It’s that time of the year again. The holidays are upon us and many of us will undoubtedly be saying, “Where did the year go?” or, “I can’t believe it is time for the holidays again.” And as we recount the holidays of the last few years, what do we actually recall? What mattered?
For this holiday season, I am invoking the commitment to spend my time being as present as possible. That means that I am going to be working on being aware of the moment at hand, observing, and being present, here and now. It is so easy to get checked in with my thoughts that ultimately lead, one thought to another, and soon I am on the train of thoughts leading down the tracks of a future fear or worry. These thoughts often lead to an adrenaline dumping response such as, “I have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done” or “I wish I didn’t have to do this.” Or, “How will I get it all done?” Those thoughts, thoughts of worry and anxiety of the future, take my moments from the here and now and carry me off on a train that leads me down the track of nowhere that will bring peace of mind or peace in the moment.
Or we might get on the train of the past, thoughts with family gatherings bringing up our old tapes and family dynamics, past family wounds, thought of missing a certain loved one as we remember when they were here. Or it may be the thoughts about how we wish our family unit looked more like others. We may find ourselves on the train of thoughts playing out the narratives that we imagine will play out and how we plan to respond if Aunt Jo dare say just one more thing about my weight again. But without a doubt, getting on that train, past or future, takes me from my moment here and now. It takes me away from the present now. And the present is all I have and it is where peace of mind can be found. So how does one keep themselves present in the here and how?
1st. Be aware, observing thoughts and feelings and noticing the thoughts and feelings. Start to notice when I get on the train of the past or the future rather than being present right here and right now. Realize we are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. Nor are our thoughts or our feelings the fact. They are just thoughts and feelings.
2nd. Go into moments of here and now with no expectations. Expectations often come from judgments. If I assume I know what is good or bad, (which is a label and a judgment) then I also want something to be a certain way. If I just notice what is here and now and observe it, but don’t label it as good or bad, I can be in the moment and participate in that moment fully. Through fully participating we can actually remember what we did during that moment because we weren’t on a train of thoughts around the past or the future. Nor were we busy rejecting our moment or attaching to a “high” moment because we wanted something to go a certain way. Just be in the moment, observe it, and neutrally participate in it. Just as the highs come, so do the lows, but if we cannot be partial to them, we can just let ourselves be in the moment.
3rd. Take time during this season to have your own quiet time, your own meditation time, as well as your own self-care. Keep yourself revive and nourished so you stay energized and able to manage the stress of the holiday season. Self-care is more necessary when time and activities are escalated. Monitor your sleep, your food intake, your exercise and keep yourself from being vulnerable. If we are less vulnerable we have the energy and the skills to manage our stress in a much more effective way.
4th. Each day find something to dwell in gratitude about. Appreciating what we have, dwelling on our positive things can shift our mood and our perspectives. Find those little moments that you can enjoy and sit in them, relishing them.
And finally, just be “home” for the holidays in the here and now. No matter where you are at, be present, observe, notice. Use your senses to keep you present in your moment - smell the scents, hear the sounds, taste the foods, feel the textures, watch the scenery playing out in front of you. Make a choice to “really be home” for the holidays and you may find the holidays to be more laid back, easy going, and enjoyable than ever before. And you might actually remember the season as you walked solidly through each moment. Here’s to your moments this season. And by the way, when Aunt Jo make the comment about your weight, notice the thoughts you have, notice the feelings you have. And then let them go, they are just thoughts, they are just feelings. We don’t have to do anything with them when they arise. Go back to being present in the moment.