Be the gift at Christmas | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

While in the United States last month, I noticed a growing affinity—a gentle obsession, even—for all things soft. Music, food, blankets, scarves, sheets, skin—I would run my hands over anything that I perceived to be soft, and find great comfort in it. It probably spoke to a deeper need—to be more gentle, and to love myself more.

To validate it, a few days ago, I posted a question on Facebook: What do you think the world needs more of this Christmas? My hunch was right. The top three answers were kindness, compassion and patience.

Another good friend said, “more tolerance and understanding of perspectives we don’t agree with.” Solitude, time, stillness were other popular answers.

Kindness, compassion and patience can be grown and cultivated only if you begin with yourself. In order to gain and give more of these three virtues, you need to refill your own tank first.

The only way you can do that is to practice self-care on a daily basis. It is beyond sleeping and eating well, reading a book, or getting a massage.

I found inspiration for self-care this holiday season in the writings of Buddhist teacher, Haemin Sunim, whose New York Times bestselling book, “The Things You See Only When You Slow Down,” is a constant companion, beside my Bible.

Centered and calm

Sunim suggests that we take a few minutes each day to focus on our breathing. “As my breathing becomes much deeper and I’m paying attention to it, I feel much more centered and calm,” Sunim said. “I feel I can manage whatever is happening right now.”

I never used to understand this until I began to practice this myself and with my clients. The amazing things that happen when we pause to breathe deeply and pay attention go beyond words. It is priceless. Try it.

He also says that the path to self-care begins with an acceptance of the things that unsettle us. “When we regard our difficult emotions as a problem and try to overcome them, we only struggle more. In contrast, when we accept them, strangely enough our mind stops struggling and suddenly grows quiet. Rather than trying to change or control difficult emotions from the inside, allow them to be there, and your mind will rest,” he writes.

Learn to befriend your pain, listen well to what it is telling you. Stress results when you slug it out with your thoughts and insist on your own way. The key to peace is acceptance of what is.

The pen has been my ally in self-care for as long as I can remember. Begin by writing down the things in your life that are weighing on you, and all the things you need to do. List them down as bullets, or write your thoughts in essay form. Whatever comes naturally, do it.

“Rather than trying to carry those heavy burdens in your heart or your head, you see clearly on paper what it is you need to do,” Sunim said.

Paper, I’ve always believed, can hold anything. Joy, sadness, anxiety, guilt, hate, love. Pour it all out. Sleep on it, and in the morning, take out your list. Pray about it. Soon you’ll find the clarity you need to move.

Threshing out your issues with a nonjudgmental friend is essential to your self-care. “Choose someone who will listen without any kind of judgment.” Sunim suggested talking through your feelings to gain deeper insight. When you name your feelings, they lose power. “Once the story is released, you can see it more objectively, and you will know what it is you need to do.”


Walking is therapeutic. When you feel restless or troubled, walk. “When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you can pay attention to nature—a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body is released.”

Part of my own self-care means retreating to the sea every so often. In the ocean, I leave my sadness and the sorrows of those who share their stories with me. Nature is such a powerful, healing force, and I am renewed whenever I am by the sea.

Today I read something very meaningful about what it takes to be a gift at Christmas. Bestselling Christian author Ann Voskamp writes: “When you let other people just be—and don’t try to change even one of their heartbeats—you become a safe place for your people. And your people can safely come home for Christmas. The Spirit of Christmas is about letting His Spirit do the changing—in all the people and us.”

In my life, I’ve always been a believer of having a Plan B for everything. Voskamp likes to call it “Plan Be—choose to simply Be Present.” I love that. The gift of presence is what matters most to me this Christmas, more than any present ever will.

This Christmas, and even after, choose to be present for the weary and the brokenhearted. Be the gift. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Wishing you all a blessed, joy-filled and meaningful Christmas!

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