Meaningful Traditions and Change

Ah, the leaves have begun to turn. Coffee shops now offer their pumpkin-spice pastries, coffees, and teas. And the smell of cinnamon lingers in the air. Autumn has arrived. We say “goodbye” to longer days of light and hello to nights aglow. Soon we will be making hot chocolate and burning candles to welcome in the holiday season. October typically marks the beginning of gatherings, beginning with All Saints Day, quickly followed by Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

We remember our dearly departed on All Saints Day and reflect on their lives, what they meant to us, and what we learned from them. We laugh and cry in joy, our hearts are nostalgic as we revisit memories of the past, and we pass the stories down to younger generations.

As we enter Thanksgiving, we share grateful spirits for the blessings and the struggles we have faced or are facing. Yes, we can find some small items to be thankful for during even the worst struggles. Neuroscientists from the University of Southern California are learning a lot about the emotion of gratitude from Holocaust survivors’ stories and their capacity to be grateful while experiencing oppression. The regions of the brain mapped through MRI’s of the 23 participant listeners of these stories revealed areas associated with feelings of rewards and fairness. These regional brain areas are critical for sleep, physical and mental health, empathy, and social behavior. Amazing!

Christmas comes with the greatest gift of all. The celebration of the one who makes life worth living. The one who gives us purpose and the talents to accomplish that purpose. This season is full of traditions that are good for the soul; they are good for our sense of belonging and worth, and our ability to connect and show empathy. Don’t lose hope if you are facing disruptions to long-honored traditions this year. How we celebrate may change, even as some things remain the same. The number of people who attend the celebrations change, the location may change, the people themselves change. And you ought to celebrate even if your gathering is a gathering of one. You can write a card or note to share a memory, send good wishes, and pass along a favorite recipe. You can make a phone call and pray with another one. You can make hot chocolate and listen to music and be grateful for the gifts of the people who’s talents created the marvelous sound.

Indeed, deep emotions often stir during these next few months. Now is the time to prepare yourself by creating small but meaningful things to do. If you have regret or guilt, make amends. If you are holding onto resentment or anger, lower or release expectations of the individual who may have wronged you. You can be freer and lighter by no longer defining that experience as part of you that is broken. All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas remind us that our time here is temporal. It is a gift, and so is our last day. Let us make each day as meaningful as we have the choice, freedom, and ability to do. Witness a leaf swirl to the ground or a squirrel gathering nuts, journal your experience. Welcome Autumn. Welcome change. Let us celebrate!

Until next week!

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