The holidays are hard for me and my family now. What used to be a time of great anticipation of being together again is now encased in grief for what is gone. So the question for me has become how can we move through this time with more humanity, more space and heartfulness.
For me, I come back to what has been my all-time favorite quote by Simone Weil who wrote “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” And I know that we are not alone with the dread or at least ambivalence with the holiday season.
So many people that we all know live more isolated and lonely lives than ever before in history. We are overloaded with stuff, but lacking in true human attention.
The Benefits of Being Seen and Heard
Consider this my personal invitation to re-invent the idea of gift giving. Instead of all the hours you would spend in seeking, purchasing, wrapping, and giving gifts, use it to offer your presence.
- Ask yourself: How can I show up for more people and really give them my attention?
We have two ears that form the shape of a heart when they are brought together in listening, and truly there is so much love behind the need to feel heard and witnessed. This explains why most people cannot distinguish between the experience of feeling deeply loved with feeling deeply heard, seen, or touched. When you offer your undivided attention – yes, that means putting the digital gadgets away – you open a space for someone else’s heart to expand and be recognized.
Try and think back on the last time someone held your gaze and listened to you without interruption. And then remember how you felt. Honestly, even the most sparkling jewels don’t compare to the feelings of intimacy that are generated in the light of one’s focused attention. Our most cherished memories that make up the stories we share many years later are rarely found in a box, but rather they are captured in the moments when we have offered our full presence to the people we love.
Whether sharing a hearty laugh or creating space for someone’s grief, true connection redeems us and makes us remember what holidays are for.
Ways to Carve Out Time for Presence
Bringing our full presence takes intention and planning. In order to expand your presence, you have to build in time.
- Slow down the bustling holiday schedule and consciously replace it with more time for intimate fun and simple pleasures with your partner and family.
- Exchange one holiday party for a walk in the snow.
- Schedule an evening of take out and a movie at home, with no devices.
Although it is a bit counter-intuitive, recent studies have shown that it is in showing up and celebrating together that generates more “stickiness” in loving relationships than just being a sounding board for the hard times.
We need to have fun together to remember what actually drew us to the partnership initially. Too many relationships suffer from the shrinking amounts of time we spend together without digital distractions or the continuously increasing pressure to do more – especially during the holidays. Deliberate acts of letting go of getting things done and creating more opportunities to laugh together, experience nature, or eat something new is how we speak love with our attention.
Extra Credit: Tune In to Your Senses
Another trick to remember your intention to give your presence is to live more fully with your senses.
When we pay attention to our senses it creates more real data in the moment. Our brain then has more information to process, which in turn creates a more complex and robust experience that transforms our attention into a treasured memory. Not only that, but when we simply harness and focus our attention on the smallest of sensations, the holidays become a sensual plethora of indulgences.
- Deeply inhale the scent of freshly cut tree.
- Hold your partner’s hand in the dark with twinkling lights.
- Taste for the over-sweetness of eggnog or hot cocoa as you sip it.
All of these will help you to savor the warmth and magic of your physical intimacy.
This holiday season, let your giving be from you heart and don’t spend anything more than your undivided attention. Everyone will be enriched beyond measure.
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Have you ever been telling a friend something and you could tell they weren't listening? That never feels great. Sometimes it is in our most comfortable relationships that it is easiest to drift off and not give our full attention, but what if today we really intentionally gave our loved ones our undivided attention? We think some great connection could happen. Let us know how it went if you give this a try!