Home / Blog / Does being true to ‘the spirit of the holidays’ mean opting out of tradition?

As we enter another holiday season, more and more people are turning away from consumerism, and toward their meditation practice

Thanksgiving Meditation Retreat at Karme Choling, Vermont

Choosing introspection instead of over-extension

The holidays used to be a time of introspection and celebration within a community, a time to digest the past year’s lessons and prepare to enter the winter’s solitude before emerging anew and renewed in the spring. 

But as the ancient traditions created to align our internal journeys with the cycles of the seasons are usurped by corporations, the ‘holidays’ have become ever more materially focused. 

Ever more focused on consumption, the celebrations that once marked the changing seasons forgot their original lessons; to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. This new, modern version of the holidays leaves us feeling tired, disconnected, broke, and filled with the regrettable knowledge that our parent/sibling/partner/friend cares as little about our overpriced gift as we do about theirs.

These feelings of holiday frustration and despondency are leading more and more of us to search for new meaning from the chilled nights as they close down around us, lengthening with each twenty-four hour cycle until we reach the solstice. 

A new movement is gathering. One which remembers that it is no accident that the seasonal celebrations conglomerate towards autumn and winter, the cold and dark ends of the year. The harvest of autumn and hibernation of winter are meant to be times of introspection. A time to harvest our insights and meditate with them into the quiet before we break into the spring again for our next  growth cycle.  

So it is that more and more of us are making the choice to spend  our precious holiday savings on retreats instead of presents. 

Fall, a time to harvest. 

Taking a step back to introspect this holiday season isn’t about running away from our lives, our responsibilities, or even our families. 

That’s because meditation is all about daily life.

“Holidays are connected to a time of intensity,” says Ella Reznikova, co-director of Karme Choling’s annual Thanksgiving Retreat. “People need a quiet time to digest all that has happened in the last year. That’s why it’s an especially important and challenging time to slow down and connect with yourself. It’s a necessary time to explore our own hearts and minds and to deepen our own sanity.”

The practice of meditation is considered a social act. Through it we learn how to be more effective members of our larger society in a way that is both helpful for ourselves and by extension every single person that we engage with in some way, be it big or small. 

Learning to accept what is

When we sit with our breath, ourselves, our thoughts, and observe it all as it rises and then passes away, we learn to accept everything that we feel, and in this way to accept all the parts of ourselves.

When we learn to accept ourselves during meditation, we begin to develop a new type of habit; a habit of self-acceptance that begins to seep into our daily lives. 

This new way of relating to ourselves changes how we face the challenges that inevitably show up in our lives. We learn to accept them as they come, and not to get hung up on judging ourselves. We learn how to refrain from being cruel to ourselves when we don’t end up the way we think we should be, which in turn teaches us how to refrain from being cruel to others when they commit the same act of treason.  

“The truth of it is,” says Buddhist meditation teacher Bill Brauer, “meditation has less to do with a fancy meditation room and a lot more to do with standing in the checkout line. In driving your kids to school. The intensive practice, where you specifically take time out of your life to go on retreat, is all about training you for that. Those everyday moments where you are simply a person in the world, being aware and mindful and connecting with those around you.” 

The choices we make build the world we live in 

It is in this way, breath by breath, mindful choice by mindful choice, that we build an enlightened society. So it is that more and more meditation practitioners make their choice this season to turn away from the frantic consumption of the holidays and instead journey inward, through the darkest depths of the self and out into the world again. 

Join us for our Thanksgiving Retreat

Karmê Chöling is offering its annual Thanksgiving Retreat with Bill Brauer and Ella Reznikova. Join us for either just the long weekend November 25 – 27, 2022 or for the full retreat with Thanksgiving Dinner and extra meditation practice November 23 – 27, 2022

November 25 – 27


November 23 – 27


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