D. Feeney

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Mindfulness during the Holidays

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Dealing with Holiday stresses through Mindfulness

I’m sitting in my sweats scrolling social media, and my mood sinks further down with each post I see.   Looking at the pictures of joyful families sharing holiday traditions who look truly happy when the feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and sadness become very real.  Why when we see what looks like “the perfect” experience, do we assume that’s not our experience?  Why when we compare ourselves, do we perceive our experience to be less then?  So many of us are always in a state of anticipation.  Anticipating what’s next and never seeing what is.  It’s hard to enjoy our own experiences when we are always waiting for what’s next or keeping an eye on what’s happening on the other side of the picture.  And it seems as if this time of year, our anticipation and expectations are magnified, which magnifies our response to them.  Being able to be present in our experiences, being in the moment, being mindful and accepting our experiences as enough can fill those spaces of sadness with peace and serenity.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and we were both expressing our shock that Thanksgiving is in just two weeks.  We both asked where time had gone.  I literally feel like I lost the last six months. While I know there has been a lot going on in the last six months, and a LOT of good things, I feel like I have lost them!  I am always in anticipation of getting somewhere and not sure where that somewhere is and if I will know when I get there.  Watching others and comparing myself brings these feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and sadness, because I am not present in my own life.  Being “mindful,” is “commitment to reside as best one can from moment to moment in awareness with an open heart, a spacious, non-judging, non-reactive mind, and without trying to get anywhere” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, 2003). 

In my past I would use alcohol to live out my fantasy of the picture-perfect holiday.  When I drank, I could create the illusion of the Rockwell Thanksgiving on the cover of Life magazine.  I always felt like I was on the outside, watching through a window at everyone else enjoying themselves and alcohol helped me feel like I was inside the room. But it was an illusion; it wasn’t real.  I was never in the moment and thanks to the alcohol, rarely remember the moments.  So how do I stop watching through the window and join the party? It starts by recognizing and accepting that I already am!  I am in the room, I am part of the experience, it is my experience and it is enough!

Mindfulness is being in the present.  While it makes sense, it’s not something we are accustomed to do.  As a therapist I am very focused on goals.  Helping my clients define their goals and developing a path to achieve them.  Mindfulness is inherently a “non-striving” process.  Its not what were striving for, but what we have.  Looking around me and accepting what I have with an open mind and heart.  So, as I sit here in my sweats scrolling through social media pages, I am mindful of the peace I feel sitting inside under a blanket, in my favorite sweats on this cold fall day.  Appreciating the joy that the pictures bring me and the smiles that make me happy.  I look around and see the peace of the moment instead of the fear that I am missing out on something. 

As has been said, “your going to miss these days”. If we are present everyday, we will learn something every day.  If we are not present, we will miss the lessons.  One of my favorite sayings from Gary Zukav is the power of our perceptions.  If we view the universe through a negative lens, we only see what it takes. If we see the universe through a positive lens, we will see all it has to give.  If we perceive ourselves as victims, we will continue to be victimized, if we see ourselves as students, it will continue to learn.  But to see and learn the lessons, we must be present in today.

So how can Mindfulness help you survive the holiday?  Be present, have an open heart, experience the smells, the lights, the children, the joy and the LOVE.  Truly experience it, breathe it in and hold onto it.  Imprint in into your memory so you can relive it and smile at the memory. Even the difficult ones, they are lessons you need to learn.  Tomorrow will have a whole new set of experiences, save those for tomorrow, cherish the ones you are experiencing today!