Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
Written by 

Tips for more joyful holiday family gatherings

By Judith Rogers

This year you can make the holidays more meaningful and joyful by learning a simple mindfulness practice called mindful listening. We use many of the same skills as we do with mindfulness meditation. We are going to focus on listening to another person while being completely present in the moment without judgment. When our mind wanders off, we bring it back to our breath, label the distraction and go back to just listening. With practice your listening skills will grow and you will be able to give others the generosity of truly listening to them, bringing more joy and love to share this holiday season.

Common obstacles we all share:

  • We are thinking of what we are going to say back. When you realize you are not really listening and that your mind has wandered to what you are going to say, just return to your breath and listening.
  • We judge what others say through our view of the world instead of just putting the focus on listening. When you become aware of judging and analyzing what is being said instead of just listening, label it “judging” and return to your breath and listening.
  • We wish for the person to experience us in a certain way. When you notice that you are more concerned about what the person thinks about you than listening, come back to your breath, label it “lost focus” and return to listening.
  • Judging the person, creating the need to fix them. Label it in your head “judging” and bring your focus back to your breath and listening. Remember it is not our job to fix anybody.
  • Fear or hurt feelings rise up and dominate your focus. Acknowledge the hurt feelings in your heart: “judging my parenting style” and go back to your breath and listening.
  • Anger at what is being said also happens. Label it, “feeling anger,” and go back to your breath and mindful listening. Try not to judge your anger or the other person.
  • Feeling pressured by time so finishing the person’s sentences. Notice you are feeling pressured. Label it as “feeling pressured” and go back to your breath and listening without trying to control the situation.

Some final things to remember for holiday gatherings:

  • Give up the need to comment on conflicting ideas, having an opinion or the need to fix anybody.
  • Remember all people are entitled to have their own perspective of life. You are not going to change family members’ view with hurtful words.
  • Listen with your heart. Try to just listen to the person without comparing it to our own view point and without judgment.

In his book, “The Art of Communicating,” Thich Nhat Hanh says that when communication is cut off, we all suffer. When no one listens to us or understands us, we suffer. Mindful listening brings about healing. During the holiday gatherings remember to replace giving advice or passing judgment with your mindful listening practice. Truly listening to a person from your heart is the greatest gift of all.

Judith Rogers, L.C.S.W.

Judy Rogers, M.S., L.C.S.W., is the founder of the Mindfulness Center for Wellbeing in Neenah. She is a retired psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience.

At the Mindfulness Center for Wellbeing we teach how to live a happier and healthier life. Our workshops and classes combine the best mindfulness practices with New Thought principles. It is a powerful combination giving you the practices and knowledge for living a life of abundant happiness, health and wealth.

We will come to your place of employment, church or wellness center with our classes and workshops. Visit for more details. You can also reach us at 920-948-5101.

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