It all started with my mom. I can remember as a little kid waking up and finding her alone in the study in the early morning, candle lit, in prayer. “We light the candle so we can feel presence around us. God is always there,” she said, “but the candle helps focus our attention.”

As my sisters and I grew we adopted the practice. One day on my year abroad, strolling the streets of London equal parts exhilarated and lonesome, I picked up a tiny candle holder and tea light to help me feel more at home. I can’t go into a Mexican grocery store without loading up on Virgen de Guadalupe candles. After growing up in Texas and years living in Latin America, they just call my name!

Now candle-lighting is like a family shorthand. When we are going through something hard or one of our kids is struggling, we send a group text: “Please light your candles.” “On it!” we respond, matches striking in unison in homes across Dallas and now in Asheville too. Sometimes we even text photos of our candles burning to bring each other comfort.

What I love about lighting candles is that it makes me feel like the candle is DOING the work for me. As a recovering overachiever I can turn even spiritual practices into a task or a “to-do.” Lighting the candle, I feel part of something bigger. “We witness your life” the candles say. “And we remember, even if you forget, that you are loved and held in the Wholeness.”

This has been a year of, how shall we put it?

Growth opportunities.

And we are entering into what is sometimes called “the season of light” because of the confluence of religious and spiritual traditions that relate to lighting the way in the darkness: Winter Solstice, Advent, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali and more.

Our natural season (here in the Northern hemisphere at least) provides the backdrop, as we turn toward the winter hush and darkness. But these festivals of light draw from something deeper.

Lighting candles is an act of resistance. It means we see our shadow, we don’t ignore it, yet we choose to nurture the flicker of something luminous within us and to honor the radiant possibilities of our more loving nature.

2020 has been masterful at revealing our collective shadow: whether we are talking about systemic racism, or the way COVID moves through society hurting disproportionately our already vulnerable neighbors, or our practices of taking from the Earth more than we give her.

Earlier this week I opened my Flourish Holiday Playshop and had a bit of a Type 3 on the Enneagram freak out.

“What am I doing playing?” My inner gremlins sang out. “COVID is on the rise. What if people think I’m fluffy or weird? And did I really just put a picture of myself day-drinking in my sparkly holiday top and Target soft pants on the internet?” Maybe I should put this offering back in the vaults and we can all pretend it didn’t happen.

Then I went for walk. And I saw that the gorgeous grandmother tree in our neighborhood, one of those tremendous trees that just begs for a tree house or to get married underneath it, was being chopped down after the land had been sold to new owners. I cried as I passed by, literally feeling like I was passing a wake, her enormous body in pieces on the ground. And then as I walked and cried, I got mad. And I felt my hand tighten into my current somatic touchstone.

This is a practice I am learning working with a new coach. Your somatic touchstone can be any gesture which helps you feel connected to your body and your deepest truth. My somatic touchstone starts with my feet and spine rooted and strong, my heart open, and then my right hand goes up, like in the “resist” symbol of the protestor. And I feel my activist heart beating. My desire to do my part in contributing toward the needed changes and healing in our world.

So, lets plant some trees together. (I am planting a tree with Treesisters for every participant in the Playshop.) And let’s light some freaking candles. Let’s remember and nurture the love. Whatever and however it takes. Not as self-care alone but as activism. When we light up our hearts, we know what to do next. Whether that is giving money to a cause that inspires us, leaning into our creativity, nurturing a friendship or pouring attention in to our child or our body in need of care. We will know what is ours to do in the moment. And can also feel relaxed in the whole.

The Holiday Playshop is a container for a conversation more than it is a workshop. So I’ve decided to limit the participation in each Playshop to a small group size ripe for transformational explorations. (If you are like me and prefer teachers and guides who ground their woo, I studied small groups as a tool for social and spiritual transformation as my Master’s thesis.)

I also know that our lives and plates are full. So I’ll give a small teaching to spark our time together (something I’ll record for the members of the other Playshop to listen to at their leisure) and then we will open together into time to engage the frameworks and guiding questions in the written guide. I’ll help you navigate COVID challenges with extended family and other changes, discern what you are hungry for this holiday season and design a worthy experience for yourself. Together we will explore how your traditions can support you as well as what new ones you might like to create.

I’m especially drawn to working with people who feel a little adrift or have recently blended families or just want some time and space and help animating the holidays so they can feel relaxed and enjoy it. As I say in the video describing the Playshop, I see the holiday season as a holon or microcosm of a whole life. Whether you and I go way back or we recently connected, I’d love to have you! We can lean into our holiday traditions to help us restore after a year that has left many of us drained.

What do you say, are you in? I’m offering pay from the heart pricing which starts at $67 and includes a curated Holiday Playshop library of additional digital resources which help you flourish this holiday season and beyond, all in little “bites.”

I think it’s going to be awesome. Please join me and wear your cozy socks and your Granny’s Christmas brooch or anything else that helps you step into your holiday season with playfulness and conscious intent. Let’s grow the love, one home at a time.

Warmly, Courtney

PS Once you register, I’ll reach out to ask you which Playshop you plan to attend so I can keep an eye on numbers. I’m hosting one this Thursday evening the 19th and the second on Saturday the 21st. The bulk of both Playshops will be the same but they will each include a mini teaching to help with a particular holiday challenge. Read all the details here.

Courtney Pinkerton is a certified life coach and the author of the Amazon bestseller, The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever's Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More.

Courtney is an inner life coach and Enneagram mentor. She helps conscious women (and a few amazing men!) to pursue their most salient creative, professional and quality-of-life dreams and to discover more pleasure in their everyday.

She has dual master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is a certified Wayfinder life coach and has been studying the Enneagram with master teachers for over a decade. After selling their house and all their belongings and spending a year in Nicaragua tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more, Courtney and her husband and their three children now make their home in a co-housing community in Asheville, North Carolina.


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