The holidays are a time for family when most people value fellowship, revisit their traditions and focus on the importance of helping others. However, some holidays also bring traditions that malign indigenous communities and/or raise challenges of managing relationships and conflict. This is especially the case if family members are casteist, racist, or religiously intolerant.
We know that holidays, while filled with family and fun, are also critical times to address settler colonialism, caste, as well as racial and religious tension. There are a lot of dangerous hidden beliefs in jokes and casual statements that often leave folks frozen from action and assessing their ability to change harmful dynamics. South Asians around the world are transforming their families and committing to caste abolition one conversation at a time, and you can too. The following guide offers helpful strategies to plan for these challenges. With each strategy, be aware to prioritize your well-being and safety. As we prioritize well being and safety we ask, how do we approach these situations with courage and take care of ourselves while also creating an opportunity for dialogue and learning?
We begin by taking a few steps to get us grounded and mindfully aware in order to assist in regulating our nervous system to allow for more resilience to stress. Here we focus on four steps to prepare us for implementing holiday strategies: Mindful awareness, grounding, conducting a safety check and setting intentions.
Step One: Mindful Awareness
When we are mindful we are more fully present in the moment, aware of where we are and what we are doing. Practice a short mindfulness meditation to build up this skill before the holiday to calm and be aware of your nervous system. First, set a clear intention for the mindfulness practice. Our intentions set the tone for our practice. An intention is something we would like to really make happen. You can write down your intentions and then read them over before you go into your mindfulness meditation. Next, find a comfortable posture position and bring awareness to your breath. Here, keep an awareness of the sensations in your body and breath. Practice this short mindfulness meditation as much as you can before the holiday so that when you are confronted with a stressful family situation you can more easily pause within, breath mindfully, check in with your body, and ask– what your body is sharing with you? How are you feeling?
Step Two: Grounding
Grounding refers to our ability to experience ourselves as embodied. Embodiment is the practice of attending to our sensations. Having an awareness of our bodies serves as a guide to help us feel more in charge of our lives. Embodied awareness offers a foundation for empathy, allows us to make healthy decisions and offers helpful feedback about our relationships with others (Source Dr. Arielle Schwartz). Grounding helps to center and anchor yourself to the present moment, strengthens your resilience and helps to reclaim a sense of safety. Through grounding you can sense your body, notice tension patterns and calm your nervous system. Some grounding techniques include: