December 2, 2009

Q&A: How to Enjoy Family Holiday Gatherings

At the end of our December community call, Annette suggested we share tips for how to best handle family gatherings over the holiday season.ย  As usual, you guys were nothing short of brilliant!
I thought it would be good to capture those tips and ideas here on the blog, as there will likely be others who could use a helping hand in better enjoying family gatherings these next few weeks.
So how about an encore?ย  Annette, Susan, Flavia, Erik, Iyabo and everyone else who has a suggestion – would you share it here?
Thanks in advance!

  • Right Cooking Schools Give You the Basics That You Must Have to Excel in Commercial Kitchens as Well as Practical Knowledge | Cooking Advice says:

    […] Q&A: How to Enjoy Family Holiday Gatherings […]

  • Thanks, everyone, for a complete treasure trove of tips just in time for the holiday season! You guys rock!!
    (And thanks for the kind words, Sabre, and for being here!)

  • Sabre says:

    I just discovered your blog and I have to say it is wonderful!
    I did a web search looking for some inspiration and ..well…comfort and I found this.
    You are doing a great service with this site.

  • Cooking School Can Be An Adventure | Cooking Advice says:

    […] Q&A: How to Enjoy Family Holiday Gatherings […]

  • Erik says:

    Hi all!
    Yes indeed it was a very interesting call with much to learn :).
    I had two suggestions about what to do to get along better with the family:
    – some days before the meeting (if not possible: at least one day before) take the time to meditate on absolute happiness and bliss. Anything from 10 minutes to one hour will do.
    Even if you don’t think this bliss is earthly possible, just concentrate on it and imagine carrying it firmly in your heart and then softly to your family reunion. If you like, recall this bliss during the drive there or anytime during the meeting. The reconnecting some days before is absolutely necessary (at least I think so) because you need some kind of bridge to these feelings that is already built in case things get rough ;).
    – the second tip is very simple: pray rain about it. Here I would recommend starting early also: at least one month beforehand. Since you want to make sure that your image of a merry gathering will arrive in time.
    Wish you all relaxing and uplifting christmas times (jeez, its only 20 days to go!).
    @Karen: This is excellent: “Tell everyone you know: โ€œMy happiness depends on me, so youโ€™re off the hook.โ€ I will try this during this holiday season.
    @Tia: a bit offtopic but: yaaay to NZ, I loved it when I was there, happy holidays and a good time there!

  • Wauw, Mitch, I really enjoyed reading your comment and at the same time almost got tears in my eyes – thanks for sharing – I’m going to try this one out.

  • Mitch says:

    Great discussion everyone! I’m keeping all of these tips in mind.
    I live far away from family, so these days, it’s actually kind of nice to come home and spend time with them. Their “craziness” that used to drive me up the wall has become somehow comforting to me now that I don’t see it as much anymore. lol
    I do have a great meditation to offer, though. I was led through this before Thanksgiving by a High Priestess a couple years ago. (Long story. lol) She basically said to imagine ourselves around the dinner table seeing all of our loved ones smiling back at us, feeling grateful for all of the difference and diversity that we have around us. Then she had us imagine any other family members who are not with us in physical form anymore also seated at the table, smiling, loving, keeping the peace, and watching out for us as we continue through our physical journey together. It can be a tearful meditation to go through, but it sure makes a difference.

  • Good suggestions, everyone! Here’s another one to throw into the pot.
    I know this one particularly well since I just spent a very looong weekend at home with the family for Thanksgiving. And there was a very “random” cast of characters this time, since people brought home significant others, who brought kids along, who brought dogs along, etc.
    Normally I would totally cringe at having to deal with this, but this time I looked it as a learning experience and tried to remain as open and curious as possible the entire time. Instead of grabbing a book and running away to the bedroom when I felt uncomfortable, I stayed present as best as I could and just stayed with the feelings in my body. I recognized them, figured out where in my body they were and what they felt like, observed them, and then finally did my best to let them go! Some were harder to let go of than others, and some kept re-emerging over the weekend, but I honestly feel like some of them have been let go permanently. I finally stopped resisting some of the uncomfortable feelings and welcomed them, and poof! They’re gone.
    So for me, diving in and exploring those uncomfortable feelings really helped. It didn’t necessarily feel great at the time, but now I feel better able to handle other uncomfortable situations. I know I can go within and welcome those feelings, rather than running from them.
    Hope this helps!

  • Love, love, love all the suggestions!! Thanks everyone ๐Ÿ™‚ Another thought about our “stories” regarding our family members. Try imagining you have absolutely no past with these people, no history of upsets, dramas, hurts, no nothing. You’re meeting them right here and now for the very first time. Just stay present to them, as they are, here and now. Also, assume positive intent, don’t “assume” people are deliberately trying to “get to you”. Our brains have a tendency to assign particular meanings to particular actions or statements, but that is only our own perception/interpretation.
    If all else fails, my two “emergency” options are: 1. Excuse yourself and go tap (EFT) in the bathroom. 2. Keep the following Abe quote close at hand: “Tell everyone you know: “My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feelโ€”and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good.”
    Happy Holidays to everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Toni says:

    I’ve never been particularly ambitious about having people over for dinner, and the same goes for Christmas – even this year where both my parents and hubby’s parents are coming over. Usually I’m just really happy about seeing people in my home, and I’ve never pretended to be perfect in the kitchen – knowing something will – for sure – not turn out the way I imagined it would. And my guests have always been absolute darlings about these little mishaps (I’m beginning to wonder if maybe they like me even more because of those mishaps?!). So will they be this year. And we’re going to have a wonderful evening together as this is everybody’s intention.
    A little simple, but hey, we’re simple people ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hi, here is what I suggested in my ezine two days ago to my Danish readers (in Danish!):
    Ask yourself how you would like your Christmas / family gatherings to be (and remember everything is possibe).
    Write it down in as much detail as feels good.
    Remember to include how you would like to feel.
    Read your list every day (see it, feel it, visualize it).
    Remember you are a powerful creator ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Thanks, Monica … I’m checking out that link next!
    Here’s another article I ran across tonight on this topic at Chopra online (9 tips for a relaxing holiday season):

  • Monica says:

    Although, I guess I wouldn’t suggest it as a manifesting technique! They used to play bingo in my lectures in school, too, it would be pretty funny when a professor said one of his favourite phrases and someone would call out “bingo” across the lecture hall.

  • Monica says:

    LOL, here is a post on The Happiness Project Blog that is a pretty funny tip for surviving the holidays. Bingo!

  • And Tia, no wonder you enjoy family gatherings with habits like that!
    I like your suggestion to remember how short the holidays really are and to make the most of them.
    Thanks for sharing here!

  • Great tip, Janette! In fact, I noticed in the paparazzi photo that Tiger’s wife, Elin, had a dog with her in the car. Sitting right next to her in the passenger seat.
    I thought, “Smart girl.”

  • Janette says:

    I’m incredibly lucky that my own family get-togethers are happy events (though noisy with a passel of nieces and nephews!).
    But many years ago, before I had developed any coping techniques, I found out the hard way that my ex-in-laws loved nothing better than a good argument on Christmas Day. In fact, the traditional Christmas dinner (our equivalent of Thanksgiving dinner) wasn’t considered complete unless someone had stormed off in a huff – or so my ex-husband confided in me AFTER the event. Hm, thanks for the headsup, dude… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    For me, that kind of yelling match was unbelievably traumatic. So, the second year we gathered with that side of the family, I took my dog with me. He was my saviour.
    There is nothing better than a dog to a) take you out of distress in an instant, b) remind you of what pure love is, even when all around are shouting their heads off, and c) give you the perfect reason to leave the house when you need to.
    I think my dog got walked more during those family visits than any other days of the year…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Shoot! I missed a call!? Why didn’t you tweet it ๐Ÿ™
    I always enjoy family gatherings so here are my tips:
    1) don’t feel guilty or let yourself get guilt tripped into anything
    2) take time out for yourself, space is important even if it’s just a few minutes a day
    3) feel the love expand in your heart and cast it all around as you think how short the holidays really are and make the most of them!
    More when I think of ’em. 4 days 3 hours to go till I’m on a plane to NZ … huzzah!

  • Flavia, that is BRILLIANT!!
    “I learned to look at them just like I would to a family thatโ€™s sitting at the next table. I notice but donโ€™t get into their business.”
    Can’t wait to try that out!
    Thanks for the additional tips as well. You’re a wealth of great info!

  • Flavia says:

    One tip that I received from someone and practiced last year on a family vacation is to become the compassionate observer, the noticer without judgement. When my family was bickering with each other I’d have a tendancy to step in and mediate, tell them there’s no reason to suffer and so on. But instead I learned to look at them just like I would to a family that’s sitting at the next table. I notice but don’t get into their business.
    In addition it helps if you play this game in your mind where you switch around all the things they say with the things they want. Like they’re wanting relief, safety, peace of mind, the best for the other person, the best for themselves, comfort, they want to make their own decisions etc. You get the gist. You’re moving your gaze from “dont wants” to “wants”, from what’s “wrong” to “what’s right”.
    Another game is, “What do I want?” My father was talking to a friend of his and they were having a heated discussion ( sounded like a sort of competition) over who could come up with the best argument of why the world/politics/such and such sucks. All the while agreeing with each other in a commiserating way.
    That gave me the opportunity for ask “What do I want?” And of course I want them to know their power, know they have a say in what comes to them and so on but I realized I’d like to see people play a game of competition where they bring more and more evidence of why the world IS a wonderful place, how many things do go right, how many things work FOr us. And that idea alone put a big smile on my face. I’d like to see people COMBLISSERATING. ( BTW someone else invented that term, I just borrowed it).
    Abe suggests vizualizing things going your way, people being at their best, seeing ourselves centered and deliberate about our choices. Especially vizualizing the night before when it’s easiest to see them as you’d like to see them.
    Also remebering that you are free helps a lot. Free to take a walk, free to tune out what you’d rather not focus on, free to end and unconfortable discusion, free to engage somebody in a conversation you’d rather have, free to think thoughts on purpose, free to take time out and meditate, free to do what make YOU feel good.

  • Detaching, new stories, deep breaths, staying in our own business – this is great material, ladies!
    Thank you!

  • Pure Potential says:

    Breath deeply…three breaths change your physiology by reducing stress and stressful thoughts.
    Be clear in speech and action. Stress arises when we are out of alignment with our intention and values.
    Detach from the outcome. When we practice truth and integrity for ourselves, we radiate joy and peace whcih are then communicated to others.
    As others have noted, Pray Rain. Write the story as though you are in the moment. You are in charge of your story.
    And most of all, stay in your business – not others’ business and certainly not the universe’s business.
    Happiness and peace are choices.

  • Annette says:

    mmmm – – Iyabo, that really hits home! While I do not have family to ‘go home to’ for the Holidays, I DO have memories to go home to.
    Some are good and some are not so good. But what I can see from your advice is that I was looking at those gatherings from a narrow point of view. Children do not get all the nuances and background info on situations. All we remember is that it either felt good or it felt bad. So looking back, I can see that there was a family gathering, and there was laughter involved. Even if there was a disagreement, we still elected to come together and share some time.

  • Iyabo Asani, The Inner Genius Coach says:

    That was a great free flowing call Jeanette and it covered a whole lot of ground. So yummy!
    Now this is my suggestion about getting together with family during the holidays and managing our emotions.
    Many of us have wounds and scars from our childhood and being around family just seems to open up those wounds and scars. Now, let us remember that those wounds and scars are stories that we have told ourselves ever since we were kids. So the stories keep the wounds alive and reactivate the scars.
    One of the biggest ways to change a story is to forgive. So entering into the heart space of love when it comes to family is very important. Remember Heartswell? OK, this is the perfect time and place for it.
    So allow your thoughts to roam around your wonderful head and heart and draw those thoughts, feelings and beliefs into love. Allow your heart to glow with green loving energy and hold your family in that space of green loving heart energy. Forgive them. Love them. Delight in them. See them as perfection. See yourself as perfection. From this place, begin to anticipate an amazing holiday season with them. See them loving you. See love in their eyes for you. See their hearts open with green loving energy and that energy directed towards you.
    Now this is your story. Your story is that you love being “around” your family like this. Your story is that your “interactions” with your family are loving. Your story is that all you can “remember” about them is wonderful, green positive love.
    That is your new story. Now try it on for size. Add to it and enjoy the most loving time you have ever had with your family during the holidays!

  • Annette, could you also please share your favorite tapping resource? You mentioned that in the chat room during the call, and I thought it was an excellent suggestion.
    Family gatherings could be a GREAT time to put that method into practice!

  • Annette says:

    I just implemented something that really works for me: What can I learn from this?
    Is it ‘stressful’? Detach and observe. Does that comment make me angry because it’s reflecting something I don’t like about myself? How interesting! What else can it tell me?
    In other words, re-frame the ‘negative’ situation into a classroom situation.
    I cannot remember which Brilliant story it was about the ‘other table’ during the call, but my backstage persona took over and gave me this insight: it’s like producing a documentary – you really don’t know what’s going to happen, but it is fascinating to see how people interact.
    Yes, it sounds like Mr Spock!

  • I wrote a short tip list last month for Catalyst, that’s available here if you want to check it out:

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