This holiday season re-think your gift giving rituals by focusing on how you spend your time and attention in your most meaningful relationships. There is no gift you could purchase that will more profoundly enhance the emotional connections in your life than the gift of your focused attention, which explains why most people cannot distinguish between the experience of being deeply loved with being deeply heard. What we remember and what makes up the stories we share years later is rarely found in a box, but rather comes through the moments when we share our full presence with the people we love.
Not only will these easy practices speak volumes to those we love, but they also offer profound opportunities to hone your capacity to receive love, which, for most of us, is often more of a challenge than the act of giving love. Developing the basic skills of receiving provide both the foundation for living a grateful life as well as teaching us the fundamentals of embracing and living inside the present moment. One of the most effective practices is deceptively simple, yet remarkably challenging: Developing the ability to let go of how we think things should be and releasing our expectations or judgments allows us the space to embrace reality as it is. These brief intervals of harmony with life offer us a glimpse into the love that is always right in front of us.
Try one of these simple tips to gift the presence of your love this holiday season. Stoke your holiday with the transforming benefits of truly receiving the time you are blessed to share with people you love.
1. Slow down the holiday bustling by scheduling more time for fun and simple enjoyment within your daily schedule. Many recent studies have found that showing up for life’s celebrations in loving relationships actually creates more sticking power within intimate connections than being a sounding board for the hard times. Many relationships suffer from the shrinking amounts of time we spend together without digital distractions or the pressure of accomplishment. Let go of getting things done, especially at the holidays and create more opportunities to laugh together, experience nature, or eat something new. Experience the moment with as many of your senses as possible and you will also be turning it into a treasured memory.
2. Feel your heart center when you receive a compliment or a token of someone’s affection for you. Love is not just an idea in our head. With practiced focus you can actually learn to feel the energy of love come in and go out of your body. The love we extend is viscerally sensed through our front body, and the love we receive enters through the back side of our heart center, which explains why many people experience serious tightness and blockages around their thoracic vertebrae. Focus your attention on this part of your body the next time you are on the receiving end of a generous act, a loving gesture or a sweet compliment. Pause and breathe into your heart, especially the back and notice the softening that happens. Allow the tenderness of what has been offered sink in. Whether the gifts are small compliments or deep gestures of generosity, learning to let the experience of being loved into our physical bodies is worthy of our holiday attention.
3. Experience how gratitude lives in you as you recognize that the most meaningful gifts at this time of year can’t be bought of even given. Instead, they are the transformation that happens inside of us when we allow the love coming towards us to settle there. It is too easy at this time of year to get stuck on how life’s offerings don’t match our expectations, and this thought is how we literally turn away from the love and pleasure that is being offered in whatever form it may come. When we refuse the love coming to us because it doesn’t look like what we wanted we disconnect from the gratitude, which is at the heart of what we actually need to feel fulfilled. When you open a gift this season, focus on the intention and love that the giver intended inside of the wrapping paper. Vigilantly practice releasing your preconceived ideas when you open a gift and listen for the gratitude and love that is hidden in the gift in front of you.
4. Verify the truth that intimacy begets intimacy. Studies support the strong correlation between a happy relationship and the frequency of sex. Sexual intimacy acts as the glue in long-term relationships, like pouring cement into a foundation. Especially during the holidays, a little afternoon delight will go a long way to ease the stress and pave the way for more emotional closeness and richer communication. Bringing the gift of our full presence to our intimate experiences is healing because we do so with non-judgmental eyes and a gentle heart. Often, the lack of connection we have to our own natural sexual libido comes as a result of the over-thinking that our unspoken sexual insecurities and fears create in the bedroom. For the holidays, let go of those too.
5. Live sensuously. A powerful way to quiet the mind and bring yourself into the moment is to rely on your senses. Sensuality, which is the cornerstone of a healthy libido response as well as a passionate connection to life, requires focusing your attention on connecting to all of your senses deeply. It is in the smallest of sensations that this practice comes alive. The holidays are a sensual plethora of indulgences. Smell the pine from the tree, sit in darkness with twinkling lights, smell the egg nog or hot cocoa before you sip it. Savor the warmth of your intimacy by feeling the different textures of skin on your partner’s body or the weight of their hands on your lower abdomen. Run your fingers through their hair or trace their face with your lips. Giving these moments our full attention speaks love and will create some of the warmest memories of the season.