• Eve Bernfeld

Lighten UP--Holiday Edition


The Holiday season can be a stressful time of year for many of us. This was never more evident to me than the year I worked the customer service desk at REI through December. Oh my goodness were people stressed and grumpy!

But perhaps inside that preposterous fruitcake of December are some little pockets of transcendence. Here are a few moments that have really helped me Lighten UP and the lesson I took from each…


The other night found me sitting on the floor of a steamy bathroom at 2 am holding a croupy child. I was tired and anxious and trying not to show any of it as I explained how the steam helps her lungs open up so she can breathe better. Suddenly I heard my daughter make a strange noise and I peered down at her in the half light—was she having more trouble breathing?? No, this four-year-old was practicing the “Whispered Ah,” an Alexander Technique procedure to help coordinate breathing. A few minutes later, helped by steam, ibuprofen and “Whispered Ah,” her breathing was easy enough for her to go back to sleep.


My Lesson: OH MY GOD MY KIDS ACTUALLY LISTEN TO ME! (even if they don’t want me to know)


Near the end of the semester at Lewis & Clark College, I asked my students to start class by writing on the board all the things from the semester that they would like to revisit that day. A predictable assortment of our favorite games and “how to” questions (like “how to shake a maraca for 40 minutes without my arm falling off”) went up. I was surprised to see “Singing Together” appear. I do that exactly once per semester and I thought they all hated it. But there we were, sitting in a circle, enjoying a round of “Row, row, row your boat.” It was sublime. And everyone left (to go finish papers and prepare for finals) looking noticeably lighter and happier.


My Lesson: Singing with other people really is magic.


My children (sort of) learned the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at preschool last week. On the way home they explained it to me. There is nothing more hilarious/endearing than hearing three Jewish 4-year-olds (for whom Rudolph and Santa aren’t cultural touchstones) earnestly tell the story of a deer who had mean friends who wouldn’t let him play. But it worked out ok because…and here an argument broke out: did Santa let him “guard” the sleigh or “pull” the sleigh?? I resisted settling the argument and just enjoyed the conversation.


My Lesson: Life is more fun when I’m not a know-it-all.


I hope you too will find delicious moments of light as you navigate the Holiday Season. If you want a little help, try the following:


Whispered Ah (a simple version): Blow out your breath on an Ah sound, as if you were fogging a mirror (but take care not to jut your chin toward your imaginary mirror). At the end of the breath, close the lips and let the breath drop back in through your nose. Repeat til you feel better.


Imagine you are a candle. Your head floats up with ease like the flame. Your feet melt into the ground like wax. Maybe you even make light for someone else!

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