I got the inspiration for this blog from Jamie Catto, a wonderful riotous teacher whose “What about your Christmas presence?” workshop I attended a few years ago.
It was brilliant. And it inspired me this year to dive into my tips and tricks for spending a quality-time, actually cosy and connected Christmas together with the people you love.
Those are often also the people that trigger the shit out of you, hence bringing a little consciousness to those relationships can go a long way. Who does not know the saying “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family”?
We do not really need any more material things, so bringing your presence could well be the greatest gift you can bring.
These are some of my favourites:
Really appreciating the person in front of you is a gift.
Telling them what you love about them, how you appreciated that thing they did for you this year or how you enjoy that certain way of being that is uniquely them. It is beautifully impactful when you pull that our of your sleeve, or more accurately, your heart. It is touching to see the impact of a genuine appreciation, how it can light up a face and open a heart.
Pro-tip: try to be as specific as you can. The more specific, the more you show this person the thing that is uniquely them that stands out to you. It often helps people see what their gift to the world is.
Maybe you even want to do a round of appreciations around the dinner table, all sharing one thing you appreciate about the other. Sure, it can be a bit scary to propose such a thing. I feel a bit nervous doing that with my family! (that never ends really – creating an intentional space is always a little vulnerable in my book). But it pays off, massively. It creates such a sweet connection and really opens hearts.
2. Getting another person’s world
In my family we can suddenly get caught in a political or ethical discussion – and there have been times when in no time the whole table is polarised. Maybe not extremely, because it is Christmas after all and it is supposed to be nice, but still, it is a little uncomfortable. Nobody is really listening to what the other side is saying, until there is a change of course and usually a change of conversation.
But the tension is not gone. It usually lingers. In those polarising moments, bringing genuine curiosity and your listening skills to the table can be a massive gift. Really trying on a different perspective and getting another person’s world. This does not mean you have to agree with somebody else, but you can try on what it is like to be them. What has them be so passionate about subject X? Why do they care? What is underlying that passion?
Asking questions from a place of genuine curiosity can radically flip a conversation around from polarisation to one of understanding. It is sweeet and definitely a relational superpower.
3. Seeing that the other person is you.
This can be a challenging one, especially with challenging relationships and people you judge. Yet this is exactly where this works best. I speak from experience that this can be a magically transformative experience. I am nicking this one from Jamie, here is how it goes:
You take your judgement of the person in front of you and recognise that the only reason you are judgmental is because what you are judging is in shadow for you. Sure, it will not show up exactly the same way, but it will have the same quality. Someone can be aggressive, yet you are passive aggressive. You judge someone for being too nice, yet when push comes to shove you do not speak up about your boundaries either.
The way to practise this, is to use the (internal) sentence: “this person is… like me”
“My uncle is loud, like me”
“My friend is too gentle, like me”
Or in my case: This person does not listen, like me. I realised I was super-judging somebody close to me for not listening to others speak and reassert his truth over and over again. But when I used the “like me” sentence I realised I was doing exactly the same thing. I got so riled up by him I became louder and louder and did not feel a shred of curiosity about his world. So I stopped. I started listening and asking questions. And what happened was amazing: this person calmed down. Shared his world. Opened up. And our relationship has not been the same since. I kid you not. Thanks Jamie.
So try on some of that Christmas presence this year. The good news is you do not have to wait until it is Christmas or stop afterwards either 😉 These practices can obviously be used all year round, at work ánd at home. I know they have radically transformed my relationships. I hope they bring you a deeper connection too.
So enjoy. Drop in. Connect. And have a lovely Christmas.