edited October 2011 in Christmas

The holiday season can be a time of stress for many, but it also is a time when people are more willing to open their hearts. Take advantage of this windfall. If the motivations are pure, an open heart can mend decades of old wounds in a matter of days . Reach out to those caught-up in the euphoria of the season and dismantle those barriers that have kept you apart.

You can also use this openness as a model to guide your own emotional well-being throughout the rest of the year. The benefits, of course, are limitless: an open heart is able to receive without judgment; an open heart does not feel the need to protect the ego or false personality; an open heart is a measure of your ability to receive the love of those close to you as well as those kept at a distance; an open heart is your deed to a life containing more joy and fulfillment, and we could easily continue here with even more examples.

A closed heart, on the other hand, leaves you at the mercy of false personality and the distorted fears that accompany that. Anger and frustration is the inevitable result, and after awhile it can feel like you're on a sinking ship without a life raft. Striving towards the more positive feeling is often enough to keep you on track.

For those of you still feeling challenged by a year of innumerable frustrations, we offer the following:

The symbols of Christmas are, of course, rich with traditions from many cultures, but the symbol we'd like to address today is a custom that, while it often leads to a surfeit of commercialism, has graced the lives of everyone who ever shared their love with another-- and that is the exchange of gifts.

When you wrap a gift for another you are not only concealing the surprise from them, but encoding the gift with a symbol of your affection. On this day when you are often giving to others, we ask that you share some of that affection with yourself.

Secure a quiet location and meditate for a moment. When you're free of distractions, review the progression of your life over the past year. Pay careful attention to any obstacles or problems that either challenged or upset you.

Now imagine that these challenges must be placed in a box and wrapped with the same level of affection you'd give if the present were intended for a loved one. When you're finished wrapping, place the gifts under an imaginary tree for yourself. Go forward in time a little and imagine waking up Christmas morning. As you unwrap each package, give thanks for the gift and appreciate what it has taught you about yourself. Do not take this step lightly. It is only after you have acknowledged the gift -- and the things it has illuminated in your life -- that you will be able to release its negative charge and let it go.

By the time you finish this exercise you should feel less embittered by the frustrations and setbacks of the past year, and more empowered by all that life brings. We are not saying that bad things won't happen in your life, but you can choose how to perceive them. While it's true that choice may seem limited at times, you still have the power to choose how you feel, and this is where choice can truly be empowering.

Christmas then teaches that in each day a new gift is waiting to be unwrapped. If you can learn to accept that gift with dignity and grace, you will better appreciate what life continues to teach you -- for life is indeed the most precious gift you will ever receive.

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