Find out why the holiday season can be the best time to practice meditation and mindfulness. By Katherine Pham
Over the years of my meditation practice, there is one thing that has become clear, meditation is the practice of being present in the moment.
I remember reading in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now something to the effect of ‘there is no time like now’. I could understand it in an intellectual way but I had no idea what it really meant. I didn’t know why being in the present moment was so profound.
After all of these years of practice though, I now know.
When you are in the present moment, you drop away all of your past memories and future ones and can just be with what is in front of you with your full attention, and there is nothing that is more joyful.
Most people are either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Even in the moment that they are living, they overlay that moment with memories of past experiences or anxiety for the future which can cause a feeling of unease and discomfort.
In the present moment, there is rarely anything to be actually upset about. If you can drop away past and future experiences, in each moment what we have is our breath, our life and what essentially are objects and people around us. How could that be so bad?
Being in the present moment is the remover of all stresses that the majority of us carry around to some degree. The holiday season is an amazing way to bring yourself into the moment and get a sense of what being in a state of presence feels like.
I know it can go either way at times with the stress of family and organising events, but with a slight reframe, your holiday season can be one of joyous and precious moments if you learn to be present with it.
Here are the ways that the holidays are the best for mindfulness and meditation.
Be present with loved ones
When you are surrounded by loved ones, especially if it is a rarity to all come together, each moment is spent getting updates about what is going on in each others’ lives, laughing at memories of the past, meeting and playing with the new generations. All of these moments of connecting with our loved ones brings us into the present moment.
The joy of giving
When you are giving, it is hard to be worried about yourself. That is why compassion is a fundamental lesson of buddhism. While the spotlight is shining on your loved ones, it is impossible to be concerned about yourself. Hence why giving gifts connects you to the present moment. You are relishing in your loved ones enjoying the gifts you’ve given, all of your own concerns about yourself can fall away.
Being present means enjoying each moment fully and there’s no better way to do that than with a scrumptious spread. Delighting in food is a great way to bring you into the present moment. Savoring the flavors and enjoying each mouthful of tasty food brings you right into the moment as you enjoy the food created for you by family and friends.
The holiday season can also be a time to reflect on what has happened in the year and also how you want to spend the year ahead. Another form of meditation is actually called reflecting and the year end usually calls for us to reflect on what you achieved, what didn’t go so well, what you are proud of and then setting your goals and intentions for the year ahead. Being mindful about what you would love to complete for the year ahead is a great way to bring your focus and attention to what is important to you.
Time away from work
Being able to let go of the stresses of work fully for one or two weeks gives you time to come back to yourself. It’s a way of really becoming centred again without having work’s priorities being the dictator of your mood. This can go in either direction, though. You might be so busy with family and friend engagements that you simply replace work’s stresses with social stresses.
Make sure to give yourself time to just unwind and enjoy life’s pleasures. I always find that I feel so much more centered in what I find important in my life after some time off work and my biggest inspirations come during these times of rest.
Doing different things
When your mind thinks it knows something, it does not pay attention.
Do you remember going to your workplace for the very first time? I’m sure you remember it all very distinctly. The lobby might seem very big, spacious and welcoming. It feels new and cool. One month later though and you are walking in and out of the lobby and none of it impresses you any longer. Is it that it stopped being impressive?
Actually what happens is that your mind knows that it has seen it and knows it and hence determines that it needs not pay attention to it. That’s why what was once very intriguing and impressive becomes something that you don’t even notice any longer!
Doing something new activates the limbic brain, the part of the brain that looks for threats. The limbic brain allows this new information in (usually to look out for threats). Your senses are heightened to the new activity, unlike the auto-pilot mode we are usually in due to being in familiar situations.
If you are frustrated after seeing friends and family, stressed about the last minute shopping through crowds or annoyed about the inconsiderate gift you got – normal feelings and thoughts that can also be a part of the holiday season – why not take a moment to feel grateful for the fact that we can celebrate it?
There are just as many families out there who are doing it tough financially and can’t celebrate, people who are suffering from isolation who don’t have family and friends to celebrate with. It is a luxury that we get to live in places in the world where we can take time off, give and receive gifts and be free to act as we choose. Recognizing through a moment of gratitude that we are fortunate enough to enjoy our holiday season can bring us into the moment and drop away worries and concerns.