Staying Sane During the Holidays

One of the most profound symbols we have in our world is the Yin/Yang symbol.

If you spend some time with it, you will discover some very essential keys to a life well-lived.  Can you see how the dark and the light are nestled together?  They aren’t at war with one another.  In fact, they literally complement each other.  What this symbol is saying is something that we so easily overlook – that both dark and light are essential in life.

If you observe your mind closely, you will see that it usually wants to hold onto the light side of life. It doesn’t want the delicious parts to go away – in fact, it wants MORE! And it thinks your life will be perfect if you can just capture the light and hold on to it.

Then, when life flows again into the dark, most of us fight it. We resist it, we blame, we judge, we feel betrayed and oftentimes lost.  This causes us to distract ourselves with activities like endlessly surfing the internet or obsessing with Facebook and Twitter or over-eating or crazy busyness, and sometimes drinking, drugs, having affairs, and so on.

But life is a dance of light and dark.  At the atomic level, every single atom has a positive and negative charge.  So, too, with your body.  Your heart valves open and close and your lungs expand and contract.  The same is true for day and night, cold and hot, winter and summer.  Life always opens and closes; becomes easy and then difficult; is joyful at times and then sorrowful.

Resisting the dark causes us such suffering. But if you look closely at the symbol, you will see one of its most profound messages – there is a point of light in the dark! What would happen if you understood that darkness is not what it looks like on the surface?   The darkness in your life (your challenges) is not here because you have done something wrong, someone else has done something wrong, or God is punishing you. It is an essential part of your journey through this schoolroom called life.

The difficult aspects of life – illness, loss, betrayal, shame, abuse, and even death – all come bearing great gifts, gifts that will reveal themselves when you can let go of resisting what is being offered and become curious instead.  For to be present for and explore the difficult aspects of life opens you beyond suffering and into the joy of being fully alive.  It opens you to being present for all of life.

So, you can continue to chase happiness by trying to get life to be the way you want it to be. While you hope to find the peace, ease and love you long for by holding onto the lighter aspects of life and resisting the dark, all this does is keep you lost in struggle.  It keeps you caught in a mind that always wants what is not and doesn’t want what is.  This kind of mind can’t see that what you deeply long for and who you truly are is always with you right now, no matter what is happening.

So, I invite you to simply notice during this holiday season that oftentimes, instead of joy, it brings the stress of too much to do, family gatherings that turn into soap operas, and sadness when the promise of the season falls short. And as the inevitable challenges arise, I invite you to remember the yin/yang symbol and trust that whatever your life is offering you, it is an essential part of your journey back into being fully alive, which is the greatest joy of all.




  1. Holiday Blessings, Mary!
    You speak so eloquently about the “fruitcake” life hands out all year long so thank you for reminding us it’s purpose might be a rather large paperweight.
    As we continue to attempt to resist the dark, we (hopefully) eventually realize the lesson is ABOUT RESISTANCE and very little about the darkness. I have found the more resistance, the more the dark presents itself as a reflection of how I am processing the challenges that are necessary for my spiritual growth. At the core of resistance, for me, is usually fear so that is what I face first keeping suffering to a minimum and returning my focus on using the experience as a teacher of enlightenment rather than allowing the emotion to derail my efforts.
    Mary, my gift to me this Christmas this year was your book ” What’s in the Way, Is the Way” and it arrived while writing this reply. How fitting to take this opportunity to thank you for being the gift that you are.
    With Gratitude, Blessings, Love and Light,

    • Ahh, you are a sister on the path. It takes a long while before you see the game of resistance with enough heart that acceptance becomes the clear path. thank you for turning towards rather than away! ~Mary

  2. Kimberly-I appreciate your insight and have experienced many of the same realizations. Pema Chodron passed along wisdom from he teacher saying that we must first see how we become entangled in order to disentangle ourselves. I am learning to see and relate to my resistance in a whole new way.

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