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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 23, 2006

Beating the blues this season

By the Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong

For many, this is the most wonderful time of the year, with religious holidays abounding. There's Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Hanukkah (Jewish), Christmas (Christian), to name a few.

But being of good cheer and getting into the holiday spirit may be difficult for others who see this season as perhaps the most depressing time of the year, and wonder how to beat the holiday blues.

There's no doubt the holidays are full of mixed emotions, most of them centering on family. Reunions bring together relatives from far and near and with them, their unique personalities.

Changing family dynamics also may bring the "empty chair" phenomenon, a part of the grieving process when, often during the holidays, the loss of a loved one to death or divorce becomes painfully obvious.

For singles, there is also the dread of having to deal with nagging questions. When there are no family members to speak of, but rather a group of friends or hanai family whom one gathers with during the holidays, there's an even more complex layer of emotional reaction.

Here are spiritual suggestions for the holiday blues:

First, give yourself a break. Almost every religious tradition encourages members to observe the sabbath, a time for personal renewal and leaving our PDAs behind. Don't fall into the trap of building up too many expectations for yourself and others this time of year. Why not look at it as your opportunity to take some time off from all the craziness in life, instead? After a round of stressful shopping, cooking or being stuck in traffic, why not take time to go to the beach, take a walk or watch a movie. Close your door and read a good book or favorite magazine.

Taking time off is a spiritual practice that can save your life this chaotic season.

Second, realize that you are the greatest gift you can bring to someone else. Showing kindness and compassion is much more important than any stocking stuffer. Holidays are not about shopping until you drop. Nothing wrapped in a box under the tree can compare to the love and goodwill that you can show another human being this time of year. You can bring light and love into the world. You can be the incarnation of the divine, as Christ was for Christians. Sometimes all it takes is showing up somewhere and being your usual lovable self. No bows or fancy wrapper required.

Finally, find your center this holiday season, wherever you are. Buddhists talk about being in the now and cherishing the gift of life, being fully present in the moment. Whether you are going to the Mainland or staying here in the Islands, remember you are home. Find that sanctuary within you and build your place of refuge there. This is a spiritual exercise many people miss amid the commotion. Centering yourself and remembering to breathe may help you relax a bit and prevent someone else from stealing your joy away from you.

Stay safe and practice tender, loving care for yourself and others in 2007 the best gift you can offer the world.

Mele Kalikimaka.

The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong is executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center of Hawaii and a minister of 'Ohana Metropolitan Community Church of Honolulu.