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Gwen Jones5 min

Putting the Joy Back Into Christmas

by Julia Paulette Hollenbery  

You can find authentic joy amongst the seasonal madness.  Despite the expectations, duty and disappointment – stress, forced cheer and overwhelm – delight can be discovered, by turning attention inwards, to sense your physical body and your own sensitive heart.

  Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. The word 'joy' comes from the old French joie, meaning delight, erotic pleasure, bliss, and from the Latin gaudia, meaning sensual delight, inward joy, and gladness. Joy is not a distant biblical concept – but your embodied, somatic, physical experience. Despite the standardised images portrayed in the adverts, it can be a relief to realise there is no 'one' way to do Christmas. The form of Christmas now is but an evolving blend of many different traditional stories and rituals. Each one of us journeys through Christmas in our own unique way. Staying true to your authentic feeling self is key to surviving the festive season. You don't have to be conventionally happy at Christmas in order to find your own kind of joyousness.   Will you spend it quietly meditating at home, helping others less fortunate, celebrating in style, with your family of origin or your spiritual tribe of friends? However you choose to spend it, I wish you a simple and sensual deep mid-wintertime.   I want to remind you to begin with a luxurious grounding in self-care. Have enough water to drink, sleep to rest, warm water bathing and winter sunshine. Do something extra lovely just for yourself, like lovingly applying rich skin cream or a careful gentle shave. You matter.   There can be a lot of pressure to ‘belong’ at social events, and the feeling that you don't fit-in can be intense. Remember you can always take time-out from socialising. You can pause, create space, and return to your senses. Take a moment to slow down, and just be. You can go for a walk, have a stretch, or just sit quietly. A loo-break can become a transformational mini-retreat. Allow the activity outside and inside of you, to still. Sensing your sensations, feeling your feelings, listening to the silence, and gathering awareness.   Experiment with consciously grounding, noticing your feet on the earth, your bottom on the chair, your hands on your face. Perhaps taking bigger than usual breaths. Move your body anyway you'd like, an informal dance or a shake. You can move just a finger or a hand, toes or feet, or your head. Sense yourself. You can think, this is me, I am enough!   And, as you increase your somatic-self-awareness, you are also increasing your capacity to feel sensual delight and deliciousness. Free of charge. Without needing extra stimulation from outside of you. Joy is not necessarily found in the cakes, roasts, and presents. It is found within you - when you can slow down enough to hear the sensual orchestra of your delicious wise body. Joy is being at home in your own self, at home in your body.   You don't have to talk to everyone at the party. Allow your intuition to lead you towards the people who attract you in some way. And when you meet them, look at them with love and really see their loveliness. Most people will respond to your love with their loveliness. You will then be able to have a wonderfully open-hearted conversation, really looking, listening, and meeting another; sharing details of your real challenges, fears and hopes. Sharing values, understandings, and laughter. Or maybe learning something new. One good conversation can be so nourishing!   Making a new friend is exciting. The discovery that someone is quite different to how you thought them to be, is delightful, full of hope for connection and creativity.  And for those people who really attract you – perhaps someone you arrived with, or someone you meet – don't forget to share a delicious kiss under the mistletoe, or anywhere else that you fancy.   The winter solstice is an opportunity for rest, rejuvenation, and access to a new life. What would be truly relaxing, indulgent, and revivifying for you this season? What can you gift yourself? For each of us it is probably something quite different. Experiment with self-kindness, tuning-in to exactly what your body would find an exquisite sensual delight. Eating stewed apple with melted chocolate and cream? A bath with luxurious oils? A velvet throw? Listening to music on an excellent sound-system? Dancing with friends? An attentive massage? Being stroked with a feather, rose or stone? Slow lovemaking (with self or other)? Going for a swim? Singing loudly?   Allow yourself to slow-down and savour. Perhaps to consume less and enjoy yourself more. Where and how does your heart and body light up? Prepare to be surprised. No matter what is going on, pleasure will always be available, even in some small way. Enjoy finding it.   Deep winter is a time of retreat and rest. Our instinct is to hibernate. This is human animal stuff, in tune with the natural seasonal cycles. What do you need to feel warm, safe, and cosy? To rest before a New Year begins? Let yourself be slow, simple, and spontaneous. You can sleep for much longer than usual. Surround yourself with natural elements and fabrics.   There is a deep quiet joy in dropping into natural sensuality - enjoying the light of a crackling fire, the feel on your skin of sheepskin, cashmere, silk and wool and the nourishment of hearty oily colourful foods. Wearing just the right clothes to keep you warm enough to enjoy a good long walk outdoors. Choose colours that light you up. This is a joy that arises from deep within, from stopping 'the show', and being in close contact with yourself and your environment. This is unfolding embodied natural delight.   There is often stress in exchanging presents. Does the receiver try to please the giver, by pretending they like something they really don't? Does the giver pay attention to the needs, tastes and style of the person they are gifting? Most of us, most of all, want to be really seen, heard, noticed, and understood. The real present is being present - here and now. Being present to yourself and to others. A physical present is one way to demonstrate love - and more significant than money spent, packaging and latest fashion is the thoughtfulness behind it. Attention, intention, and care can turn the obligation of exchanging presents into a genuinely joyful experience, gifting both giver and receiver with happiness. Giving should be the pleasure.   We are living in extraordinary, uncertain, and intense times. It can be helpful to remember that this Christmas doesn't need to be the same as last year or the years before. The form of celebration this year may be quite different. Perhaps you are grieving the loss of someone who isn't here this year. Your living fully, is a celebration of their life and their death. What matters is genuine respect, kindness and love for yourself and others. Cherish yourself and the ones you are with.   Don't do anything that doesn't bring you pleasure. Be light and easy, be the bubbles and the glitter, be what you are looking for. Be uniquely you. You are precious. Gift yourself your own Christmas presence. And have deep, good - with integrity - fun!   About the author: Julia Paulette Hollenbery is an expert in the power of happiness, joy and relationships and the author of The Healing Power of Pleasure - Seven Medicines for Rediscovering the Innate Joy of Being (Published by Findhorn Press – an imprint of Inner Traditions)   Buy the book, The Healing Power of Pleasure!