I have to ask myself Why? is this such a perennial cliché occurrence. Yes, it is cliché and it is an indication of how automated and predictable today’s human beings are, and how they tend to grasp oversimplified and simplistic formulas for what the authors of the tripe call ‘coping.’ It’s not coping, people.
Please understand that coping involves adjusting to or tolerating negative perceptions, experiences, feelings, or emotions while at the same time attempting to maintain one’s positive self-awareness and psychospiritual equilibrium.
In general, coping is required in the context of life-cycle events or changes that are perceived as stressors. While a stressor is usually associated with negative stimuli, psychological stress can also be associated with positive events.
The Winter holiday season is one of those cyclical patterned events that is frequently associated with stressors and stress ranging from reminiscing and ruminating about past events, shopping and gift-giving, feasting and overeating, dealing with family, changes in diet, and generally the vicissitudes of changing seasons.
I have already written several articles on stressors and stress-related topics, and I have likewise written articles on awareness for this platform; apparently, many of you have avoided reading those articles or have not grasped the perennial wisdom I share in them. Please have another look.
Winters Season & Stress
We can all agree that the Winter holidays, regardless of your ethnic, national, political, cultural, or religious background do come with their own particular stressors, so I won’t belabor or re-hash that point.
What I do want to focus on is, again, awareness both personal and cultural, microcosmic and macrocosmic, inherent and transcendent.
Having read the article appearing on this platform and providing tips for avoiding overeating over the holidays, I have to ask myself Why? reasonably intelligent adults need to be repeatedly reminded ad nauseam of something of which they should be clearly aware?
First, I’d like to point out that the so-called holiday stressors are no different from the stressors that affect us throughout the year; it’s the mind that gives them such predominance and privilege as occurring only during the holidays. Simple reflection and awareness would tell you that immediately.
Second, the perceived feeling of powerlessness and victimization can also be attributed to the work of the mind. You see, if you were aware and thinking clearly, you would realize first that you are powerless because you are handing control of yourself to outside forces, the expectations of others, and the onslaught of marketing and sales entities.
Moreover, in addition to the fact that you are being victimized by your own mind and ego, you are the willing victim of the external holiday stressors because you are unaware and not thinking clearly. I may tackle this topic in a future article.
Please allow me to rid myself of my rationalist and scientific bias before I proceed.
Seasonal Pattern Mood (SPM)
The seasonal stressors usually start in the autumn and disappear in spring and summer; that’s why I refer to them as Seasonal Pattern Mood (SPM) changes, or the vicissitudes of seasonal change.
Typical signs and symptoms of the SPM include: a tendency to oversleep; overeating with a craving for calorie-rich foods; social withdrawal, a kind of ‘hibernation,’ weight gain.
This SPM can, in some predisposed individuals, take on the presenting signs and symptoms of major depression, and then becomes clinical Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which requires treatment. We are not discussing SAD in this article.
It is a well-known fact that many people experience the winter holidays with a mixture of ‘required’ JOY — most people have no clue why they have to be joyful —, PEACE — in a season that is anything but peaceful —, and LOVE — how you can love when you have no true joy and are not truly at peace is a troubling question.
The obvious answer, in sociocultural and political-economic terms, is: Because you are told you should be joyful, peaceful, and filled with love. Just read the jingles in the holiday cards and listen to the lyrics of the holiday carols. Promises, promises, promises! All empty and unkept by overbearing institutions.
Joy, Peace, Love don’t just happen out of a vacuum! The seeds have to be planted, nurtured; even then you can’t harvest the fruits overnight! But then patience is a lost pearl, and has to be sought and recovered. Today; instant gratification, quick fixes, cancellation, virtual relationships are so much easier, require less maintenance, and, when stressed, there’s always a self-help guru, site, or book!
The fact is: The change in seasons and the mood changes are all natural and don’t need to be coped with; you need to be aware of them and accept them. They happen every year and have happened since the beginning of time, way before the self-help pundits and marketers came on the scene.
When you approach the cyclical vicissitudes of seasonal holidays with awareness and clear thinking, and with a little knowledge of why human beings have so many festive, joyful, and luminous holidays in such a gloomy season, you’ll move beyond your pseudo-depression, and perhaps celebrate with the de rigeur joy, peace, and love, or at least have a more relaxed time of it.
Holidays of Light during the Winter
Have you ever given any thought to the reason why almost every culture in the world celebrates holidays of Light during the Winter? Probably not, so let me just list a few for you, and then I’ll move on:
- Diwali or Deepavali. One of the, if not the most important Hindu and Sikh festivals of the year. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness (in all of their metaphoric and symbolic presentation), and is marked by exchanging gifts and expressions of goodwill. Diwali is characterized by firework displays, colorful strings of lights, and lighting oil lamps called Diyā (दिय), in Hindi, a word that derives from the Sanskrit diya (दिय) meaning, “deserving of gifts.”
- Hanukkah: The Jewish festival of lights commemorating the miracle that occurred at the rededication of the Temple, when rekindling a lamp that ‘miraculously’ burned for eight days. Today’s Jews light the nine-branched menorah each evening, and sing blessings.
- Kwanza: This is a modern, Black American invention, that has its roots in a variety of African harvest celebrations. There is candle-lighting, singing, and expressions of unity in the traditional celebration.
- Lunar New Year: A major Winter celebration that can last up to 15 days. Celebrated throughout Asia, and marked by cleaning house and reuniting families.
- Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr: Celebrates the beginning of Islamic Enlightenment, when the Prophet Muhamad (SAWS) received the revelation of the Quran. At the conclusion of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the “feast of breaking the fast,” when the faithful gather to pray and reaffirm unity, and are required to make sadaqah al-fitr (also known as zakat ul-fitr), which is a charitable donation that is commonly made by Muslims before the holiday (Eid) prayers at the end of Ramadan.
- Visakha Puja: The principal Buddhist holiday, Buddha’s birthday, celebrating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death; marked by devotions, prayer, burning incense, and lighting candles.
- Christmas Day: A Winter holiday replacing and Christianizing the ancient Roman festival of Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun), which is paralleled in the Christian epithets of Jesus Christ, Sol Iustitiae (Light of Justice), and Lumen Christi (Light of Christ). We are all familiar with the meaning and message of this Christian holiday and holiday.
What do all of these have in common? They all center around the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day with the shortest period of daylight.
It is the day, after which the days become longer with longer periods of light. After the Winter Solstice, the sun grows stronger, and days become longer with more daylight.
Modern Obsession with Stress
Modern humankind’s obsession with stress and the search for coping is a very sorry statement about today’s human condition.
Traditions and cultures far older than capitalism, market economies, global politics and global economies, New Age, Facebook, BitCoin, and other such illusions saw positivity in the patterns of seasonal change, not stressors, stress, a need for coping and guidance from self-help guru-s!
Those ancient cultures had their feet firmly grounded in reality, awareness, and self-knowledge; they knew their place in the Cosmos and in the Divine Plan, and they knew how to adapt and live in the world.
They had a sense of hope and anticipation — I’ll admit, sometimes a sense of dread — when Winter arrived with shorter days and darker nights, but hope prevailed and was confirmed with the arrival of the Winter Solstice, which was celebrated with holidays and festivals of true Light, Joy, Peace, and Unity.
We can learn much, we can find profound meaning in those ancient traditions that have survived the millennia and continue today in every culture around the world, cultures that celebrate Light in all of its symbolism and metaphors.
It might do everyone a good service if we were to remember that fact, and the fact that most of those cultures had much less in terms of material goods and even necessities than we have today. What they did have was an abundance of awareness, clarity, and spirituality that got them through some very hard times, hard times that are scarcely imaginable for today’s whining, overeating, overstressed, gluttonous humanity with little or no concept of meaning or purpose, or their spiritual nature.
Take a giant step towards meaning and self-realization by stepping back and reflecting not on your self-imposed, fantasized challenges but on your capacity for awareness and clear thinking, discernment, and your capability of self-empowerment rather than wallowing in self-pity and the search for coping resources.
Only then will you live the true meaning of the Winter Holidays of Light, and avoid the gloom of holiday negativity.
Wishing you all Joy, Peace, and Love in the Good News of the Winter Solstice. Celebrate!
Oṃ śānti, śānti, śāntiḥ ||
Peace to you in body, mind, and spirit.
If you have any comments or questions regarding this article, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
D. Karuṇā T.
दाक करुणा तान्त्रिक
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