Ram Dass said it best, “If you think you are truly enlightened, go spend a weekend with your parents.”
Many people might extend this sentiment to the holidays. While some see it as a time to gather and celebrate with community and family, others might feel a desire to catch up on much-needed downtime and just be alone.
The decision to spend the holidays solo can be controversial. You may have relatives that are looking forward to seeing you. You may feel pressure to spend time with your partner’s family. You may even want to spend time with your family but lack the resources to see them.
Whatever the reason, spending the holidays alone does not have to be lonely. In fact, many choose to go on retreat or just relax and enjoy a few days off during this traditionally family-oriented time.
Matt Dominianni, a professional game designer, says last Christmas was his best ever. He spent the whole day alone playing video games. For dinner that night, he had Chinese food with some Jewish friends.
For years he spent the holidays with his partner’s family, but says he never really fit in. He considers himself more of an introvert and never enjoyed the consumer aspects of gifts.
“I now put a reminder in my calendar to spend the holidays alone,” he said. “It is so much better to be home and happy, then with a bunch of relatives not really enjoying myself.”
Kelly Morris, founder of Conquering Lion yoga teacher training in New York City, runs an annual Thanksgiving yoga retreat aimed at centering students before the onset of the chaotic holiday season. Her weekend retreat includes asanas, Sankrit chanting, meditations, and group discussions.
“When our heart opens in gratitude, our heart becomes strong enough to love more than just ourselves,” she wrote in a blog. “We are lifted out of our habitual alienation into an understanding of where we stand within the great web of creation.”
Katie Devine traveled from Los Angeles to a Thanksgiving retreat in Bali last year. She says she came back connected and inspired, and she also made a new group of lifelong friends.
She made the decision to go to Bali on a whim, but it soon became clear to her that she made the right choice.
“From the first introductions, to the opening circle, to the first dinner…these women felt like family,” Devine wrote in a blog. “Retreats now mean to me: falling in love with the world, discovering beauty and magic, releasing fear, and connecting with strangers who became soulmates.”
Still, others have found a compromise of spending some time with family and some time solo.
In 2009, Kerry Bajaj decided to go on retreat after spending Christmas with her family. She headed to a week-long yoga course in Massachusetts, but when she got there she realized the workshop was really advanced and she came down with a cold.
“I think my body was telling me to slow down,” she said. “I felt like a rebel, but I quit the course. I ended up taking a few easy yoga classes, going for long walks outside in the snow, writing in my journal, reading, and resting all week.
She admits it was a bit lonely for a New Year’s celebration but in a romantic way.
“It was one of those magical weeks of complete rest and inner stillness that doesn't come along too often, and I always treasure the memory of that week,” Bajaj said.
© 2013 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies