Dee: This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s “3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit”
3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit
By Melissa Eisler
The holidays are upon us again—a busy time of year filled with visiting with friends and family, shopping for gifts, and preparing special meals to enjoy with loved ones.
The holiday season is meant to be a happy time; it conjures up images of cozying up by the fireplace, baking ginger bread cookies, giving to and helping those in need, and stepping away from the day-to-day grind to focus on family and loved ones. But it can also come with a lot of stress—worrying over extra expenses, navigating unpredictable family drama, and burning out from a jam-packed schedule. With all the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, it can be easy to get caught up in this stress and lose focus on the essence of what the holidays represent: feeling and sharing joy, kindness, and gratitude for all that you have in your life.
Ew. The image just conjured up in my mind is one of incomprehensible demoralization. Thank God I’m not that person today and I have a support group and a toolbox for living to keep me from going back there.
The image conjured up cozying up by the fireplace is one Christmas Eve years ago, opening gifts with family after a wonderful lobster dinner. I think. You see, I am an alcoholic. Today a grateful alcoholic in recovery. But then I was active in my disease.
Coming home after a full day at work (being a checker at a grocery store on Christmas Eve is no easy feat in itself), I made a lobster thermidor dinner for my family, which included my mom and step-dad who were visiting. I must of had too many glasses of wine (which was a daily occurrence) because the rest is very fuzzy.
I wake up in bed on Christmas morning (or “come to” which was also a daily occurrence) not remembering if we had opened our gifts. This Christmas I asked my boys to pick out one gift they would like to open on Christmas Eve. They chose. Then we opened them all except for that special gift we would save for Christmas Day. I think. I don’t remember.
When I “fished” for clues from my mom on Christmas Day what happened on Christmas Eve, she said she knew I was tired after a long day at work and making dinner. Apparently I fell asleep by the wood stove (but really I passed out). Shit. I hate this story. I hate my life. I hate myself.
I am not going to say that the holidays were too stressful or that I did not meditate. My story is that I am an alcoholic and one drink for me is too many because I will not stop until I pass out, kill you and your family on the road, and end up in an institution.
Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most this holiday season. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate through the overwhelming feelings. Try practicing the following meditations to cultivate joy, kindness, and gratitude for 10 to 15 minutes each day from now through to the end of the year.
Since then I have gone to a recovery center, become an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have learned a new way to live in sobriety. Now I love my story, my past, because without the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization I would not feel the freedom and happiness I feel at this moment.
And I have learned that I am a gift and how to love myself in the moment with the many wretched stories in my past. That was me then. I am me now. And tomorrow doesn’t exist. And I practice meditation and I get quiet and know that there is a Power Greater Than Myself who is in control, driving my car, taking me on the ride of my life, introducing me to exciting new adventures and people, while I soak it all up in the passenger seat. This gives me contentment and joy knowing all is perfect at this moment, that I don’t have to be in control, that I don’t have to think anymore and can live from my heart, knowing, trusting, that I am protected and guided by a Higher Power.
A Meditation for Cultivating Joy
The stress this time of year can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted, often zapping the joy that the holidays are supposed to bring. Meditating not only helps you be more joyful and present, but it can also help you spread joy to those around you. And spreading joy, lifting others, and being jolly are central to the holiday spirit! Try these simple steps to cultivate that joyful, jolly feeling:
•Find a quiet area—this can be in a room in your house, an area in your garden, or next to the fireplace when everyone else has gone to sleep.
•Sit in an upright position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. •Continue with five deeps breaths. Pay attention to how you are feeling, finding any discomfort or pain points and adjusting yourself to be more comfortable.
•Continue to breathe, focusing on the feeling of your chest rising and falling.
•Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Your mind may be racing with your holiday to-do list; if so, visualize yourself crossing the items off and feeling accomplished. Know that you are taking this time for yourself, so that you can have the energy to tackle that list joyfully. •Now that you are clearing your mind and making room for joy, think of a holiday memory from your past when you felt deep joy. This could be a joyful holiday moment from your youth or from a recent memory. Focus on the details of that moment as you attempt to relive it in your mind, like you were watching a movie of that memory. •As you bring that moment to the center of your consciousness, pay attention to the joyful emotions and sensations that you felt, the smells that you experienced (ginger bread and peppermint, perhaps?), and the rich tastes of the season. Stay with the memory for a while.
Next, think of a way to recreate those feelings in your life today, perhaps with different people, a different location, and a different activity, but working to cultivate the same mood of joy for yourself and those you would like to share those feelings with. •Release that visual and take 10 deep breaths, inhaling to fill yourself with the holiday spirit of joy, and exhaling to send joy out into the world.
•When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before gently opening your eyes.
Practice this meditation daily, focusing on cultivating and spreading joy. With repetition, you’ll be able to tap into those feelings more readily, even when faced with the stress of the season.
A Meditation for Cultivating Kindness
The holidays are a great time to give back and spread kindness to your loved ones, strangers, and even to those who you are not on good terms with. Kindness is about extending grace, compassion, and love to others, and you can use meditation to improve your capacity for empathy and compassion. Try these simple steps, a derivative of the Loving-Kindness Meditation:
Before you start this mediation, set a timer for between 5 and 20 minutes and think of a few phrases that invoke kindness and compassion toward others. String three or four short phrases together. Write them down if it helps you memorize them. If you can’t think of any, try these:
“May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.”
•As before, find yourself in a comfortable area where you can focus on your meditation without distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and start to take five deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while tuning in to any discomfort in your body and adjusting as needed. •Continue your rhythmic breathing and pick someone (or yourself!) or a group of people that you will channel loving-kindness to (for example, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, or refugees across the world that you read about in the news).
•With this person or people clear in your mind, repeat your loving-kindness phrases silently for the duration of your meditation: “May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.” •When your timer goes off, sit quietly for a few moments, smiling at the kindness you have sent to others, and gently open your eyes.
Try practicing this meditation when you wake up and before you go to bed, so that you start and end your day with loving-kindness. You can change the beneficiary of your meditation each time you do it if you’d like. It will help you practice kindness to everyone on this planet during this holiday season.
A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude
Being grateful is something you can practice year-round, but the holidays are often a time to be especially reflective on your life. This meditation will help you think about what you are grateful for and how to express that appreciation. Try these simple steps to develop a gratitude mindset:
•Find a comfortable, quiet location to begin your practice. For this one, find a sunny spot on your patio, take a seat next to warm fireplace, or curl up in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
•Sit up straight, adjusting your posture as necessary to ease any pain points.
•Start by taking a series of deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Lightly close your eyes and continue a rhythmic breathing pattern. •If you are sitting outside on a sunny day or next to the fireplace, notice how the warmth embraces you and melts the cool winter chill. Breathe and enjoy the sensation of warmth flowing through your body.
•Start to reflect on the gifts that life has given you today. What can you be grateful for today, in this very moment? You can choose something specific that happened today or even the simple fact that you are alive and breathing and practicing the gift of meditation. •Bring to mind all the potential comforts that you have in your life, for example:
Access to water and food Clothes
Friends, family, and pets
One by one, think of all the special people or animals that are a part of your life, both directly and indirectly:
The farmer who grew your food
The officer who keeps your neighborhood safe
The engineer who constructed the school your kids go to
Now, think about something in your life that you are grateful for that was new in the last year.
Now, think of one talent or skill that you possess that you’re grateful for.
Now, think of one thing that you are really looking forward to in the future.
Now, think about something that makes you smile or laugh, and observe the emotions that flow through your body.
•Release the gratitude images, take a few deep breaths, and finish by taking inventory of how you are feeling. Without judgment, simply observe.
When you are finished, you can gently open your eyes and bring the feelings of gratitude with you into the rest of your day.
When you practice these three meditations, you are actively working to cultivate feelings of joy, kindness, and gratitude this holiday season, benefitting your well-being as well as those around you. What better way to get into the holiday spirit, and in turn, make it contagious!
I have GOT TO do this! I have GOT TO add “self” to my list of to-do’s. I randomly, fleetingly, have thoughts of how grateful I am, how compassionate I am for those who have less. But if I set that timer for 5-20 minutes for ME and make that time for getting centered, getting humble, and getting back focused and in the moment, I know in my heart that the day will unfold more smoothly and effortlessly than had I not.
I shall start today, right now, by adding in my list of daily activities in my phone: 5 MINUTES OF MEDITATION. When I turn off that damned alarm and get quiet, take those deep breaths, I might just adjust that timer for 20 minutes.
Then I’ll get to finish decorating the house, finish writing the Christmas cards, finish the orders that need to be finished before Christmas, eat some lunch, take a shower, get ready for tonight’s guests…
Thank you for taking time for yourself and knowing we are all crazy and stressed this time of year. Just breathe… Wishing you Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha, Dee Harris
For those interested in Art with a Message of Self-Care, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!
About the Author
Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author
Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler)
The Chopra Center