Preparing for a Merry, Mindful Holiday
During this time of year, we can oh-so-easily get swept up in the frenetic pace of life ~ scurrying around buying gifts, decking the halls with lights and preparing holiday meals.
The commercialization of Christmas and the holiday season has resulted in inevitable stress and anxiety about purchasing the ‘perfect’ gifts rather than staying connected to the true light of the season. So how do we prepare for a merry, mindful holiday full of boundless meaning and minimal stress? Mindfulness offers us a portal through which we can reclaim the holiday season as a time to journey back home to what matters most ~ peace, light, and loving kindness. As a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, I often work with clients to ground themselves during this time of year, finding their essence of equanimity within.
In Light and Darkness
The holiday season can also bring up feelings of sadness around the absence of precious beings who have died or a reminder that one’s life has fallen short of what they had envisioned. At the root of mindfulness philosophy is that in order to eliminate our human suffering, we must have the courage to turn toward whatever feelings and thoughts arise. The season’s light cannot exist without the darkness. When we’re present, I mean truly present, we begin to expand our capacity to be with the ever-shifting flow of life. During this time of year when we see idealized commercials of joyful families, trees overflowing with gifts underneath and beaming children, feelings of grief, sadness or deep contemplation can come like a title wave. Allow the feelings to wash over your body. This compassionate willingness to feel life as it becomes our liberation from suffering. Courageously honoring our imperfect humanness becomes the greatest gift we can give to ourselves this season.
Remembering our true nature is the practice of a lifetime. As humans, with sophisticated defense mechanisms, illusory thought patterns, and strong biases, it’s quite easy for us to be perpetually forgetful of who we truly are. Remember, we are all beings seeking love, meaning, and connection. The holiday season proves to be a challenging time for our connection with self and others. For example, this core reality immediately escapes us when we’re triggered by our mother-in-law who perhaps said something offensive at the dinner table. Cultivating connectedness is a moment-to-moment practice. I encourage my clients and students to use the experience of seeing lights (on a Christmas tree, candles, other decors, etc.) as a reminder to breath mindfully into the belly and align with the energy of love for all beings. Not only does this sacred pause hijack the automatic stress response that’s heightened this time of year but it also fosters an expansive sense of connectedness with the world.
The wisdom of wellness exists within you. The more effectively we can begin to manage our own energy and emotions, the more we can enjoy the holiday season and the less exhausted we’ll become. We’re so busy attending to what other people need and want during the holidays that we forget to check-in with ourselves. Make mini meditations a non-negotiable during the holidays. For example, when your eyes flutter open in the morning, sit up in bed and begin mindfulness breathing ~ paying attention to each in-breath and out-breath. In this moment, repeat a mantra (internal affirmation) such as “I am peace” or “I choose love”. You can even practice this throughout the day when you’re taking a bathroom break or while at work. Remember, you can only serve those who sit before you (your family, friends, children, and clients) at the depth you’ve met yourself. Refill your cup before you attempt to fill others’.
Honoring our own human journey of both light and darkness with committed presence becomes the gift of a lifetime ~ one that you’ll continue to receive far after the ornaments have been packed away and family has left. Whatever we shine our awareness on grows so when we align with the intention of presence, lovingkindness, and compassion, the constriction of holiday stress melts away like the snow on a sunny day. In these moments, we awaken to the celebration of life’s miraculous gifts. This could be one breath, a sip of coffee or the smile of a loved one. When we nurture the power of our own presence, the light of this season radiates through our heart space ~ touching all.