mindfulliving

How to make this Christmas more meaningful

This quote from the Dalai Lama is especially appropriate for this time of the year. Christmas, whether you are religious or not is meant to be a time for family and friends. It's supposed to be the one time of the year that we get to just be with those we love and care about. Yet statistics show that many of us find the festive season a struggle. I certainly feel stressed trying to think of something original to buy my family and friends.

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THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE

We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness.

We've been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but less communication.

We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room

Remember what it used to be like

I know it's not very mindful to focus on the past but in this instance, it could be helpful to remember what Christmas used to be like. Remembering what it was like before we allowed technology take over. Before the constant distraction of our mobile phones and repeated beeping of social media notifications. 

What would happen if we just spent a few hours or a whole day with our mobile phones on silent? What if we stopped looking down at the screen and looked up at our loved ones? What would we notice if we actually paid attention?

Mindfulness is a love affair with life. You see the beauty in everybody and in everything - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Staying in the Moment

We spend so much time in preparation for the "big day" that we are future focusing, missing the moments in between. We are stressed about the Christmas meal, the presents, the plans for the day and then when the day comes we are too exhausted to enjoy it. 

If the traditions and rituals of Christmas do not mean anything to you, there is still the opportunity to make this time of the year meaningful. This is still an opportunity to really just let go of the craziness of everyday life and take time out to be, to stop doing and just be present.

Remembering to enjoy the little things like wrapping up presents, putting up decorations or maybe just having the time to reflect on life.

Managing Our Expectations

I guess the biggest challenge is how to manage our expectations. We build up a picture of how we want our Christmas to be and what we would love to give or receive from our loved one's, often this very anticipation creates a sense of "let down" or disappointment. And after so much planning, how do we cope with the come down after it's all over?

We have to learn how to manage the emotions that arise after Christmas. It's no coincidence that depression, divorce and stress spike in January. 

If you don't get what you want for Christmas, if you couldn't buy your children the biggest and best present possible, if the food wasn't as fantastic as you dreamed it would be, if your partner buys you a present that you don't like, can you let it go or will you carry it forward? 

Can we just accept a gift without judgement? Can we give a gift without expectation? 

Mindfulness Tips for the festive season:

  • Pay attention to your thoughts and catch them before you react
  • Every morning sit for a few moments and ask yourself this questions "What is the meaning of Christmas to me?" - see what comes up and how you feel. This will help you to remember what is important to you rather than getting lost in all the busyness and craziness.
  • Notice what triggers your negative feelings and thoughts. When you begin to notice, you can do something about it before you get lost in them.
  • Remember to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Gratitude is a powerful attitude.
  • Plan family and friend activities, things you can do together. And maybe dare to go technology free for a while.
  • And make sure you get fresh air, get out even if it's just for a while. A little freshair can make all the difference.
Don't sweat the small stuff - it's all small stuff! - Richard Carlson

Remember that having time to be with our family and friends is enough. We don't get meaning from things, so perhaps this year have the courage to do it a little differently. 

 

Mindfulness and it's hidden gem

Mindfulness is not a quick fix

I'm sometimes a little disappointed with how Mindfulness is being seen as a quick fix for one affliction or another. Mindfulness is not a remedy like popping a pill and expecting life to be perfect. In fact most of us that practice Mindfulness will tell you that it's a tough journey, one that takes you into the depths of your emotions, one that makes you challenge everything that you have always taken as truth.

However if you are willing to see Mindfulness as a way of life, one that is life changing once you commit to a sustained practice, then you will be able to experience the hidden gem that is Mindfulness.

What is the hidden gem of Mindfulness?

In life we get attached to people, to expectations of others, the way we want things to be and the way we want people to be with us. We find it difficult to let go and move on from situations and people who are not treating us as we want, preferring to spend our energy and life trying to make them how we want them to be.

Surely it's easier to let go of people and situations that do not serve us, even if they once did? In my experience the process of detaching from habits, from people in our lives can be one of the most challenging times.

If you are invested in security and certainty then you are on the wrong planet - Pema Chodron

 

We refuse to see that it's better to be alone than to be with people who perhaps make us feel less or drain our energy. What's more keeping hold of these unhealthy relationships, stops us from flowing in life, in moving forward, in opening ourselves to other experiences. And this is the saddest part of holding onto things and people due to fear of letting go.

So how does Mindfulness help with this?

Mindfulness teaches us how to live in the moment. Through the practice of Mindfulness we learn to reflect on the past but not live in it. 

When we explore and get to know our selves deeply, we start to understand why it is we are afraid to be alone or to let go of what no longer serves us. 

Mindfulness teaches us to live in the flow of life, without the need to control every situation, every outcome and every person who enters our life. 

As we practice, we learn to sit with ease even when we are struggling with a difficulty. We do this through our formal meditation practice and through our conscious awareness of what is going on in our mind. 

This is not an easy way of life when you first embark on Mindful living, it can kick up so much dust from your past but once the dust settles, you will find an inner peace that can be difficult to ever fully be disturbed again.

This is the hidden gem of Mindfulness. 

A woman's true Value by Jennifer Aniston

This morning I was taken in by the article written by Jennifer Aniston addressing her experience of being constantly objectified in the news. And while most of us women are not faced with the constant media attention, what we struggle with is mainstream societies view on women.

From a personal perspective I've always been a little out of the box even as a child and as such found trying to fit into this female role most frustrating. For me it's been the view that a woman's value is aligned to her external appearance. That somehow she is less worthy if she doesn't fit into a size 8, 10 or whatever the standard is today. Or that she doesn't wear the right clothes and make up. 

Just like Jennifer Aniston, I'm also fed up of listening to the constant reference to women as a "thing" to look at. Surely beauty is much more than skin and bones? After all isn't the body just a collection of organs covered with skin and bones? It's so ridiculous that it's laughable, yet so many women are sold by this view point.  

What's worse is that this objectification is often from women towards other women and that makes it more infuriating. In some ways it is understandable for men to be seeing women in this way, they are conditioned by society and don't know how it feels to be a woman. But when other women criticize and judge each other based on body shape, it is shameful. Don't get me wrong, there is no justification to objectify anyone, man or woman. My point is that if women are doing it to each other, how do we expect things to change?

The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. - Jennifer Aniston

Before you speak - think! - Words are damaging

As a mindfulness practitioner I like to think I help people raise awareness to the importance of mindful speech and how thoughtless words have an impact on others. Silly remarks about a girls appearance as she is growing up plays a huge part in how she values herself and can shape her self worth.

Yes we can tell a girl she is beautiful but when we say it, we must let them know that beauty is the whole person, not her body, not hair or clothes. Beauty is the mind, the compassion, the attitude and the capacity to be a loving being. 

We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.

The constant focus on what a woman looks like, her relationship status and her role in society is damaging. It needs to change and it needs to start with us women.

A message to all the "thin, so called beautiful women" - Get over yourself!

As a mother of three men I'm proud to say I've raised men that see women as equals. And from my experience, most men do not want women who are beautiful on the outside. Let's give men more credit than we do, not all men are superficial. If you are attracting men into your life that do not value you or see your worth past what you look like, then perhaps you should ask yourself why?

Right Speech, right view, right intention - from the Noble Eight Fold Path in Buddha's teachings.

Mindfulness and Self Awareness

Before I leave you thinking, what does any of this have to do with Mindfulness, let me explain. Mindfulness is about raising your awareness, it's about letting go of limiting beliefs because they all start and end in the mind. Mindfulness is about practicing being present in the moment and this requires letting the past be in the past. 

Mindfulness above all is about you becoming the best person you can be, about reaching a state where you are at peace with life and fully accept what is, this moment.

Through Mindfulness we see that we are all the same, we all have the same struggles in life. And putting others down to make ourselves feel better comes purely from an egotistic point of view and that damages us more than it damages anyone else.

So perhaps next time before you judge others, you can stop to ask yourself why?