The practice of mindfulness is: Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. As we move into the holiday season, how can we bring our mindfulness practice with us to whatever we find in the present moment? How can we include and even appreciate the “special” moments, the ordinary moments, and even the stressful moments?
This is a time of year when there may be a sense of pressure to feel something in particular — a feeling that we should be grateful, like we should clean our plates, or we should be thankful that we are not suffering like some other people. Practicing non-judgmentally means letting go of the mind of comparison. True gratitude emerges freely, from a simple appreciation of what is.
And there are more active ways to cultivate genuine gratitude. This can be done by making a gratitude list, reaching out to others, perhaps making a contribution to the community, spending time with friends and family, savoring a special meal. Mindfulness practice can allow us to be present in these moments; experiencing them fully, appreciating them as unique and precious, even when they (inevitably) don’t go according to plan. We can let go of the plan or our idea of what it was supposed to be, and instead, inhabit our lives as they are.
Another practice starts with carving out just a few moments to turn off the phone, the radio, the computer, the TV, letting the body be still, and sitting quietly, observing the sensations in the body, the feelings of the breath. Then at some point, you may turn the mind toward a phrase like, “This is what is being given to me now.” Or “This is what is being received right now.” You can repeat this phrase to yourself on each out breath, like a mantra. This is a practice that can be used formally, in a regular sitting practice, or informally, when we are in a mode of doing.
We might notice that in every moment we are receiving the breath of life, and all that entails. Or we might at first think, “Oh great, a traffic jam! This? This is what is being given to me?” Then continuing to sit with the phrase, the thoughts may soften and change. We may become aware of the car’s heater warming our feet, the simple luxury of being protected from the elements, the functionality of our senses, and the ability to travel freely, albeit more slowly than we might prefer.
As we practice appreciation for the ordinary moments of life — just by slowing down enough to actually notice them– these moments can open up, and present us with the whole world. Happy Holidays.