December 21, 2007

8 Tips for Waking Up Over the Holidays

You've developed a nice meditation practice. You sit every day, you face the stresses and strains of daily life with calm and equanimity, and you feel that, finally, you're beginning to get some kind of handle on your patterns.

Then... you go home for Christmas. Or Christmas comes home to you. Either way, now more than ever a budding meditation practice can fall apart. But this is actually the very best time to keep your practice strong.

First, the disruption in your daily schedule will challenge your discipline. If you can keep your practice solid through this, it will be stronger than ever. Second, renewed contact with your family can bring up a lot of old emotional skeletons: what a great opportunity to work with awareness!

Here are 8 tips to help you make the most of it:

On the cushion:

1. Decide the night before when and where you're going to meditate the next day. Then do it. Early in the morning is best, as holiday schedules are unpredictable — best to get to it sooner. Bonus: meditating in the morning will set you up for a more mindful day.

2. Take your meditation cushion with you on overnight visits. For you, it supports your commitment; for others, it's a great conversation piece.

3. During overnight visits, let your hosts/guests know you meditate every day. It will be easier to excuse yourself to do your practice.

4. Adopt a really obvious pose, like sitting on the floor or facing a wall, if you sit in a non-private space while visitors are around. That way, if Uncle Ralph wanders in while you're meditating in the family room at 7am, he'll know not to disturb you.

Off the cushion:

5. Practice deep listening. This is especially beneficial when visiting chatty relatives. Imagine that your whole body becomes an ear, and feel the vibrations of what they are saying moving into and through you. Listen to more than their words: hear their tone, their body language. Most important: include in your attention your own inner responses.

6. When you get irritated, use the opportunity to practice sending and taking. Imagine you can take all the irritation in the world into you in one in-breath, leaving everyone else free of it. Then imagine putting all the nice things you enjoy into one out-breath, and give it all away to others.

7. Take a mindful walk every day. Whether alone or accompanied, open your senses to everything that's there: sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Give your walk your full attention.

8. Imagine every visit will be your last. The only thing we can really count on is impermanence: death can come to anyone at any time. Bearing this in mind can help you focus on what's truly important.

No comments: