Written by Joy Dushey | Photographed by Eric White
The holidays can mean excitement and joy, but often times they can be more stressful than joyful. Whether from the pressure of shopping, entertaining, obligatory parties, family dynamics, or the expensive chaos of travel, we all could use a little mental relaxation and de-stressing.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can be used any time of year, but when you're feeling hectic during the holidays it can be the perfect way to center. While it is ideal to get 20 minutes of meditation in a day, it can also be done anywhere,even if you're standing in line at the post office,or in a cab stuck in traffic. By simply taking a few deep, slow breaths, focusing completely on your inhale and exhale, you can already feel calmer.
Meditation is all about grounding yourself in the present moment and focusing your attention on fostering calm. With a little deep breathing, low repetitive sounds, and the ability to let the day slip away, meditation will bring the stress levels down a few notches.
Steps for Meditation
Below are some basic steps you can take when performing a seated meditation:
- Find a quiet place. This should be a comfortable spot in which you won’t be disturbed for the period of time you plan to meditate. You may wish to start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 or more. You can be indoors or outdoors, in the sun or in the darkness. Wherever you can be and achieve some quiet solitude will work. Remember to turn off your phone, or set a timer so you're not concerned with the time.
- Assume a seated position. You can choose to sit in a cross-legged position on a mat on the floor. With this method it’s more comfortable to prop yourself with a small pillow or rolled blanket just under the buttocks to tilt the pelvis slightly forward. This makes it easier to maintain a straight spine for the entire meditation. Or you can sit in a chair with both feet on the floor. If at all possible, you should be holding your upper body in position rather than allowing it to rest on a chair back. The point is to place your spine in as upright a position as naturally and comfortably as possible for the length of the meditation. An upright spine maximises the entire process of breathing.
- Your eyes can be open, closed, or slightly open. Many find it useful to loosely train the eyes on a point ahead and slightly down from them without moving the neck out of alignment. Some people choose an object on which to focus, such as a candle flame, a crystal, or a religious figure or painting. Do not focus visually, though, just use the item as a place to center yourself and return your mind when your thoughts wander. Remember, this is an inner journey and you don’t need your physical vision. Many people find their outer vision disappears from their consciousness as they enter the meditative state.
- Place one arm or forearm on each knee or put place your hands in the form of an oval, facing outward, in your lap in front of you. Relax your shoulder and arm muscles and be sure you are comfortable.
- Notice your breathing and concentrate on a natural rhythm. It is preferable to breathe through the nostrils if you can. Be aware of the air entering and leaving your body. Make this the first point of your meditative focus.
- Become aware of all the nuances of your breathing. Notice the feel of the air in your nose, your throat, and your lungs. Pay attention to the aroma and the air quality. Feel the relaxation and oxygenation of your entire body, and the sensation of movement of the accessory breathing muscles in your chest and back. Feel the relaxation of your shoulder muscles and the lengthening of your neck muscles when you exhale.
Try a Love and Kindness meditation
The holidays are a great time to incorporate Love and Kindness to your meditation practice. The Buddhist teachings share stories from various traditions, guided meditation practices, and illustrate how each one of us can cultivate love, compassion, joy, and equanimity from practicing Love and Kindness in our meditative practice.
According to Sharon Salzburg, “By practicing loving-kindness meditation, you can learn to see the lives of others as related to your own to open up to the possibility of caring for others not just because you like them, admire them, or are indebted to them, but because your lives are inextricably linked.”
STEPS TO LOVE AND KINDNESS MEDIATION
1. Begin with someone who has been of help to you; maybe they’ve been directly generous or kind, or have inspired you though you’ve never met them.
Bring an image of the person to mind, or feel their presence as if they’re right in front of you. Say their name to yourself, and silently offer these phrases to them, focusing on one phrase at a time.
• May you live in safety
• May you have mental happiness (or peace and joy)
• May you have physical happiness (health, freedom from pain)
• May you live with ease
2. After a few minutes, move on to a friend. Start with a friend who’s doing well right now, then switch to someone who is experiencing difficulty, loss, pain, or unhappiness.
3. Offer loving kindness to a neutral person, who you don’t feel a strong liking or disliking for - maybe a cashier at the local deli, a cab driver. When you offer loving kindness to a neutral person, you are offering it to them simply because they exist, you are not indebted to or challenged by them.
4. Offer loving kindness toward a person with whom you have difficulty. Start with someone mildly difficult, and slowly work toward someone who has hurt you more grievously. It’s common to feel resentment and anger, and it’s important not to judge yourself for that. Rather, recognise that anger burns within your heart and causes suffering, so out of the greatest respect and compassion for yourself, practice letting go and offering loving kindness.
5. Lastly, offering loving kindness to our universal brothers and sisters to expand on global love and peace.
FIND OUT MORE
As modern mamas living in the over information age, (where everyone is an expert and parenting opinions are shared as freely and easily as an Instagram post) it can be tough to filter through the white noise to find the facts. Naturally, we’d love to consider ourselves wise in all sorts of ways, but the truth is sometimes we’re scrawling SOS in the sand. Good thing we’ve got the guidance and expertise of our own personal rockstars: the people who inspire us on the daily. Our rockstars (our flock) are enthusiasts, professionals and influencers in the fields of wellness, travel, education, style—the list goes on. Each one brings a profoundly different perspective to the table, one informed by their own experiences and outlooks. And that perspective is priceless.
They say it takes a village…we say it takes a flock.