Halloween is just a soggy sweet memory and you know what that means, don’t you? It means that we’ll soon be hearing holiday music in the aisles as we sip our gingerbread lattes.
It’s so easy this time of year to get swept up in the mad rush to THE HOLIDAYS. Or if you’re like me, you get a little irritated and decide to try and ignore it all. What’s the big hurry?
Now is a good time to set some mindful intentions about what’s to come. Here are some tips for mindful holidays. Stay tuned for more the next couple months.
- Set an intention (or two) for the upcoming holidays. It might sound something like this: “This year I’m going to focus on the meaning of the holiday instead of the marketing of it.” Or “This year I’ll practice self-compassion when things don’t go as planned.” Or “Knowing there will likely be both stress and joy, I’ll expect some of each and be ok with it.”
- Make a list of things that have caused you stress in past years. It might be last-minute shopping or accepting too many party invitations or eating too many holiday goodies. Decide which ones you might be able to address ahead of time in order to lessen the stress.
- Enlist the help and support of friends and loved ones by agreeing to slow down and simplify. This might mean agreeing to a potluck meal instead of doing it all by yourself or the adults agreeing to give to a favorite charity instead of buying gifts for each other.
- Remember that mindfulness means being aware in the present moment. It’s impossible to do this if we’re racing ahead in mind and body.
I love this definition of mindfulness from James Baraz:
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant, without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant, without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
We’re so accustomed to trying to fix things but also moving on to the next bigger and better thing (is that expensive new phone truly that much better than your last one?). This human propensity tends to lead us to try to fix emotional challenges and when that doesn’t work, we often give up.
Say, you’ve had a rough day at work or with the kids and are sharing with your partner whose good-intention answer is to problem-solve your feelings. We all know how well that usually works. We don’t want to quit the job and we can’t quit the kids. I know. I’ve tried. We simply want someone to validate feeling badly. So we offer polite thanks-but-no-thanks for the advice or get more upset for not feeling understood.
What we are asking for, in so many words, is a mindful awareness reminder that we can have bad or hard moments (okay sometimes hours) in our days without needing to declare the entire day a disaster and without needing to do anything at all.
Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise for when you’ve had/are having one of those days.
- Get comfortable – this may be sitting or lying down or moving your body.
- Take three deep breaths in and out.
- Say to yourself – I had some hard moments today. I felt/feel (name the feeling(s)).
- Stay with this for a couple-three minutes. You don’t have to relive the day but also don’t resist if it pops up.
- Say Hard moments are part of life.
- Say Tomorrow is a new day.
That’s it. The point is to validate your feelings without exaggerating, resisting, or judging and with recognition that we all have hard moments. No one is spared.
I recently participated in a thirty-one day Mindfulness Summit, and a handful of presenters were my favorites, including Shamash. I liked his easy-going style and humor and I also just like saying his name. He, like most of the summit speakers, has taught mindfulness for many years and has a book on the subject. While I’ve never cared for the title of this book series, I did enjoy his Mindfulness for Dummies and will share some of his mindfulness tips.
Healthy & Helpful Attitude
Shamash tells us that attitude is an important part of mindfulness and that attitude is a choice. Being aware on the attitudes we bring to life – whether it’s marriage or parenting or our work or practicing mindfulness – can affect the outcome in so many situations. We all know people who seem to have a sour outlook on life. Life is not fair. No one has it as hard as I do. Nothing will ever change. Nobody understands. Why do bad things always happen to me? No one likes me. They seem eternally stuck in unhelpful attitudes.
Shamash identifies these helpful attitudes that are the foundation for a healthy life:
- Acceptance – not giving up but allowing thoughts, feelings, sensations to exist without resistance
- Patience – listen more than you talk, choose the closest rather than the shortest line
- Seeing afresh – try looking at common things with new eyes – what have you missed?
- Trust – believing that both joys and challenges are temporary/ to be expected helps build trust that things are okay
- Curiosity – ask lots of questions about thoughts/feelings/sensations “I wonder what this is about?”
- Letting go – First realize what you’re holding onto. Doing so helps to let it go.
- Developing kindness – non-judgment of self and others
- Appreciating Heartfulness – pay attention to whatever brings you warmth and happiness
- Gratitude – even if not perfect, acknowledge the good there is to your life
- Forgiveness – for self and others – acknowledge being human and that we all are imperfect
Now imagine the opposite attitude of some or all of the above. Identify which of these attitudes you might need a little work on. See if it makes a difference.
Ten Mindfulness Tips from Olympic Runner Deena Kastor
While most of us aren’t bronze medalists, we all have goals and a desire to be the best we can be. I found this article by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee on mindfulness in HuffPost. Here are Deena’s ten tips.
- Live a Quality, Purposeful Life
- Live with an Attitude of Gratitude
- Practice Positivity and Purposefulness
- See Challenges as Opportunities
- Focus on Your Passion
- Live with Continuous Improvement
- Be Excited about Life
- Get Enough Rest
- Turn Nervousness into Excitement
- Take Things One Step at a Time
Click here for the link for the entire article. It’s worth reading. I love this line: “I truly believe my fastest days are behind me and my best days are ahead!”
Metta and Tonglen
Loving Kindness for All
The practice of metta, loving kindness, as taught in Buddhist tradition, begins with self and radiates out to all. This may be easy when life is good and things are going our way. But what about when life is hard and things are not going our way? The challenge is to act with compassion no matter the circumstances.
Sit comfortably and quietly and take a few deep breaths in and out. Hold in your mind all the people you are sending unconditional love. Feel it extending from you to these people and then throughout the universe. Say to yourself, “May all feel peace. May all be happy.” Or come up with our own good wishes.
Tonglen is Tibetan for “giving and taking” or “sending and receiving” and is practiced as a meditation focused on developing/nurturing compassion and the unselfish regard for others.
Sit comfortably and quietly and allow your mind to be still yet open. Take some deep breaths in and out. Call to mind someone (can be an individual or group of people) who you know are struggling. With each inhalation, take in their struggle and in doing so, provide them relief. On the exhalation, wish for them peace, sleep, relaxation, insight, patience, courage, love – whatever you think they might need. Do this a couple, three times.
Quote of the Week
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” ~Albert Einstein