Thriving the Holidays with ALAN COHEN

by Linda M. Potter

Image for Thriving the Holidays with ALAN COHEN

by Linda M.Potter

This year, we’ve watched the Mayan calendar count down and the Hollywood-style Doomsday hype heat up. We weathered non-stop political TV ads and relentless pollsters ringing our phones at all hours of the day (and night). Now, add in the usual Christmas craziness that comes with the holiday season and we have the perfect recipe for a real 2012 disaster — “merry mayhem” and very little good cheer.

Sometimes the best medicine for stress overload is a modicum of common sense, a good laugh, and a few wise words of encouragement. What better place to turn for that much-needed attitude adjustment than to Alan Cohen, the charismatic author of 23 inspirational books on managing life armed with a smile and a greater perspective? From the best-selling The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and A Deep Breath of Life, to the canine classic, Are You as Happy as Your Dog? to his latest offering, Enough Already – The Power of Radical Contentment, Alan Cohen is the go-to guru on conscious living in the midst of chaos.

Why does Cohen think the holidays are so stressful? He names what he calls the “learned pressures” like family expectations, gift-buying obligations, over-spending, social commitments, and the need to get your end-of-year business affairs in order. And that’s just the tip of the annual December iceberg.

I had an opportunity to visit with Alan, who makes his home in the quintessential “happy place” — on the island of Maui, where life is a more mellow than manic, and the hectic holidays get a sun, sand and surf makeover, and ask him to give us his take on thriving the season.

Linda M. Potter: Holiday stress is a real issue for a lot of people. I’ve heard several of my friends say, partly in jest I’m sure, but convincingly, “I don’t want to deal with the holiday craziness this year — I think I’ll go to Hawaii for Christmas!”

Alan Cohen: People do that. It’s a valid strategy.

LMP: Is the Maui “mystique” real? Is paradise alive and well there, even during the holidays?

AC: The holidays are much more relaxed here. When I first moved to Maui, I remember seeing a guy in shorts dressed up as Santa Claus standing in front of the mall holding a surf board. There’s some of it [holiday hype], but not much. Some people have Christmas trees, but there’s no snow and it’s not cold. People go to the beach [on Christmas day]. A Maui Christmas just feels like… well… Maui.

LMP: Other than the obvious social pressures during the holidays, is there some underlying metaphysical reason why the season is so stressful for many people?

AC: My teacher once said this is the one time of the year in which Spirit is publicly acknowledged. Jesus Christ is honored and the angels come, and it’s the time of year when the spiritual vibration is amped up. In other words, everyone is called publicly to a higher domain by agreement, and in the face of a higher vibration anything that’s unlike that higher vibration gets amplified.

LMP: Like drama! How do we minimize the drama that seems to come with the season?

AC: The answer’s actually pretty simple, but it takes practice. Keep peace above all else — inner peace. If somebody invites you to a party and you’d really rather not go, you have to be honest. Lovingly find a way to not go.

LMP: That makes sense, but how do you bow out gracefully when you’re being pressured to spend time with family and friends?

AC: You handle each [situation] as gracefully and deftly as you can. In some cases, it might require just a gracious, “No, I won’t be available.” In some cases you may have to sit down and chat with a person, have a healthy conversation about what you can give them. Giving love is always a pretty good answer. If you have a question, ask, What would love do here?

Nothing in my universe calls for sacrifice. I always try to look for the win-win situation, the sweet spot where everybody’s taken care of. I think if you’re honest and have a sincere intention, you can easily do that. I have, over many years, come to peace with the season. My partner Dee and I do what we want to and don’t do what we do not want to do. We choose to not get into the frenzy of it all. We choose to make each day an opportunity to practice peace. We live the holidays from the inside out rather than succumbing to all the social and/or “religious” pressures.

The lesson of the holidays is no different than the lesson of all days — you have to be authentic, you have to be true to yourself, you have to be honest. Each person has to look into his or her heart and ask what would really work for me here? You might end up going to Maui!

LMP: You have a new book out this year, Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment, that I think belongs on everyone’s Christmas list! It’s the perfect antidote for a stressed-out society. This is your 23rd book. What motivated you to focus on contentment this time around?

AC: (Laughing) Contentment is a pretty unpopular idea for most people. If somebody asked you how you were doing and you said, “I’m pretty content!” they’d think, are you on drugs? Or, are you doing too many BellaSpark seminars? What’s wrong with you? Nobody’s content. Everybody’s struggling with something — how can you say you’re content when I’m not?

To claim contentment is a very powerful statement in our society. It takes a different path than that of most people, but consider the alternative. You can go along with everybody and be malcontent or you can go along with yourself and be content.

LMP: Is dis-contentment more of an issue now than in previous decades?

AC: That’s a really good question, isn’t it? I think probably that at every state of humanity, there’s been a stream of discontent and a stream of contentment, whether it was the time of Jesus or 5000 years ago or 500 years ago. I think the dynamics of the choice are always the same. A Course in Miracles says every choice is a choice between love and fear. How fear plays itself out today is different than it was 20 years ago, but the dynamics of the choice remain the same.

LMP: There’s still a lot of discussion about 2012 prophecies and a possible shift that might coincide with the winter solstice this year. Do you think the 2012 hype is adding to an already stressful season?

AC: I think it [2012] is what you make of it. I think there might be a certain amount of truth to the astrological configurations and the Mayan calendar. I don’t deny that. But once you have that information, what you do with it will determine how you experience it. You can go the ‘gloom-and-doom/it’s the end of the world’ route. Or you might think, “There could be an amplification of energies and it’s a good thing. It means that there’s a shift in consciousness and I think I’ll just surf on it. Let me line myself up with Spirit and come from love!” You can really ride the wave and make the most of it rather than getting crushed under the wave by swimming against it.

LMP: What does the day after Dec. 21st look like?

AC: A lot of people are going to be really disappointed. I think that a lot of people will be going back and reading what they wrote about it, and then they’re going to say, “Well, we miscalculated and it’s really next year.” There’ll be a certain amount of that.

The good thing is that many people are going to be focusing on spirituality on that day [12/21/12]. I know people who are going to Egypt and Machu Picchu for gatherings and prayers. If it gets people together to focus on Spirit and transition and upleveling the energy, we could set our intention and create a psychic tip, regardless of the astrology of it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if all the people focusing on it positively really created a positive shift?

LMP: One 2012 theory that I’ve heard is that this is the year we reach “critical mass” — when 51 percent of the population attains global consciousness.

AC: That could be true. Bashar (channeled by Darryl Anka) says that up until now the general vibration has been slightly more negative than positive, and after Dec. 21st it’ll be slightly more positive than negative. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Another way to look at it is we don’t really even need 51 percent. A lot of teachers say that the power of a small group meditating or focusing on consciousness is much greater than that of millions focusing on negativity. That’s because the people who are focusing on positivity are connected to Spirit. Some people say we only need something like 10 percent — just a small group — to make a big difference.

LMP: Do you have anything special planned for Dec. 21?

AC: I might get together with a couple of other teachers that I know and have a prayer group or just a sharing group — a time in the light together. That feels good to me.

LMP: If you had a “take away” for our readers, what would it be?

AC: Whether it’s this year or any other year, I really honor the work BellaSpark’s doing. I think this is a time for people to look into their hearts and ask themselves, what do I want to do with my life? Is my life as it is currently a match with my spiritual vision? And if it is, how can I amplify it? And if it’s not, how can I bring my life more into alignment with my vision?

That’s certainly a valuable exercise anytime, but with the amplified energies of consciousness on Dec. 21, I think you get more mileage out of that kind of alignment than at another time. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited about it. I think good things are happening. And I welcome it. Let’s ride the wave!

Linda M. Potter is a writer, popular speaker, and the author of If Only God Would Give Me a Sign! available through Barnes and Noble, at your local book store, at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and WordKeepersinc.com. Linda is also the Managing Editor of BellaSpark Magazine. www.lindampotter.com, <lindampotter@comcast.net>.