How are you preparing for the holidays?

The December holiday season, at least in the United States, requires so much preparation: shopping, cleaning, writing cards (if anyone still does this), fixing food, partying… All the activity and stress can wipe away the time needed for what might be most important in this season: an inner preparation.

Advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” In the Christian calendar, it refers to the 24 days before Christmas, in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Secular synonyms include appearance, emergence, approach, coming. Whether used in a religious or secular sense, advent suggests a time of waiting, expectancy, preparation and, hopefully, joy.

What do we do when someone wonderful is arriving? We prepare our homes.

But what if advent was also waiting for our highest and truest self to arrive, a part not burdened by the weight of the world (which feels so heavy right now), a part that can stand in peace yet still feel compassion?

How would we prepare for that arrival?

In this season of dark (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), you can use this month to find a depth within yourself that will carry you through the rest of the year, no matter what your belief or faith is.

Celebrating your inner advent is about building a capacity within.

December in the Pacific Northwest is not easy for me. The days are short. I need more sleep. I feel the specter of depression creeping towards me from the shadows, a depression that is fed by the barrage of difficult news I am hearing.

But in the darkness, all signs of light become much clearer. Hope glistens.

I can:

  • Spend more time in reflection, lighting a candle to comfort me when I sit in darkness.
  • Take pauses to enjoy little moments of awe and give thanks for small wonders like the pattern of rain on a leaf.
  • Review the past year, what I have learned, how I have grown, blessing it and preparing to let it go so I can begin again.
  • Seek evidence of goodness in the world despite what the news declares.
  • Take a break from the news, or allow it only in small doses.
  • Flush the psychic-toxins from my system by singing from my whole heart: carols or even the little ditties I offer to the horses.
  • Decorate the house as a way to create beauty, and let that beauty comfort me. Bask in the warm glow of the Christmas tree.
  • Find ways to give spontaneously just to enjoy giving.
  • Find commonality with those of different faiths or no faiths at all. Support the Syrian family who moved down the road.
  • Close the door, if only for a while, on the worries of the year. Shed them like a coat that stinks, too wet and heavy to bring into the house.
  • Feel gratitude that comes with no “because.”
  • Appreciate someone, or maybe a lot of someones.
  • Give to others what I need to receive: a deep, compassionate love.

There are a lot more ways to reflect during Advent. Lynn Jericho offers this program on Inner Advent if you want to take the idea deeper.

Yes, it’s dark out there. At times, it takes courage to cope. That’s why I need to look for light within me and within the world, a new light that will carry me through the year.