Did you ever think that the end of life could be just like the day after Christmas? You get to the other side and say, “What was that all about?”
The holiday season is a micro version of our lives. During most of the year, we run from meeting to meeting, grab some groceries, pick up the kids, drop the dog at the vet, then hit the front door at the end of the day and collapse into a chair with a huge sigh.
Christmas is the same. Write the holiday greeting cards, buy the gifts, wrap the gifts, decorate the tree, then onto to the party, and then the next. Did I mention get to the hairdresser?
Can we live with chaos all around us and still find peace?
Yes, Virginia, there is a way.
First, accept that the demands upon us, and upon our time, will always be there. They may change their tune a little, but we are always dancing to the music. The trick is to find peace in the midst of all the noise.
Buddhists tell us that peace comes from within. That means peace is always accessible to us. We can find it and we can feel it, even at the height of the most frantic time of the year.
When our daughters were small and I was working like a mad woman, I learned to meditate. Our house was old and short of space, and so, while the girls played hockey in the hall and fired pucks at the bedroom door, I meditated.
Somehow I managed to get beyond the racket and anchor myself internally. When I emerged from my meditation – and found the dog had thrown up everywhere – it didn’t bother me near as much as it could have.
In the same way, finding peace in the midst of the holiday season uproar will help us access those feelings of calm throughout the rest of the year.
You don’t have to learn to meditate, but you can learn to let it all go, relax and be in the moment. Each slow breath, the deep inhalation and exhalation, is cleansing, bringing you into the present moment.
Are We There Yet?
If we always want to be somewhere else or be someone else, we lose sight of the fact that “peace is in the present.” As Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist says, “When people are not in the moment, they are not there to know they’re not there!”
Get to know yourself and what gives you energy to get to the peace of living in the moment.
Pay attention to nature
Stop and admire the sunset, watch a flock of birds, or marvel at the tenacity of marching ants and bring yourself back into the present. Make it a daily practice to spend time in nature appreciating what you see, hear and smell. I find it takes me one full block on a walk to finally let go – but it always comes.
Don’t you just hate people who judge! LOL
Seriously, every time you are critical of yourself or someone else, anxiety reaches out and grabs you. Focus on your own sphere of influence. As Quebecers say, ‘mind your own onions.’ Each time you mentally cross the fence into another’s yard, remind yourself you’re trespassing on someone else’s property. Visualize yourself firmly closing the gate on their yard as you walk back to relax in the lounge chair in your space.
Stop and Smell the Oranges
Moses Chao, professor of neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine says, “When you are depressed or under stress, your brain’s production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) plummets.” This protein encourages neurons that are linked to mood. Anything unexpected, such as smelling an orange blossom, can raise your BDNF.
Concentrate on sounds so you are really listening and enjoy the stimulation that comes from using all those nerve endings in your lips, face, fingertips, and feet. Slow down and take time to feel the texture of your food on your tongue. Eat some of that Christmas dessert, but rather than wolfing it down guiltily, eat it with gust, relishing every morsel!
Keeping it Now
I have always had a bad habit of zoning out and being “mindless.” When my kids were little they used to say, “Earth to Mom. Come in please.” It takes discipline to focus on the present, but it can be accomplished by noticing new things, says Jay Dixit, in an article in “Psychology Today” magazine. Seeing the world through this “beginner’s mind” will keep you from taking the world for granted. Watching to see what is changing all the time keeps you present. The more you observe, the more you see.
All of us will get down and that is OK. Just as I learned to meditate in the midst of my children playing hall hockey, we can still be at peace when things go astray. Life will drop a lump of coal into your stocking from time to time. You can count on it. Just remember there is always a peaceful place to be found.
Accept the circumstances, even when they seem unbearable. Resistance will only amplify the problem. “What you think about what you think” can either take you deeper into despair, or help you dig out of the hole.
Being unhappy about being unhappy is destructive. Your mind is like your biceps; it needs a regular workout too! Train your brain, and it will be strong enough to go to the present moment when bad things happen. You will be able to say to yourself, “this too shall pass.”
The most interesting thing about living in the present is that when we are “there” we don’t want to be anywhere else – it feels so-o-o flipping good. It’s how we’d like to feel when Christmas is over. I gave from the heart and loved enjoying time with my family and friends. And just like Christmas — as you turn the last pages of your life, you want to know you lived every moment to its fullest. It is an exhilarating idea, and it can be a reality that can achieve through awareness.
Are you with me now?