2020 has been a year filled with uncertainty and the need to constantly adjust how we live our daily lives…so many questions – how long is lock down going to last, will my work continue, how do I work from home with the kids at home from school, can I shift the work I do to an on-line platform, how can our family do and see things outdoors while following the protocols in place, how does my family live together or can we live together if not all members are following the protocols, how can I maintain contact with friends other than via Zoom?  We’ve all had to navigate so much that is new and unpredictable. 

Now we’re coming to the end of the year and Christmas/holiday season is upon us.  So many of us have long-standing family traditions at this time and some, or all, of those are having to be put aside.  I know, all too well, how eeasy to fall into the trap of comparison, to focus on what we don’t get to do, wanting things to be different, to just get through it, or avoid it altogether.

As with everything else we’ve been navigating these past nine months, this season also offers an invitation to live in the present moment, embracing what is at this time, thereby opening a gateway to creativity.  This concept, in the Buddhist tradition, is called the beginner’s mind, and begins with recognizing that everything is in a constant state of flux, that everything is impermanent.  Shunryu Suzuki says, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything.  In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” 

Coming back to beginner’s mind is an ongoing, never ending practice. We do it, we forget, we come back to it, we forget, then we remember again. I had forgotten and writing this gave me the opportunity to remember, and has shifted my own mindset from feeling like I’ve been going through the motions this year, to celebrating the ways that our family is adapting and being creative in how we’re preparing for and engaging the season with our family and friends. Here are some of our ideas.

Welcome to our COVID Holiday visiting area!

One of the first things we did was create the space outside (above) where we can get together, in person, with one or two friends at a time, maintaining physical distance, having good air flow and having wonderful visits by the fire with treats and extra blankets! It’s been wonderful!

We’ve been walking in our neighbourhood, much more than before, or driving around the city, drinking in all the festive lights and ornaments that so many more families have generously put up this year. 

One tradition we’ve had, for many years, is having friends over for Christmas Eve dinner, and, it always includes creating a craft together.  This year, we’ve put together a craft package, to be delivered to everyone who usually attends, and we’ll all do the craft via Zoom. 

Christmas day, instead of gathering for the traditional turkey dinner, our extended family, in the city, will get together for a physically distanced, beautiful, walk in the Gatineau hills.  Looking forward to hot chocolate at our respective homes after doesn’t hurt either!

One networking group that I belong to organized a cookie exchange, so we’ve been having fun dropping off cookie packages on doorsteps, and we’ll all enjoy them together on a zoom call next week.   

The choir I belong to is having a small number of members come together outside to sing our usual Solstice songs and the rest of the choir will join via Zoom.  We also put together our first virtual song for a recent holiday concert, an activity that took all of us out of our comfort zone because of having to submit a video of ourselves singing solo!  The exhilaration of seeing it come together, and being part of an on-line event, made all the work totally worthwhile.

Have you been bringing the beginner’s mind to this Christmas/holiday season? If not, I invite you to look at this season in a fresh way, either adapting a current tradition or coming up with a new one, Or, like me, look at what you have come up with already, from the beginner’s mind perspective, and you might be surprised at how creative you’ve already been!

Let me know your thoughts or share the new or adaptive ideas you’ve put in place this year and I’ll share the ideas in a future article.

All the best of the season to one and all!

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