3 Helpful Tips for Practicing Mindfulness During the Holiday Season December 12 2014

During the holiday season we can easily get caught up in all of the things we "need" to do. Because we are constantly giving to others it becomes easy to forget about ourselves. There's a saying among yogis: "From the second we take birth, human beings begin to race towards their death without looking back." How can we find pleasure in the simple moment of just being? Even when we are late, or when we are stuck in traffic, how can we savor each moment? Knowing how to take advantage of these small moments becomes practice for how we approach the larger ones.

A practice in mindfulness can help us navigate through the easy and the difficult moments in life. Mindfulness helps us witness our reactions—to meet them head on—so that when they occur we can choose how or if to react. This fleeting moment of mindfulness can be the difference in a "good " day or a "bad" one.

A mindfulness "practice" is just that. Something that allows you to "practice" mindfulness. It can be anything you want.  Brushing your teeth. Massaging your scalp, hands or feet. It can be how you greet your loved ones or even how you make love. It means being present for every moment without distracting yourself. And when you do get distracted noticing how you react. If you practice enough, you will be able to see your reactions before they even start to simmer or jump, and you will slowly gain strength in choosing how you take in each moment.

With this knowledge you will be able to recognize when you need rest, when you need a hug, and when you can give one. You'll be able to tell the difference between real living and just going through the motions.

Here are 3 tips for practicing mindfulness:

  1. The next time you see your significant other, a dear friend, your child or a family member, hold them. Really hold them. Notice their warmth. Notice their smell. Notice the quality of their embrace, and notice your own. Let it go on for as long as you like and tell me if you "notice" anything.

  2. The next time you eat, turn off all distractions. No phone, computer, television or reading material. Eat one bite at a time and chew your food slowly and completely without talking to anyone. Don't take another bite until you've completely finished the first. Put the spoon down in between bites and dive into the sensations. As I was taught and have found to be true, eating is possibly one of the most sensual acts that we unconsciously perform daily. Here, we actually take something into our bodies and it becomes part of us. You may find with this practice you won't need to eat as much as you previously did. You might be amazed at how rushed you used to be.

  3. Spend some time looking at nature. Whether it's a plant in your home or apartment or the 300-year-old tree in the local park, take a moment to appreciate all living things. Start to notice the deep connection you have with each living thing. If you consider we are all made of the same matter, we are really more kindred than different!

-Sifu Thomas Leverett