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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mindfulness for the Holidays

by Steve Price

Running to the window, [Scrooge] opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious! (from the last chapter of “A Christmas Carol”). Why do so many of us view the holidays as if it were a root canal, looking forward to when it’s over? Stress, depression, frustration, disappointment—it all comes down to one thing: Expectations.

What’s an Expectation? 

It is a strong belief that something will happen, or that someone will or should do something. Expectations are based on something learned or experienced in the past, and projected into the future, and they have nothing to do with the present reality.

Through the practice of mindfulness, we can let go of the past and the future to experience the joy and peace available only in this moment. Hey, if Scrooge can do it, anyone can. It’s never too late to renew our relationship to our higher power and the higher power in everyone around us, even our ex spouses, our disowned siblings and the neighbor who calls the cops when we use our fireplace on a no burn day. Here are a few tips:

1. Stay present. It’s easy to get stuck in the past, either attaching to fond memories or dreading repeats of not-so-fond ones. Commit to letting go of old beliefs, starting with the thought the holidays suck. Establish a direct, moment-by-moment interaction with what’s happening right now. Look into the eyes of the Salvation Army volunteer ringing the bell outside the supermarket. Smell your great-uncle’s vintage cologne as he gives you a hug. Taste those green beans. Be aware of everything you’re thinking, doing, saying and feeling, and how you’re breathing. Presence is the best present you can give anyone, including yourself.

2. Let go of judgment. When you’re in the present moment, there is no comparing, analyzing or anticipating. Only in the here-and-now is it possible to accept yourself exactly as you are, and others as they are. Looking through the eyes of your heart, you will see, very clearly, that everyone, including you are doing the best they can. It’s impossible to judge and love at the same time. If you happen to notice yourself judging; don’t judge yourself for being judgmental. Simply notice it, say to yourself, “Hmm, that’s mildly interesting,” and drop back down into your heart.

3. Whenever you find yourself resisting something or someone, do the opposite. If at any point you feel your heart closing, keep it open, and open it even wider. Recent studies show stress isn’t necessarily harmful; it’s our negative perception of it that causes problems. People who report a lot of stress in their lives but don’t view it as detrimental actually live longer than those who report very little stress but judge it to be bad. If you can relax with what is, your blood vessels, instead of contracting, stay open.
The instant you feel resistance, relax your heart, and breathe.

With all the anxiety and emotional intensity that can arise during the holidays, it can be especially challenging for those in recovery. This is the time to go deeper into personal power, courage, and connection to your own divinity. It’s also a perfect time of year to ask for help. There are as many or people out there who would love to give their time, compassion and generosity as there are people who need it. By asking for and accepting someone’s help, you’re giving them a gift. This isn’t co-dependence; this is interdependence, which is how the universe works. Barbra Streisand was right when she sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
According to ancient masters from various traditions, the mind is located in the heart. This holiday season, focus there, and you’ll be surprised how things unfold. Like Scrooge, we all have the ability to throw open the windows, clear our minds, and be jovial.

Steve Price manages and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center in Scottsdale. The center offers yoga, meditation, book studies, recovery series, community events and other ways to calm the mind and open the heart. To learn more, visit www.amindfulnesslifecenter.com.