And so it begins, the holiday season! I wonder what that means for each of you. My hope is that you all had a great Thanksgiving and that you found time to reflect and be thankful for all that is positive in your life and work. It’s so easy to get caught up n the preparation, the celebration, the food and the football games, that we sometimes forget the purpose of the day itself. And so it is true from now through the New Year.
There is so much to do at this time of year. Year end business requirements, holiday events (both work and social), gifts to buy, trips to plan, family to deal with and oh so many personalities. Each and everyone is stressed to the max. The question is does it truly need to be so? What else is possible? How would you like it to be? Let’s explore shall we?
In Buddhism and Zen practices, there is something called Beginners Mind. Shunryu Suzuki, the author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind says “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.” Think about that for a minute. When we are infants, everything is new. Isn’t it great to see an infant recognize something for the first time? You can see their curiosity, their excitement, confusion or even fear. They have no preconceived notions; no previous experience to dictate what is in the present because their past is very limited.
Beginners mind is what we come into the world with, then around four years of age or so, we discover our memory. From that point on, whenever we have an experience we’ve had before, our brain asks our mind to find the meaning of this experience. The mind goes to our memory center and picks out the pictures of our past and finds the appropriate one(s). So, now we know the meaning and each time we go through that process we begin to expect, and trust it more and more. We just know what we know and so shall it be. We have then become the expert, no matter what the situation we can predict what will happen.
And so, we either create wonderful expectations based on the positive memories, or we begin to dread the tasks ahead, the events ahead and mostly, we make up stories about how those around us will behave good or bad. It doesn’t matter who the players are or what the situation is. Business, personal, social, it’s all the same. We just know how it’s going to be period. The truth is it will be exactly as you predict, unless we want something different. That’s where the beginners mind comes into play.
Emptying your mind of any expectations regarding the holiday season ahead is the first critical step. There’s many ways you can do this, a very simple way is to decide to let it all go. Be grateful for the great memories and excited about making new ones. Reflect on what has always been stressful for you and focus on what you would like instead. At that point, you are ready to create a Beginners Mind.
What do I want instead is one of the greatest questions to ask yourself, with a lot of curiosity. Wonder about what these holidays truly mean to you. Be curious about how you would spend them, if no one had any expectations of you or you of them. It’s important to do this without judgment, especially of yourself. I am in no any way suggesting you become selfish. I am suggesting that you give yourself the gift of wonder. Let your Beginners Mind have some fun. Then, you can consider what might need to happen for you to have some of what you want, without disrespecting or disappointing anyone else.
For example, there may not be any way to avoid being with some people you would not otherwise choose to be with. However, there is most likely, a way you can be with them without engaging in passive aggressive behavior. You could simply make a commitment to yourself to be more present with others in the room. Or, if you are resentful of all the time it takes to decorate, figure out what the most important decorations are and only put those up. There are infinite possibilities and options; you just need to create the space to find them.
Finally, involve other people in your curiosity and wonderment. Involve your staff and employees in getting creative about goals and priorities on which to focus. What is enough and not too much? Set those boundaries. Involve your family and friends in ways in which they would like something different and plan it together.
These are your holidays and it is your choice, take full responsibility for what you want and how you want to be and you will be able to look back with gratitude and good memories rather than “I am so glad that’s over”. Life is short, enjoy these moments.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and enjoyable holiday season!