around you. Stopping helps. It gets you present to what is real in your senses and body, in the here and now, beyond your swirling mind. Pleasure has a chance when you give it just a moment of your presence.
Slow down. This might be hard. We’re used to rushing, pushing the edge of what’s possible all day long. Cramming more into limited time. Nothing is worse for the feminine. So choose one part of your day to intentionally slow down. Enjoy being your queenly self. Maybe it’s the short walk to your car or subway in the morning. Feel the cool December air on your face. Give yourself the gift of one extra minute (that’s really all it will take) to slow the pace, and bring yourself the gift of a pleasurable moment of calm and ease.
Let your curiosity lead you. Let yourself be pulled by what you don’t know. Try something you’ve always wanted to do. Let yourself be a beginner. Risk makes us feel most alive, but being in the unknown is also vulnerable. So take baby steps just outside your comfort zone. Celebrate the darkest days of the year with a friend of a different tradition. Try something you usually say no to. With each one you may discover yourself relaxing into a more open feminine space of receptivity and the joy of connection.
Tune into your body instead of always relying solely on rational decision making. Let go of the shoulds and listen to your body’s messages. What are you really hungry for? Rest? A hug? A little peace and quiet? Let your feminine being – that part of you that is part of nature - guide you back to what will most nourish and pleasure you. Before you say yes to anything or anyone (including yourself), take a minute to listen inside. Tune into your body’s needs and what would bring you the most pleasure. Then take a stand for yourself.
Let go of needing to manage and control everything around you. Keep asking yourself if whatever you’re focused on is YOURS to manage, or if you can relax a bit and see what others cook up. Ask for help and see who shows up – gifts all around. TRY THIS: Set the intention before a family dinner or an office party to give up judgment of yourself or others for a few hours. If you find yourself judging, remind yourself of your intention and return to the most pleasurable sensation that’s available to you at the moment – the taste of eggnog, the sound of music, the opportunity to dance, the pleasure of taking a deep breath and refocusing your attention.
Eat with awareness. Let whatever passes your lips be an experience of real pleasure. Stand for nothing else! To heighten the experience create some anticipation. Tease yourself a bit by waiting before your first bite. Notice if you’re beginning to salivate. When you can’t wait a moment longer, notice color, crunch, silkiness, aroma, flavor that’s exploding in your mouth. The feminine is about taking in the pleasure of feeling all that’s there in the moment, so give yourself time to really taste and receive that one delicious morsel. Even if you’re hungry, resist the temptation to dive in, and instead wait three breaths before taking the next bite. See how much more is possible to feel when you stay attuned to your pleasure.
Enjoy more by having/buying/doing less. Explore this counter-intuitive truth. Do less this holiday season. Intentionally leave blank spaces on your calendar for even 15 minutes of doing nothing. Buy less and observe what you may have more of. Or eat less. Try juicing for a day so you can experience both the sensation of feeling your own hunger and then the pleasure of breaking your fast. Food always tastes better when you’re at least a bit hungry. So indulge in a day of less, not as denial or to “be good,” but for the pure joy of the cleaner scents and tastes of vegetable juices. Then the next day indulge. Let yourself fully enjoy that cracker and Camembert or a Manhattan. No guilt, please.
Bring play back into your life. Start by doing something differently, purely for the fun of it. Wear red and green and antlers. OK, too ridiculous. But try being just a little immature, no matter who sees. Role down your car windows and really sing out those insipid Christmas songs you usually bemoan. Loosen up your usual ways of doing things. Or do something for no good reason... just because it would be fun. Let your play be open-ended. It’s not about a goal. In fact break your own rules; look silly on purpose; do something the wrong way. This is not about doing it right. It doesn’t have to look good. Buy some mistletoe and see what happens? Play Secret Santa to your favorite Grinch. How can you bring this kind of fun to every day?
Let nature touch you. It may be cold outside, but I believe there’s no such thing as bad weather… just bad clothing. So bundle up and go out. Remember, your body is a part of nature. Living separated from her sustenance leaves you less nourished than you could be, not to mention less delighted and happy. So let nature infiltrate you. How fully can you receive the momentary stinging bite of winter wind against your cheek, the sun’s powerful warmth even on a freezing day, the stark white of snow on tree branches? Give yourself the ultimate gift this year of a few moments every day of silence, of quiet sitting, attentive to what’s happening in the landscape around you, taking it all in. If you let yourself, you may discover a surprising comfort, with far more pleasure than you knew was possible.
Invite your heart to open. It’s your choice, though you may not think so. Decide to let go of one of your pet prejudices. The friend who snubbed you. The boss you can’t stand. That woman who voted differently than you. Be curious to notice any sensation in the area of your heart when you think of them. Now send them your good wishes, in the spirit of the season. Notice if your heart area feels differently. You might even try this: Vow every morning to keep your heart open. Watch how this experiment allows the joy of the season to multiply.
Let yourself wonder. Do you remember looking up at the star-studded night sky as a child and feeling how vast it all was? Can you allow that same childlike amazement to take you beyond all the facts you learned in middle school? Why is snow white? Why is the scent of pine boughs so evocative? Why do stars glisten? Explore what it’s like to not need to know the answers. Just stay in the experience of wonder. Let yourself be touched by the last beams of late day sunshine breaking through a cloudy sky... or the flash of red cardinal swooping past your window. Allow mystery to bring you its mystical delight.
Receiving love. What if the entire universe was here for your pleasure? What if every breath you inhale were the trees’ oxygen-rich gifts just for you, each drop of water your essential liquid nourishment. How much more pleasure might you experience if you were to fully receive all that’s given? Notice the beauty that’s everywhere. Notice how your body feels when you receive what’s given to you. The sparkle of champagne. That snuggly hug from a child. The warmth of flannel against cold skin. Candlelight in the darkness. Noticing and receiving all this, with appreciation, may create the holiday you’ve always dreamed of, no matter what the weather or what Santa leaves under your tree.