Christmas always draws a crowd.

To the mall, at the party, in the kitchen, on the streets.

We may love this or hate this. Crowds can be fun. Crowds can be dangerous. Crowds can be great for extroverts and intimidating for introverts. And when the “crowd” is your extended family, it can get really interesting.

We build our Christmas traditions – the food, the activities, the food, the decorations, the food, the decisions about where to be, when, and how often – around gatherings. Wherever we go, people. They surround us much more at this time of year. 

Have you ever noticed how this affects you, positively and negatively? I want you to consider how being “closer” to everyone at Christmas can deeply influence you, and what you can do about it.

What people cross your mind’s eye when you think of crowds and gatherings? In what ways does it excite you? In what ways does it intimidate you? Or make you want to punch someone in the schnoz?

It only makes sense.

Have you ever noticed that crowds can create good vibes as well as not-so-good vibes? Have you felt that vibe? And do you ever wonder where that comes from?

It’s called “attunement”.

It’s where we “sense” others around us. We all do this to varying degrees pretty much all the time. And our personal awareness of our attunement can begin to transform how we relate, react or respond to those around us.

If we become stressed, defensive or even depressed, this awareness can be the spark that transports us from overwhelm to ease.

Here’s a little story from one of my own crowd experiences: Costco!

If you’re ever starved for humanity, get over to a Costco. Especially at Christmas, most of humanity is over there.

One day I was walking through the Big Box probably buying too much of too much I didn’t need, when I noticed I felt “off” – agitated, frustrated – just not ME. I had a slight headachy feeling, and my slouched, heavy shoulders closed off my heart. I felt as though I could snap at someone!

So I stopped.

I didn’t just keep trying to drag myself across the concrete floor. I tried right then and there to figure out why I felt so physically and emotionally rotten all of a sudden. Was it the lights? The off gassing of the products? Or…….. wait a minute!

As I looked around at the other shoppers, it occurred to me: my Vibe-O-Meter was off the charts! I was just soaking up all the energy around me.

What made me pause, and what made me take a moment to search out the cause? The “aha moment” was when I became aware of feeling “not me”. I was disconnected from myself.

Then I asked a supremely empowering question: “Who does this agitation belong to?”

Oh! I felt a little shift. A little lighter. Something falling off me.

So I asked again, “Who does this belong to?”

Ah, lighter still.

Now I know what you’re thinking… it’s highly unlikely that any other being in Costco at Christmas could feel even slightly frustrated, agitated, or “off” (🤣 my sarcasm knows no bounds)… but the key in that moment was to be aware of my own attunement.

In other words: I observed and asked whether this “off” vibe was mine… or someone else’s. Because as people we are very capable of feeling both our own feelings AND others’ feelings. We share our feelings like a virus and they can travel almost anywhere.

At Costco that day, I discovered that it was someone else’s. I can tell you, I regained my previously positive mood quickly! It was that simple, and that transformative.

Now, to be clear, you are not actually looking for who it belongs to as in, oh, it’s that guy at the meat counter….. Nope, this is not the blame game. You are just noticing when you ask that question, that you feel a little lighter. You can breathe more easily. Your shoulders fall away from your ears a bit.

So, practice saying this softly and slowly about five or six times: “Who does this belong to?”

This will help trigger the question later when you’re attuning to others in a crowd.

Once you recognize those vibes are not yours, and if you feel even a little lighter or softer just by asking the question, then you know they are not yours. You’ve ‘picked them up’ in your travels… just like a virus. 

The stranglehold those feelings had on you will have eased their grip. You will feel better immediately. Immediately.

Isn’t that amazing!

As people, we can feel feelings that aren’t even our own feelings! Whether we want to be or not, that’s how connected we are as people. And as we find our ease, we can rest into all the good that comes from connectedness. It really is one of the most wonderful gifts offered to us.

But you already knew this, right?

I know you’ve experienced this before. Do you pick up your spouse’s mood?  What about your kids?  What about when you are alone? Are you a super sensor; do you sometimes actually know who’s calling you before the phone rings? It’s so natural, so normal, we do it unconsciously. We are big sensors!

So this Christmas season, when you are gathering to celebrate the joys of the season with friends, co-workers, strangers on the streets, and especially with family and extended family, notice your own mood.

If it’s great, then… great! Metaphorically sing or sneeze that joyous-virus all over everyone else!

If it’s not so great, what emotional ‘viruses’ are you picking up, and thinking they are yours?

Next time you are picking up those nasty ones, just ask, “Who does this belong to?”, and notice how much lighter you feel, instantly.

– Betty Mae