Here is one version of the season: Tis the season to buy stuff during Black Friday and Cyber Monday (thank goodness that’s over!), the season to go to parties and eat and drink too much, the season to then worry about how much you ate and drank and feel bad about it, the season to scurry about getting all the cookies and candies made (and eaten) and sent to relatives and friends, the season to get lots of decorations up around the house, and the season to try and get everyone the perfect gift.
On the other hand, tis the season to be more loving. Whew! That feels so much better. Loving can take many forms and require a lot or just a little from us, depending on the circumstances. I like to think of love (and loving) as our natural state—the one that happens when we are meeting the present fully without judgment. It arises without effort when our hearts are open and unafraid. Love does the loving for us.
Here are just a few ways love can be expressed this holiday season and into the New Year.
Love is about Connection
It is the connections we have with other people that give us the most meaning in life. We all want to feel more connected, even the ones who would rather stay at home to do it. Although introverts find empty socializing to be draining, they desire deep connections with others. And they make great conversationalists. My daughter is an introvert, but when you talk to her one-on-one you can be guaranteed to have a lively discussion.
The sad fact is many people feel alone. In 2019, before the pandemic, 3 in 5 Americans reported being lonely. After the pandemic, this number increased, particularly among young people. Despite the addiction to social media, our social connections are often lacking. Social connection is good for us on many levels–according to research, it can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems.
How are you connecting with others and are there things you can do to deepen your sense of connection? This is not something someone else can do for you. It depends on your willingness to be seen by another and to be present for another. This is no small task! You are in charge. Look around in your life and ask yourself where you might reach out to someone else. You never know who might appreciate your efforts and you will feel better as well.
Love is about Letting Go of Fear (and Judgment)
In the book, The Course in Miracles, it says we are either expressing love or fear (and there is nothing in between). Think about that statement and see if you can apply it to your own life. When are you living in love and when are you living in fear and judgment? I put fear and judgment together because when you judge someone else it is based on fear. You might not recognize your fear, but you can easily recognize the judgments you make. Unfortunately, I think I can speak for all of us when I say there is too much time spent in fear and judgment and not enough in love.
bell hooks, who was a prolific and trailblazing author, poet, and feminist said “There are times I get up in the morning, and I think, ‘Okay. Who am I to love today?’ That is not a choice based on who I think is cute, or who I want to spend time with, but it’s the recognition of the hunger we all have for love.” It’s what the world needs now, for sure!
Love is about Forgiveness
There are many things you can give in your loving endeavors. One of the hardest and the most generative is forgiveness. When you hold on to grudges, judgments, resentments, and grievances, you are living in fear. You fear that if you forgive, you are condoning what someone did or accepting it. In my experience, this is not true. When I forgive, I give myself the greatest gift first. The gift of relief and the release of pain and suffering. When I forgive, I don’t let someone “off the hook” but I do allow them to be fallible and imperfect (just like me). And, when I forgive someone else, I am more likely to forgive myself when I am less than perfect, which is all the time.
Life is too short not to learn this lesson. You can live in pain your entire life over what someone did to you when you were a child or even last week or you can choose to let go through forgiveness. Again, the Course in Miracles, whose main tenet is forgiveness, says in Lesson 121 – Forgiveness is the key to happiness. Give it a try and see what happens.
Love is about Giving
Now is the time that non-profits rely on to produce their budgets for the year ahead so that they can continue to offer their services to the homeless and less fortunate people and animals as well as to uplift the community with arts, trails, parks, music, theater and more. We are given the opportunity to support these good causes through places like COMOgives which brings all the nonprofits together in one place, so your giving gets even easier! Where else can you give? If you don’t live in Columbia, I’m sure there are plenty of opportunities wherever you are to lend a helpful hand. It could be in the form of money, volunteering, or assisting in various projects. Look around to see where you can give and notice how it makes you feel when you do.
Giving can also take the form of giving a smile to a stranger, letting someone move in front of you on a busy road, letting someone else in line ahead of you, paying for someone else’s coffee, taking care of someone else’s recycling, running an errand for someone, offering to babysit for a harried couple, making a meal for someone, and the list could go on.
And finally, Love is about Receiving
To open yourself up to receive love and kindness from another can take great courage. It starts by believing you deserve it and sometimes that’s difficult for folks. It may sound corny, but you do give a gift to others when you let them do something for you or be kind to you in some unexpected way. Open yourself up to receive the goodness of the universe in all it’s forms—from people, animals, experiences, nature, day-to-day encounters with others, and more. There is so much to receive from life when we let down our guard and be fearless to receive.
To end, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the Buddha. “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” If we all do our best to send out the energy of love, instead of fear, judgment, and hate, I truly believe we can change the world. At the very least, we can change ourselves.
If this post has moved you in any way, I would love to hear from you. In addition, please share it with a friend. Pay the love forward.