Category Archives: giving thanks

The Two C’s That Make the Holidays Stressful

One of the reasons we have so many arguments and disagreements with family during the holidays is because we engage in the practice of Competing and Comparing. Here’s what I’m talking about…

There’s a difference between saying,

“I make my potatoes differently,” and “I make my potatoes differently.”

See?…. No?

Yeah, it’s not obvious is it, not without tone and inflection – which is to say, not without intention. It’s the exact same phrase, nothing more than an observation perhaps, but the intention changes everything. But…

A passing observation is rarely passing if it’s speckled with comparison and competition.

If an external value system is placed on the item in question (potatoes), then comparison is immediately included in the intention (“different” becomes “better”). Comparison is better or worse. Once we have attached a value to it, it opens the door for competition, which internalizes the comparison. (aka: I’m better because my potatoes are better.) Whoa! And therein lies the problem, because it can be said or received either way. We don’t control how others receive our statements, of course, but we can certainly control how we say them.

So, how do you navigate the holiday season with less stress, arguing and disagreement? Raise your awareness to Comparison and Competition, and choose something different.

Sub-text, second-level dialogue, and assumptions are all fodder for Comparison and Competition. Once we engage in either we create opportunity for disagreement and argument, hurt feelings and frustration. So, it’s easy to see why the holidays can be fraught with strife for so many as families gather together to celebrate. Keeping the two C’s in check can lead to more enjoyable holidays together now and in the future.

Finally, when in doubt, it’s best to choose gratitude. Regardless of how the potatoes are made, a simple “Thank you for making the potatoes” goes a lot further than any passing observation ever could (even if Aunt Bernie’s potato recipe is awesome). There’s little room for disagreement when gratitude is shared.

Champions at Heart

“You don’t need a man, Liz. You need a champion.” – Eat, Pray, Love

I always liked that line, because it hits me. Right there. You know the place: That space between your heart and your throat where you can physically feel your dreams? Yeah, there. But why?

Let’s pause to look at this for a moment, because it’s actually true. We each need a champion. First, let’s define “champion.”photo 1

Among other things, a champion is a “warrior or fighter” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also a verb: to champion means “to protect or fight for.” Let’s explore the latter, because although Javier Bardem uses the noun in the movie, I believe his true intention (or sub-dialogue) was the meaning behind the verb. So let’s go there!

When we’re children, we seem to have champions all around us. Sometimes it’s our friends or our parents. Sometimes it’s our teachers or siblings. It’s people who hold us up, hold us accountable, teach and lead us. They are there for us when things get stormy as well as when things are calm and sunny. At face value, champions are the “winners.” Looking deeper, champions are those wonderful individuals who value and respect us as individuals ourselves and who inspire us to be our best self, without asking anything in return.

Usually, I would say that all we need is to be our own champion. We do. However, it’s not “all” we need. We need each other, and we each need a champion: That one person in our life, at that one moment, who supports and protects us – who holds us up (or helps us up) when we need it most. It’s the person who makes us laugh or lets us cry – without judgment or expectation – because they know it’s what we need at that moment. It may not be the same person every time. In fact, it probably isn’t.

I know who my champions are, even though they’d probably hate that title. 😉 They’re the ones who help me to be who I am every day, by supporting, challenging and encouraging me to show up for myself. Sometimes I forget they’re there though, and then I’m reminded by something seemingly small. Perhaps something so small that they don’t realize that they just donned a cape for me and became my champion in that one moment, and it made all the difference.

So, today – it’s a simple reminder to say thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful “champions” out there holding us up, helping us out, laughing with us, and reminding us of who we are, and what we can become. Perhaps, too, it’s a reminder that maybe we’re also wearing a cape for someone and don’t even know it. How wonderful!

In the end, I think that’s why that line hits me: Feeling supported and loved is an amazing gift; Feeling championed? That’s love on a whole new level.

Fear and Gratitude

A favorite quote/mantra of mine: “Fear cannot live in a grateful heart.” Not sure where I first heard it or who said it – but it has been a guiding light in many a situation over the years. More recently, however, it has been a great tool that I have shared with clients, friends and family. And now I’d like to share it with you during this week in which we focus on giving thanks. Here’s how it works:

1) Think of something that causes you fear, anxiety or worry. Think of it, see it, and then FEEL it. Recognize that feeling within your body, physically. Sit with it for as long as you need, in order to commit it to memory – but not more than a minute, if you can last that long!

2) Now think of something for which you are grateful. Anything. The day, the weather, family, friends, a child, even your car or a new pair of shoes. Sit with this and truly feel the gratitude you have for whatever this is as it fills your body with love and joy. Allow that feeling to permeate every corner and every cell. Enjoy it. (you can sit with this one for as long as you want.)

Ok – now you know the two feelings and you have committed them to memory. Here comes the life-altering part: Whenever you have even the tiniest twinge of fear, like in the first part of the exercise, whether it shows up and registers as fear or not you now know what it is. You have a memory of it and a barometer, of sorts. When these feelings show up in your body, take a breath and switch into gratitude. Again, it can be gratitude for anything. Gratitude for the train being on time, or your coffee being delicious – or even having the money to buy a coffee. By switching from one emotion to the other, and consciously putting your attention onto your feelings, you are creating new habits and behaviors that will ultimately become automatic, and you will find that life becomes a little easier, smoother and more joy-filled.

The most challenging part of this exercise is recognizing the fear emotion, and then taking the pause (or breath) to consciously switch it. That’s why the first part of the exercise, though not pleasant, is important. You need to have the conscious memory of the physical feelings associated with these emotions in order to recognize and change them. As with all things, it takes practice, but it gets much easier the more you do it.

So, now this begs the question in this week of Thanksgiving: What makes you feel gratitude? Make a list. Keep it with you so you can call on it whenever you want. Add to it, change it, and see how different your life can be. For truly, when your heart is full of gratitude there is no room for fear.

With deepest gratitude for allowing me into your life…
In love and light,
Martina