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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Keeping Clear Boundaries Over the Holidays

Getting into the holiday spirit (even in a recession) often means that we reach out to others, or that we want to do something beyond what we normally would.

That is wonderful and certainly can create, not only something positive for the recipient of your actions, but also, for yourself, simply because, as we know by now, doing something good for others makes us feel good too.

So why talk about boundaries at this time? Long before certain trend-setting (and trend-watching) travel agents began marketing holiday adventures for those who wish not to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter with the family, many of us had given some thought to the fact that we tend to get herded together - group mentality style - into a mindset where we believe we must spend those days with our families.

And of course, spending it with your family is a wonderful thing to do - if that is what you want. And - if that actually adds to the joy and flavour of your holidays.

But what if it doesn't? What if those special holidays are always filled with stress, strife, and perhaps even misunderstandings, that may sometimes lead to uncomfortable feelings around the happy family myth for much of the months after? Or what if those special holidays are actually not special for you because you set little value on them?

So what am I saying?

What I'm saying is this: weigh the pros and cons. Think about what it does to you, not only on the outer level, but also on the inner one. Maybe you've tried discussing it in the past and haven't been able to change matters. That's ok. What is probably not ok is that you spend time with people and in ways that are not good for even if it is Christmas, or whatever celebration it is. What's probably not ok is that you feel obliged to do things a certain way because that is the way they have always been done. What is definitely not ok is that you do something that makes your stomach churn just to think about it months in advance, and that crosses your boundaries, making you feel that you are not in a good place inside of you.

Under those circumstances, perhaps you should ask yourself whether it would make more sense to go off on a vacation during this time, and then spend some time with family members on their own - not all together - over the course of the year. Perhaps that would be a way of getting the relationship on another kind of footing. Who knows, it might even progress to a place where you might want to share a Christmas together, without feeling the stress of it...

But listen carefully to your inner self. Is it your ego that wants out? Or are your boundaries being crossed by feeling you must do things this way because this is the way it is expected of you, despite the yearly fiasco?

There is no right and there is no wrong ... all there is, is the place where you ask yourself what is good for you - not in a selfish way, but in the way that promotes well-being - yours - because if you are well, you will promote well-being around you. If you are not, you will not.

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Photo: Kinshasha, Congo

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