This time of year, with shorter days and longer to do lists, it’s pretty easy for people to feel overwhelmed. It’s the time of year where we indulge more, sleep less, run low on energy, rely on caffeine for a boost, and are less motivated to exercise.
It’s also the time of year when our thinking mind goes into overdrive. We think about the gifts we need to buy, the get-togethers to organize or attend, the kid’s school activities, etc. The thinking mind gets so loaded up with things to do and we forget to find the stillness that lies underneath our “To Do” list and our busy thinking minds.
I had an experience just recently where I was in line at the store, an elderly woman in front of me who was arguing with the sales person about a pair of gloves, a disgruntled man behind me complaining that he’d been standing in line too long (5 minutes had passed). I noticed, for a moment, my own tension rising. I remembered that this was a perfect moment to practice awareness. I brought my attention to my breath (then took a deep one), then to my body (relaxed my shoulders). When it was my turn to pay for my items, I smiled at the sales lady. Her face softened, and then she smiled back. A perfect example of how awareness, even in the small moments, can make a big difference.
Many people feel that meditation is something they can barely fit in during their normal routine, and during the holidays???…forget about it! I’m here to remind you that there is no better time to start than the holidays. Not only will you give your busy thinking mind a much needed rest, but you will start to notice your reactions to certain stressful situations start to soften.
How does it work? During meditation we practice simply being aware. You can start by just practicing being aware of your breath, your body, sound, a thought…just noticing anything that arises while sitting in meditation. When you find your mind has run away with a thought, just become aware of the mind thinking and gently, without judging, bring you awareness back to the breath, or body, or sounds, or whatever you choose to anchor yourself in the present moment.
So how in the world will this help me with staying calm in the crowds of people fighting for the sale items at the store? With regular practice, you will notice that instead of reacting to someone else’s unconscious behavior, you may just notice your own frustration with a situation (ask yourself: where do you feel it in your body? What is my breathing like?) Instead of getting caught up in the frustration and frenzy of the moment. You might even be able to feel compassion for someone else’s frustration and perhaps even offer a smile. If it doesn’t work the first time around, be patient and keep practicing. Small steps.
Mindfulness meditation can help lessen the frustration of a lengthy to do list and even help us, and, bien sur others, to enjoy the holiday season more. Practicing being mindful during a busy holiday season is the best way we can give with compassion and joy.