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3 Ways to Make More Room for Joy During the Holidays

Cristina Spencer

A couple of weeks ago, I was putting our middle daughter to bed.  Like all children, she is a force of nature.  And in particular, she loves to play rough and tumble, to rumble with her friends like a pack of puppies.  She loves jokes and the trampoline and playing raucous rounds of video games with her dad.  She is a bundle of energy.  So when she said to me, as she lay her head to sleep, “Mom, I want to really absorb the holidays this year.  Not like rush, rush, rush, and then blam, it’s over.  I want to really, you know feel it this year,” it stayed with me.  Since then, I’ve been noodling on how we might accomplish her wish.  Here are some of the ideas our family will be experimenting with:

Observe the dark and plan for more downtime

Every year I feel the same perplexing feeling about the fact that we tend to be so busy, right when our days start to get blanketed by darkness.  For me, the longer nights feel like an invitation to do less, not more.  And yet, this time of the year is unavoidably hectic sometimes.  To balance that out, I took a close look at our daily, weekly and month-long family calendar.  There is a magical feeling about the darkening days of December and I want to experience that with my family.  So on daily basis in December we are going to try to eat simpler dinners twenty minutes earlier so that we can have time to linger in the changing season.  I want to try taking an evening walk.  I want to light more candles.   I want to read aloud to the kids in front of the fire.  I’m making room for that by easing up on our dinner routine.  When we looked at the week long view I realized we had more one off events like holiday concerts and parties on weeknights, but almost miraculously, the weekends were less intensely schedule than I would have thought.  So I went ahead and canceled some regularly scheduled lessons and commitments to create larger pockets of family time.  And then when I looked at the month I realized that since Thanksgiving came so late this year, we have a little less holiday prep time.  So we are reducing some of the decorating we usually do to make space for other seasonal activities we enjoy more.

Savor the goodness

In all of the hustle and bustle of this time of year our days are jam packed.  It’s easy to feel busy and not really enjoy all the good moments in these busy days bring us.  A few years ago I found a fun easy practice that enhances our ability to really experience the joy in our days.  It’s a simple visualization in which you recall a positive experience from your day.  Here’s how it goes.  Bring to mind a happy memory from your day.  Recall as much of the sensory and experiential aspects of the experience as you can.  How did you feel?  What were the smells, tastes, colors or other sensations.  Imagine transforming all the good energy of that one experience into the shape of an imaginary jewel, with a certain shape, color, etc.  Then imagine placing that jewel into the treasure chest of your heart, and as you do, allow the energy of that jewel to spread throughout your body.  My children, the middle one especially, really enjoy this visualization.  We’ll do it consistently at bedtime this month as a way to actively absorb the good energy of the memories we’re creating along the way.  This practice, which comes from the work of Rick Hanson, can be used any day, but I really enjoy it this time of year with my kids.  We’ll be doing it at bedtime.

Plan for renewal

Finally, when I was looking at my calendar, I was reminded that the holidays, especially for parents, are a special kind of theatrical production.  No matter how a family does the holiday, there is a certain, undeniable amount of work involved in creating the holiday magic and celebration.  When the party is over, I am going to be tired.  So this month, before I am depleted, before I’ve wrapped that last gift or sent that last holiday card, I am clearing a little extra space for myself in January.  I will get a massage.  I will create a gentle start to the year, by keeping the first week the kids are back in school lightly scheduled.  And I’m going to drink up the goodness of our Shine On New Year’s workshop which will give me the friendly connection and inspiration I will be craving in the New Year.

Interview: Sheila Hamilton

Cristina Spencer

Meet Sheila Hamilton, 5 time Emmy Award winning journalist, host of "Speaking Freely," Portland's most popular radio talk show, and author of the new book, All the Things We Never Knew. She joins us in Palo Alto on Friday night to talk about the book, mental health, and what we can do to take care of ourselves and those around us during this holiday season. We interviewed Sheila to give you a taste of what to expect at the event on Friday. We think you'll be inspired by her wisdom and spirit. Read on, and join us on Friday to meet Sheila in person!

Q: What led you to write your new book, All the Things We Never Knew?

I initially wrote the memoir portion of All the Things We Never Knew to make sense of my own trauma.  My late husband’s suicide was brutally difficult because I blamed myself for missing many of the early signs and symptoms of mental illness. I wanted to hold myself accountable on the page and learn from my mistakes. I finished the memoir portion of the book in 2008 and shelved it until I could fully understand the impact of mental health policy on other families. When I learned of the terrible outcomes for people in mental health crisis in our country, I decided to publish.  We can do better.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your process and how the book came to life?

 I did not attempt to write the memoir in chronological order. Instead, I allowed thoughts and emotions to pour onto the page based on experiences that resonated “heat.” I didn’t edit the first draft or attempt to graph the memoir. There were some days that were so difficult, I would sob for hours after writing. It was an extremely cathartic experience and very therapeutic. The early draft gave me a template for the issues I would later work out with a trained therapist—who was that woman who denied the problems in her marriage? What would I do differently today? How can I forgive David for his decision? How can I forgive myself?

Q: At Shine On our mission is to embolden women to share their gifts with the world.  Can you tell us about a time that you took a creative risk or made a bold step forward in your work or in your life?  How did you overcome your fear?  What made it possible for you to stretch yourself?

Sharing this story was a bold risk. I’m a relatively well-known figure in Portland, Oregon and a respected journalist. Many people warned me that it would damage my reputation to share a story of such a personal nature. I disagree. The shame of brain illness will only end when each of us share our experience along the mental health spectrum. All of us are capable of experiencing a brain illness. And all of us are capable of healing. I’m hoping my choice to be vulnerable, open and honest will resonate with people who are hungry for an honest conversation about mental health.

Q: What routines, practices or habits do you turn to when you want to connect to a sense of purpose or meaning in your life?

I have found yoga, walking in nature and mindfulness practice to be the most essential health tools. The nature of our lives is so excessively busy that we must fight to reclaim our space in an integrated, quieter world. As I was dealing with David’s death, crushing debt, anxiety and fear, I began to experience panic attacks for the first time in my life. Learning how to focus on my breath saved my life. It got me through the most frightening experience of my lifetime. I couple those routines with a waking practice I’ve termed ARGH (it’s easy to remember the pirate growl)  

A-Acceptance of the things I can’t change

R- What am I doing today for my resilience?   

G- What can I be grateful for right now?

H-What is the most important thing I can do for my health.

Argh takes five minutes upon waking--it makes my day more purposeful.

Q: If you had one piece of advice for smart, strong women, what would it be?

To support one another’s spiritual development. We spend a lot of time trading tips about kids, schools, exercise, even beauty. How often do we gather to talk about soul and spirit? I love the intention and purpose of SHINE ON.  Thanks for your support.  


Our Name Change

Cristina Spencer

From Impact Guild to Shine On Collaborative!

Why we changed our name.

Dear Friends,

We hope that this Fall finds you well.  Just about a year ago, we launched our coaching partnership at our November Playing Big Event with Tara Mohr.  We called it Impact Guild.

Over the past year we have immersed ourselves in coaching and developing our coaching philosophy.  Many of you have experienced our circles, attended our workshops or joined us at a meet up.  In addition, a year of experience has transpired.  As mothers, as friends, as community members we have seen highs and lows.  We’ve felt deeply into what we hope for in our own lives and what we hope for in our community and in our culture.

The more we sat with it, and felt into our vision, we realized that Impact Guild as a name did not quite fit.  Rather than focus on outer results, or impact, we learned that we are at our best as coaches when we help our clients cultivate a robust relationship to their own strengths, inklings, and fascinations.  We see most movement, not when our clients imagine impact, but when they listen deeply to what is true for them, and when they share those truths with others.  

In those moments a bit of inner light is revealed.  In the presence of kindness and curiosity that light is reflected.  In those moments we see our clients shine.

Shine: to be bright with reflected light; glisten; sparkle; to be or appear unusually animated or bright

It is a simple process that is born of authentic connection, and despite it’s simplicity, it sparkles with a kind of magic.  With this learning we decided we needed a new name, which we’re sharing with you today.

May we introduce to you our new name:

Shine On Collaborative

It’s the same people goodness you knew as Impact Guild, layered with new learning, new events, and glimmering with programs designed to help you shine in all that you do.  

Coming up over the next few months we have so many opportunities we want to share with you! Keep an eye out here, on our new website, which is constantly updated with our upcoming events. Or, subscribe by email to receive email notifications of our news and upcoming events and workshops.

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