12/15/2014 09:47 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

Practicing Presence at the Holidays

As much as we may love the holidays and enjoy being with family and friends, they also have a unique ability to seduce us into believing the thoughts and stories that make us unhappy. As the old adage goes, if you think you're enlightened, go home to mom and dad and the rest of the family and see what happens. If you haven't completely released the grip of the past, it will surely come back to haunt you now. The holidays are an especially good time to sit quietly and welcome the full range of your experience with mindful awareness. Here are some reminders for flowing through the holidays with presence and grace:

Only the present moment exists

It's tempting to get embroiled in the unfinished business of a lifetime when you're spending time with the people who helped create it in the first place. Even if your parents are no longer with you, or you're the parents now and the kids come home to you, it's easy to get triggered by the old familiar interactions, the habitual banter and patterns of behavior. But the truth is, the past no longer exists except as thoughts in your mind right now. In this moment, is there any problem that isn't generated by your thinking, judging, interpreting mind? Let go of the thoughts, and the past has lost its hold over you.

Don't take anything personally

For the rest of the year you may be well aware that the seemingly separate self you take yourself to be is actually intimately interconnected with everyone and everything else -- and then a family member says a few words that trigger a lifetime of anger and hurt, and you suddenly feel solid and separate again. First of all, don't beat yourself up for losing your cool -- any state, whether hot or cold, is destined to arise and pass away. Consider it a welcome opportunity to return home to a deeper level of peace and equanimity that isn't disturbed by the turbulence at the surface.

You are the source of the happiness you seek

At the holidays we tend to forget that happiness is our birthright, our natural state, not something external to us that other people can bestow upon us. If you go into the holidays without expectations about what others will do for you, your innate happiness and peace of mind will remain undisturbed, and instead you can enjoy the resonance of love, gratitude, and generosity that seems to come to the foreground at this time of year.

No one is to blame

Your current life situation is the result of an indeterminate number of causes and conditions that have impacted you throughout your lifetime. No one person or event is the cause of your difficulties. In fact, from the perspective of an awakened heart, nothing is missing from this moment right now, and everything is complete and perfect just as it is. When you recognize this inherent perfection, the whole issue of blame falls away. No one could possibly have acted differently, given their own unique limitations, so even forgiveness becomes unnecessary in the light of this deeper truth.

If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans

Perhaps because you're working extra hard to avoid "negative" feelings and experiences during the holidays, you may run the risk of micromanaging every situation and event in order to keep it light and positive -- and end up making everyone miserable in the process, including yourself. From snowstorms and traffic delays to illnesses and absences, be prepared for surprises and go with the flow. If you try to force your agenda on your loved ones, no matter how well-meaning it may be, they'll only feel manipulated rather than cared for. Here again, the mantra is, let go, let go, let go.

In the end, there's only love

When you let go of the mistaken belief that you're in control, you have the opportunity to fall back into the current of love that's always actually running the show. You're just a vessel or vehicle for this love to flow forth into the world in the way that's unique to you. Drop your agenda, your expectations, your blame, your demand for love and attention -- and be the love that you and all beings already are. Happy holidays!