For many people these next weeks are among the most joyous and sacred of the year. These days are filled with feasting and family, generosity, and laughter. The holiday season can also be a time of increasing velocity, expanded expectations, and busyness. Without intention, this can be a time of disappointment and exhaustion. With care and intention, this can be a time of ease, connection, and love.
At Copper Beech, we want to be supportive to you in whatever celebrations are coming in the days ahead. No matter which holidays you celebrate, we offer the following mindfulness practices to deepen your connection with loved ones, and enhance the depth of your celebration. May this be a time of joy, ease, and generosity for you and your loved ones.
- Observe Without Analysis
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is voluntary. Suffering is natural pain with the addition of our resistance to it… See if this is true in your own life. If you are experiencing pain, try to observe this pain without analysis, without the extra commentary. We tend to add a storyline to make our pain feel justified. The pain is hard enough, why complicate matters with resistance and commentary?
- Ask yourself: What Wants to Happen?
Today, ask yourself, “What wants to happen?” This is a very different question than “what do I want to happen?” Do you sense the difference? So often we push our agenda on others and reality rather than let life unfold. As the Zen wisdom reminds us: pulling at the grass doesn’t make it grow any faster. When life unfolds in an unexpected way, we are afforded the opportunity for growth that wouldn’t have been possible if we had choreographed the situation.
- Practice in Small Intervals
“I’m not good at meditation,” I’ve been told countless times. There are no trophies to earn here. The only prize is living your life with compassion and integrity. When it comes to practice we are all beginners. Let’s forget about getting good at anything and just practice showing up one moment at a time no matter what is happening inside or outside the mind. We’re all perfectly imperfect. For beginners who are new to practice, frequency is more helpful that duration. Try setting aside 30 seconds a few times a day to practice bringing awareness to the breath.
- Say Yes and No.
In this season where many are celebrating the birth of Jesus, I remember one of his lesser known and subtle teachings: Say ‘yes’ when you mean yes and ‘no’ when you mean ‘no’. We do so much damage when we say ‘yes’ to something but really mean ‘no’. Let’s dedicate ourselves to compassionate honesty and clarity of motives. This kind honesty can be our gift to the people we encounter each day.
- Choose Presence Over Perfection.
I remember being invited for a holiday meal one year when the host spent nearly the whole meal in the kitchen preparing the next course. We hardly saw our dear friend. It was so important to her to make the meal perfect that she forgot to be present. What would happen if we gave our energy to being present more than being perfect? Do you sacrifice your presence in an effort to “get it all done”? Let your full presence be your most radiant present this year.
- Remember That You are Enough.
I am always inspired each year by the retelling of the Hanukkah story. What seemed like a lack of oil in the temple menorah miraculously became an abundance. I’m reminded that we can approach life through the lens of lack and deprivation or we can choose to see abundance. For many of us, seeing what’s broken and wrong with a situation is quite natural. Mindfulness practice reminds us that each moment contains everything we need to find happiness. In moments of holiday chaos, remember: “I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.”
This is a season of amplified messages and noise. Everyone seems to have an urgent message for us to digest. The Internet, radio, television, and mail bombard with a cascade of information—marketing ads, requests for donations, texts, e-mails, news stories, and political manifestos. Welcomed or unwelcomed, this flurry of information can overwhelm our awareness. Take some time each day to unplug from processing any messages. Drive without the radio, shut off your phone for a few hours, let go of the need for background noise. Live life for some amount of time each day free from messages.
Dr. Brandon Nappi is founder and executive director of Copper Beech Institute, the nation’s newest retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 transformational programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life. Brandon and his wife Susan will lead the retreat, “Walking the Path Together: Mindfulness Weekend for Couples,” May 6-7, 2016. All couples are welcome.