The Christmas holidays look different for all of us. For some it can be a highly anticipated, extravagant event, while others may dread the very thought of the commotion, or perhaps loneliness. Yet many of us can relate to the unrelenting stress that arrives in waves early November or December.
For thousands of years meditation has been used as a tool to achieve a more balanced state mind.
Letting go of that which we cannot control
So first we need to understand what we can control and what we cannot. We can’t control the unsolicited questions about our careers or romantic lives at the dinner table, nor the cocky uncle who always insists on bringing up politics. We can’t control your unkind comments when you go for that extra slice of pie, and we definitely can’t control the media that bombards us with picture-perfect holidays, reminding us of the imperfection of our own.
But what we can control is our reactions to all of these things; we can control that feeling of lacking often invoked around the holidays from comparing ourselves to others or desiring that which we do not have.
How meditation can help
Meditation is one tool that - when used consistently - can help us achieve a balanced state of mind, regardless of the stress that life throws at us. It may seem like a daunting task and it’s true that meditation is no magic, but we can take solace in Mother Teresa’s words, “Be faithful in the small things you do, because it is in them your strength lies.” Step by step, by bringing awareness to your mind, you will learn to control it and stay calm through life's chaos.
Here are a few easy tips to get your meditation started for the holidays:
1. Sit comfortably
There’s no reason to give your mind another distraction. Sit in a comfortable place with your back supported and spine straight.
2. Relax your body
Begin by mentally scanning your body. Starting at your toes, slowly bring awareness to each body part and consciously relax the muscles as you move upwards towards the head and face.
3. Pick a focus
A mantra, a repeated word or phrase, is a great focus point for the mind. You can try repeating ‘calm, relax,’ ‘bright, clear’ or ‘Om,’ silently or out loud as you inhale and exhale.
4. Don’t stop thinking- you can’t!
Toss out the idea that in order to meditate you must stop thinking. Imagine your mind as a child. Telling it not think is like telling a toddler to sit still and not make any noise. It’s not going to happen. Rather than trying to force a silent mind, acknowledge and accept all your thoughts without getting carried away in a story. Remember the fragile child will not react well if you get angry or frustrated when you find yourself lost in thought, which is bound to happen not once but many times. Instead simply mentally say ‘thinking’ and come back to your focus.
5. Stay consistent!
There are so many ways to meditate, so the key is finding something that resonates with you and stick to it! It’s far more effective to meditate for just 5 or 10 minutes every day, than 30 minutes once a week. So if you really want to dive into the holidays with a more balanced mind, start creating the habit now!
When the inevitable holiday stress arises, remember that you are not alone; coming home can be as simple as acknowledging the space beneath your rib cage that has always held you up and given you life. Wherever you find yourself on these Christmas holidays, remember that you always have access to this home-- safe, open, loving, and exclusively yours.