This time of year can be stressful in so many ways. Some love spending time with family, but it can be stressful shopping and managing all the extra holiday events and obligations. Others might have toxic relationships with family members and dread the time they feel compelled to spend with them. Still others either have made a conscious decision to NOT spend the holidays or any time with family. And then there are those who don’t really have family to connect with or their family is geographically too distant. But even if your stress is not around family, it’s just a busy time for most of us, and the weather is often not cooperative, which can make it even harder.
By this point in my life, I’ve learned to not ascribe too much meaning to holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate, or that there isn’t meaning for me there, but rather that it’s just another day – and if I need to honor or celebrate the meaning behind the label, I can do that regardless of the day, or in a way other than is traditional.
I’ve also learned to prepare myself for holidays and other days when I will be with family members that push my buttons. Even if I don’t have time for lots of quiet and meditation prior to a holiday, I can still do several “stopping meditations” throughout the days ahead.
A stopping meditation can be done anywhere at anytime, regardless of how busy we are. It’s simply stopping whatever we are doing for just a moment and putting our awareness on our breath or body – or picking up an object to focus on it, noticing it’s weight, texture, color, etc for a few seconds to minutes out of the day, several times a day. (I set my alarm on my cell phone to remind me). It’s amazing how powerful those few seconds can be in calming and slowing our lives down. It’s most powerful when used in conjunction with sitting meditation and/or walking meditation, where we deliberately take a walk, with the purpose of focusing on a specific experience. But when we don’t have the luxury of extra time, at least we know we can find serenity within the storm for a few seconds at a time.
When I’ve been successful at slowing things down, I give myself more space to respond to people or events, rather that react impulsively. I’ve found that when I’ve prepared in this way, even when a family member tries to get to me, I’m not as available for the fight. I have more capacity to make the choice not to involve myself. (We can’t have a power struggle if both of us aren’t struggling!) 😉 And, gratitude is much more accessible when I am in charge of the choices.
Regardless of how you do it, I hope you find peace, joy, freedom and gratitude wherever you are this coming week and in the weeks to follow.