Friday, November 18, 2011

Alone for the Holidays

As 2011 winds down, we approach the frenzy of the major winter holidays with their high emotional content.  Full of deadlines, financial stress, and a myriad of social events,  it can be a challenging time as we try to experience idealized rituals amid the reality of our imperfect existence.

One of best things I did for myself during Thanksgiving in November, 2002 was to go on a week long Silent Retreat at Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California.  During a silent retreat, you do not speak, and you eat, do chores, and meditate in silence for the entire time except when you have the opportunity to ask questions  of the teachers during Dharma talks.  I was so relaxed and clear-minded after this retreat that I found profound peace and joy in the days that followed, despite the anxiety and expectations of others all around me.

For the next several weeks, I plan to blog on the feelings we as humans feel that are especially amplified during this holiday season.  I plan to share in this blog the words, art, poetry, and music of different spiritual teachers, humorists, and artists that I find have something to offer on how we might survive and thrive during these times.

This holiday season, many of us may not have a partner or family with whom we can share our experiences.  Even those of us with a partner or family, may feel "alone" in our our own separate feelings about values and responses to the rituals of the season. "Loneliness" is certainly a feeling that we humans experience, not only during the holidays, but in our daily lives. We may find ourselves consumed by our loneliness, believing it to be a "negative thing".  We may even suffer depression because of our loneliness. If we accept that being alone offers unique opportunities for personal reflection and growth,  we can experience revelation and renewal as persons.  Tanya Davis, a young Canadian poet and artist, performs her poem "How to be Alone" in a wonderful video by filmaker Andrea Dorfman.


  1. What a wonderful series of posts you have planned. I'm always torn during the holidays between wanting to spend them with a huge family with lots of activity, fun and laughter, to just wanting to spend it with my own small family, or to just wanting to be alone.
    In the end I always choose the middle ground and enjoy a nice, quiet, close holiday with my own kids and husband (if he's able to be off work).
    There's time for laughter and fun rituals, but also plenty of time for quiet moments just being alone, too. I think that's a good balance for me.


  2. I think there is great value in spending time with non-humans (our animal friends), too. Feeding, caring for, or just being close to a horse, an alpaca, a dog, or even the chickens bring great serenity as well.

  3. Your first paragraph says it exactly right, Vicki. We lost our eldest son at age 27 to the effects of bi-polar some years ago at Christmas time. The hardest time of the year now...