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Living with Spiritual Elegance

by Caroline Phipps

The poet T.S. Eliot, in his 1922 poem, The Wasteland, described April as “the cruelest month... mixing memory and desire". It could be said that December is the busiest month, mixing obligation and festivity. Superimposed on the stresses and strains of regular life and work we have the celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice to name but a few. And here in The Berkshire Hills the chances are we will have, like icing on a cake, our fair share of snow and ice to navigate. In short, it gets complicated!

Navigating this maize of a month, with any kind of elegance, can seem like an uphill task when the spirit of the season gets buried in a blizzard of over scheduling and logistics. It’s way too easy to become overwhelmed and exhausted.

When December comes around I am reminded that many years ago I had what seemed like the perfect answer for meeting some of my holiday obligations. I scheduled Christmas Day to have lunch with my family in the south of England and dinner with my then in-laws four hours drive north, in Manchester. The result was predictably exhausting and stressful and, worse, left everyone involved disgruntled and disappointed, including me. The intention may have been good but the result was miserably inelegant.

If the December avalanche of obligations, commitments, shopping, events and parties is threatening to bury you, here are three strategies to utilize from the Living with Inner Elegance tool kit that can help.

Firstly, we need to pay particular attention to our physical health. Hard though it can be, getting enough rest and exercise is key and, tempting though it surely is, be mindful about over eating and over imbibing. It’s much harder to deal with a busy schedule when we feel out of sorts and hung over. Inner elegance is always easier to access when rooted in a well-balanced body. It’s hard to take life in stride, and be calm and peaceful, when we have a cracking headache and an upset stomach.

Secondly, let’s connect with one another the “old fashioned way". It is scientifically proven that talking and sharing experiences with others improves psychological wellbeing and literally strengthens our cellular body and improves immunity. However tempting it is to get on a train, an elevator or even sit down to dinner and take out a cell phone, turn it off and make conversation. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel when you slow down and become present: Practice enjoying the moment instead of worrying about the next thing on the agenda. It may also save you from catching a cold or the ‘flu.

Thirdly, December is a perfect time to strengthen our communities by getting involved. If we shop locally and support our independent businesses our towns will remain vibrant and this will encourage others to come along too. By joining local festivities we get to meet neighbors, we didn’t even know existed, which helps us feel more connected and invested in our surroundings. And a sure fire way to increase our own wellbeing and reduce our stress levels is by being of service to others, so make a point of connecting with local charities, churches and organizations who help those in need in the neighborhood.

One of my most enduring childhood memories is from a Christmas Eve when I walked through the woods after dark, with a group of villagers, to take part in a nativity scene and carol service with live animals, at a neighboring farm. It was simply magical. Looking back on it now the power of that evening to remain with me came from a sense of deep connection and doing something unusual and adventurous.

Let’s make a conscious choice about the kind of future holiday memories we will be shaping this December. By taking care of our own wellbeing we are in better shape to connect authentically with one another and to be of service in our communities. Instead of an avalanche of overwhelm, let’s create a snowball effect of elegant living that prepares us all for a healthy and productive New Year. And if you have the choice between routine and adventure, choose adventure the memory will last longer!

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