Mindfulness at Christmas
A child shivers in a cold room, watching for a sign of a better tomorrow. A teenager creeps out of the shadows to rummage through a garbage bin outside a closed restaurant. A woman is walking out to her car in a busy mall parking lot and suddenly feels her purse snatched off her shoulder. A man stumbles home after working two jobs, wondering how to explain to his family that Christmas will not be like the ones in the store windows. These are often the bleak picture of Christmas that make one wonder if there really is a reason for the season.
We forget, though, that somewhere a child is sharing their holiday by donating to a local charity. That a group of teenagers is wrapping presents at a local store to earn money to buy Christmas dinners for the homeless. A stranger has stopped to help the woman whose purse was snatched while another chases after the thief and calls law enforcement. The father returns home to see his children making their own presents and years from now, those will be the ones kept and treasured. The trappings of Christmas have only the hold on us that we allow. We make the holiday have meaning by how we live it.
This post is being published a day late on purpose to prove my point. Whether or not we accomplished everything on our to-do list or not, the clock kept ticking and Christmas has arrived. The season of Advent is about preparing but sometimes we forget what comes next. Are we running away from Christmases past? Is our expectation for Christmas Present realistic? Have we given up and sworn off any Christmas Futures?
Mindfulness can be structured meditation or simply a calmer way of living that helps us break habitual patterns of thinking that usually serve no useful purpose except to create more stress and greater unhappiness. The easiest mindfulness practice is to simply sit quietly for several minutes. IN the midst of holiday mayhem, the easiest place to find those few minutes of calm might be the toilet, a bedroom, or even a shower or bath. Then you just have to breathe. Easy, right? I mean, you are already breathing so just do it with thoughtfulness. Focus on the movement of air going into your nose and then visualize it in your throat and chest. Then exhale and reverse the process. By being fully present in your breathing, you have stopped negative thoughts and are no longer clinging to those causing anxiety.
The holidays seem to intensify the mind wandering we do as we go about our daily activities. Odds are you are doing one thing right now and thinking of at least three others you need to do. Having spent the past month preparing, take time today to be present in the moment. Right now notice the sights and smells around you, paying attention completely and with the utmost concentration. Perhaps today will go perfectly but even if it doesn’t, take a few moments to breathe and give thanks that you can. Life is a beautiful gift in and of itself.