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M. Scott Peck started his famous book The Road Less Traveled with these lines: "Life is difficult … Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult." The same can be said for the holidays. Once we get with the program that no one skates through December, we can get on with having an imperfectly wonderful holiday season. We can let go of wanting a different family and try to enjoy the wacky one we already have. If we have cherished childhood memories, we can be grateful for those we can duplicate in our adult worlds and wistful, yet mature about those we can't. Or, if our memories are meager and mean, we can hitch our wagon to new rituals that we create from scratch. As the novelist Tom Robbins reminds us, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." If we feel lonely, or exhausted, or misanthropic, or angry, or overwhelmed, or just a little sad, there are all sorts of tricks in Santa's bag for climbing out of a blue mood. But don't try too hard: Forcing any kind of mood usually backfires and turns into its opposite. Try too hard to be jolly, and you'll end up down in the dumps. Instead, let yourself be exactly how you are. Slow down (use the little exercise at the top of this article) and invite the sacred into your heart and into your holidays each time your mind races or your emotions sink. Perhaps down at the bottom of the quiet well of your heart, you will discover some questions brewing in the fertile darkness: Am I harboring an old resentment? Is there someone I need to forgive? Is there something I must say to a family member or a friend? Am I longing for more spiritual nourishment? Is my full aliveness being dulled by a relationship, a substance, work, weight, whatever? In the true spirit of the holidays, let the darkness of your moods lead you back up to the light, and when New Year's rolls around, your resolution will be tinged with new authenticity and power.

As the co-founder of Omega Institute , America's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality and creativity, Elizabeth Lesser has studied and worked with leading figures in the fields of healing and spiritual development for decades. A former midwife and mother of three grown sons, she is also the author of Broken Open and A Seeker's Guide .


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