Saturday, December 24, 2016

Can Buddha wear a Santa Claus hat? Stress Reduction for the Holidays

Over the years I've heard an increasing number of people express how much they "don't" like the holiday season anymore.  The reasons are varied: The crowds, the expectations for expensive gifts, the capitalism and marketing, that it comes earlier and earlier each year due to mass media and retail marketing ads, dealing with difficult relatives, the alcoholism and other substance abuse, or the greed and exploitation that surrounds the holidays.

There are arguments about which religion the holiday season really belongs to, or if it should belong to a religion at all.  The celebration of this seasonal time of year has its ancestral roots in ancient celebrations of the Winter Solstice and the observations by humans of the seasons, skies and earth.  In reality, this festive time of year belongs to all of us, from all walks of life, whether we celebrate it for celestial reasons, or religious ones.

One thing we've learned from our years of knowledge about stress reduction, is that letting go of control is a major component in learning to relax, and this can't be more true during the holiday season as most of us find ourselves wanting the holidays to be only what we think they "should" be.  But "peace on earth" doesn't come when we try to control others and make them celebrate the holidays the same way we do.  Peace comes from tolerating diversity, which is a reality that the 2016 Presidential election revealed is still shockingly slow to be learned in the United States.

It's hard sometimes to keep in mind that the holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, giving, and thinking of others, not necessarily of ourselves so much.  We can each find a meaning to the holiday season, and traditional forms of celebration build memories and repetition.  We must keep in mind that many people may celebrate the holidays differently, and yes, the Buddha can wear a Santa Claus hat, just as the "birth of the son/sun" can mean more than one thing this time of year.

In allowing others to celebrate the holidays as they so choose, we also honor our right to celebrate it as we so choose, and without hate, argument, conflict and demands.  There are many minds and cultures in this world and so too, many interpretations of what this festive time of year might mean.  Perhaps one thing we might all agree on is that we want it to be a peaceful and giving time of year.

"Our ability to reach unity in diversity
will be the beauty and the test
of our civilization"
     ~Mahatma Gandhi

Thanks to Justin Mazza for the great photo - Christmas Buddha