A Guided Practice for Managing Holiday Expectations

Chris Willard leads us in this guided meditation for self-compassion to help us handle the ups and downs of the holiday season.

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Here we are—in our first holiday season during the pandemic of COVID-19. While the holidays signify powerful joy, generosity, and togetherness, even in a year without a pandemic, they can also bring up feelings of stress, disappointment, and conflict. In this guided practice, Chris Willard draws on Christopher Germer and Kristen Neff’s work on mindful self-compassion to address our expectations, both for the holidays and for ourselves.

A Guided Practice on Compassion

  1. Find yourself a comfortable posture. You might allow your eyes to close. 
  1. I invite you now to bring to mind a challenging moment. A moment that didn’t feel like it went quite right. An imperfection. Maybe you lost it a little bit with the kids. Maybe you burnt dinner. If you’re feeling stressed, maybe you’re just not feeling like you’re able to show up in the way that you want to, for others or for yourself. Whatever it might be, bring to mind a small imperfection and just notice how this feels. 
  1. You might notice that a critical voice starts speaking: “What’s the matter with you? What’s wrong with you? You can’t do anything right.” Just notice that voice. Perhaps you can even ask it to step back. 

    Now, with a more compassionate voice and some words that resonate, name this experience. Is this a moment of suffering? Is this challenging, hard, or stressful? What’s important is that the words feel true to you. 

    Use the kind of words you might offer to a friend, a child, or someone you care about, with a tone of kindness and patience. 
  1. Then, I’ll invite you to bring some words of connection. Something that reminds you that you’re not alone. This is a hard year for all of us. We’re all struggling right now, nobody’s perfect. 

    What are the words that resonate, that feel authentic to you? If you like, maybe just rest your hands over your heart. Give yourself something of a gentle hug or just feel the warmth of your hands in your lap. Just remind yourself that you’re not alone
  1. Lastly, a few words of encouragement: May I let this go. May I forgive myself. May I be patient. May I be kind to myself as I would be with people who I love, because I do love myself. I do deserve this compassion. May I not expect everything to be perfect. May I remember that I’m not alone. May I not set such high expectations for myself and others. 

What words and what tone feels most authentic for you? 

Take a few more moments just to offer yourself some kindness. Remember to pause at any moment in a stressful time, naming the experience and remembering that you’re not alone. Offer yourself some words of kindness and encouragement.

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