It’s the holiday season, which often means tons of decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, and stressing (and of course a little singing, smiling, and socializing in between). Rarely during all of this commotion do we set aside the time to take a few minutes for ourselves and relax our mind and body. Instead, we go through the pre-holiday days on high stress mode, nonstop running around in order to prepare for a few days of holiday fun, which are generally fun but never end up being all that relaxing.
Meditation is the perfect practice to help keep those stress levels down and actually add some peace to your day rather than just singing about it. Meditation is a natural destresser that enhances energy and lowers blood pressure…perfect for anytime of the year, but particularly during the holiday season when money and constant activity may have us stressed out and worn down, and that stress in combination with numerous holiday fatty foods may have our blood pressure levels rising.
The thought of sitting still and quieting the mind may seem a little daunting, but many find that after a few sessions, they quickly learn to love meditation. The beauty of meditation is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a yoga guru or Buddhist monk or Olympic athlete to meditate. Anyone, no matter what physical or mental condition they may be in, can meditate.
If you’re new to meditating, use these simple tips to help get you started.
Choose a quiet spot: It helps to find a place that is relatively quiet and where you can be alone. Even the most frequent meditators get distracted. By choosing a quiet place where you’re not likely to be interrupted, it’s easier to stay on track and free your mind from any outside distractions. While one can meditate anywhere, particularly for beginners, it’s best to choose a peaceful atmosphere, free of music, loud noises, and people. Music should be turned off, and it also helps to dim the lights.
Establish a comfortable seated position: It’s important to make yourself comfortable at the outset of a meditation session so that it’s easier for your body to remain still throughout the remainder of the practice. It’s best to wear loose, comfortable clothing, and to choose a seated position that is most comfortable for you. Try sitting on the edge of folded pillow to help maintain a comfortable upright position that allows you to relax your knees on the floor and keep the spine straight. Simply place the palms of your hands on to the lap and close the eyes. Refrain from lying down, as this will decrease awareness and may induce sleep.
Begin with a breathing practice: It can be hard to immediately go into a peaceful meditation after our minds have been engaged all day. It helps to start with a breathing practice. Begin by inhaling and exhaling through the nose. After a few breathes, begin to deepen the inhalations and elongate the exhalations. Bring the mind to the breathe, having it solely focus on the present moment of inhaling and exhaling the oxygen around you. You can also try experimenting with other breathing techniques, such as Naddi Suddhi and Kapaalabhaati.
Focus the mind: After an initial breathing warm-up, begin to quiet the mind. As thoughts start to enter the mind, become a silent observer of those thoughts, simply letting them flow right back out of the mind without getting involved or engaging in any one thought. As you detach yourself from your thoughts, you will begin to notice a sense of inner peace. Bring your awareness to this peace, relaxing and calming the mind and body. You may find it difficult to remain disconnected from your thoughts. Know that this is natural and something that everyone struggles with. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated, but instead become aware that this is part of the process of meditating. Becoming frustrated will only turn meditation from a de-stressful practice to one that is stressful. Meditation is a practice of de-cluttering and calming the mind, but this process isn’t easy, as our minds are trained to constantly be active. If you begin to notice that your thoughts are wandering, simply bring your attention back to your breathe. You can also experiment with repeating a mantra, such as om shanti (which symbolizes peace).
Meditation can be utilized anytime of the day, allowing both the mind and body to calm down and come into the present moment. Particularly during the holiday season, our minds are often out wandering into the future, rather than enjoying the present moment in which we are living.
I like to meditate for 15 minutes each morning in order to start my day off in a mindful manner. Meditation is also nice way to wind down in the evenings after work/class/errands, allowing yourself to leave behind any stress that comes from the day’s activities. Give yourself some “you time” this holiday season by setting aside a time each day to meditate. This will help you to maintain your sanity and keep your mind calm. You may even find yourself falling in love with the practice and continuing it into the new year. However, remember that mastering the mind takes time, so don’t get discouraged and try to stick with it. Meditation is truly beneficial for both your inner and outer health.