Joyce Baldinucci, LCSW, LCADC

Founder and Clinical Director


Holiday Celebration

I hosted my first Women’s Mindfulness Retreat this past weekend. My goal was to create a program for the weekend would be restorative and meaningful to the women who were attending. I decided to go into the weekend with no expectations. To be completely open to whatever happened and to approach the weekend with “beginner’s mind.” This is a concept in mindfulness practice that asks one to enter an experience with no preconceptions.

The retreat went as well as I could have hoped. The time was spent meditating, practicing yoga, walking in nature, exploring intentions and strengths, and creating connections. All who attended reported feeling nourished, restored, and equipped with a plan to engage in healthier self-care practices. I was delighted that I had been able to facilitate this experience! Together we created a space that was warm, safe, and peaceful. And I felt proud to lead thoughtful activities that allowed everyone to pause, breathe, and reflect.

Entering an Experience Without Expectations

I was reminded by the experience of the weekend that when you enter an experience without expectations, you are far more likely to feel satisfied or delighted. On the other hand, we often are disappointed when we bring expectations with us into an experience. Reality usually does not measure up to the wonders of our imagination. Unfortunately, however, we almost always travel with our expectations.

So what to do? As the holiday season unfolds, I’d suggest trying out the “magic of no expectations” – it’s the perfect time. Most of us have tremendous expectations about what the holidays should be. We often spend significant time with family members and friends, and we go into holiday celebrations with high hopes or possibly the opposite expectation. We sometimes dread the usual patterns that emerge whenever certain people get together. But what if you went into these events with “beginner’s mind” – with no expectations? What if you really tried to look at Uncle Joe or Cousin Kate as if you were seeing them for the first time?

Entering Holiday Gatherings with Few Expectations

I know this may sound like a strange concept, and might even seem like an impossible task, but I’m suggesting that you try entering your next holiday gathering with as few expectations or preconceptions as possible. Why? Because it’s important to see if you can look at your loved ones with fresh eyes. Try to imagine that you are meeting them for the first time – what do you notice? You might find that you observe and appreciate some quality or aspect that you never saw before because you have been taking them for granted all this time.

You might listen to a story with keener ears and a new perspective. When we are with those nearest and dearest to us, we switch onto “auto-pilot” and tend to repeat the same patterns we have enacted for years. But by leaving your expectations at the door, and seeing your loved ones anew, you might be very surprised by what you discover and truly experience the delights of the holiday season.