Okay guys. Here’s the thing.
The holiday crazies didn’t really hit me until today.
I successfully avoided the long lines and aggressive “me-first” vibes of the mall on Black Friday by doing the majority of my shopping in one giant order online. (Side note: If you’re looking for unique and fun gift ideas, hit up Uncommon Goods. They’re awesome. They even have a “gift finder” function for people like me who struggle with gift ideas. Anyway.)
I passively enjoyed the Mariah Carey sounds coming from the speakers at Trader Joe’s and actively enjoyed the new Starbucks holiday cup designs. (Sometimes joy comes from the little things, you know?)
I sang in three Christmas concerts over the weekend and, despite it being a tiring series of long rehearsal and performance days, the main emotion I experienced was gratitude to be surrounded by great music and wonderful friends.
Overall, I was feeling pretty spirited and upbeat without taking much notice of the anxiety, depression, and general chaos that so many people grapple with during the holidays.
That was, until this morning, when I entered my usually quiet local Post Office and was greeted by a rather disturbing scene.
First, there was the line out the door.
Okay, whatever. I can deal with that. I have time.
Then, there were the sounds of an agitated postal employee whose chosen method of calming himself was singing Christmas songs at the top of his lungs in between helping customers.
Okay, weird, but whatever floats your boat, dude.
Next, there was the man who forgot to have his tracking number printed out, and decided to tackle this quandary by cutting the line, shouting at all three employees, and angrily calling his wife whilst still standing at the front of the entire line of disconcerted patrons.
Yikes. I started feel the negative energy of the scene around me and the discomfort of the other customers creep into my aura as an unwelcome guest.
And just like that, my sparkly vision of the holiday season came crashing down around me and I realized just how much craziness, impatience, and discomfort the world is experiencing right now.
I was hit with the understanding that humanity as a whole is more than a little off balance these days. The generally disconnected, divided, and discordant state of humanity seems to be placed under a magnifying glass during the holidays, and the result is not pretty.
The irony of it all is that, at its core, the holiday season is about peace, reverence, and shared humanity. The themes of this time of year do not have to be specific to any one faith or cultural tradition, as their similarities are greater than their differences. Each historic tale celebrated in the year’s latter months is anchored in hope. Joy. Triumph. Anticipation of good things to come.
We are a world starved for the peace of those stories. We are a world desperate for that joy.
We are a world yearning for that love. But we won’t find what we’re looking for if we continue mindlessly indulging in the chaos of daily life.
I think our biggest hindrance is that we are under the impression that peace, joy, and love are found externally. We blindly scrape for them outside of ourselves instead of taking the tender journey inward.
But peace, joy, and love come from within.
We must go inward to find the peace and love that lie eternally and unchangeably within our souls. Because without tapping into that quiet place inside, we have no means of bringing it to the world outside. We do not have the tools to heal the world unless we first heal ourselves.
With these sentiments in my heart, and in an effort to bring our world a little closer to peace this holiday season, I have created three meditations to help you reset, de-stress, and reconnect with your soul. My intention is to remind you of your inner peace, joy, and love over the course of the next few weeks so that you can bring the highest version of yourself to your loved ones and to the world.
This first meditation is for the moments when you feel burdened, anxious, or starved for peace. It will remind you that what you are searching for was inside you all along, and that you can return to it at anytime. Enjoy, sweet one.
Meditation #1: Return to the Peace of the Soul
Target: This meditation will help you to reconnect with that ever-present but seemingly elusive place inside your heart that is quiet, peaceful, and aligned. Practice this meditation when you are feeling unbalanced, out of touch, or disconnected from your Highest Self.
Setting Up: Find yourself in a comfortable cross-legged position. I like to place a pillow behind me so that I don’t have to worry about back, shoulder, or neck tension distracting me from my meditation. For added coziness, I wrap myself in a blanket and place a second blanket in my lap. Being bundled up makes me feel like I’m in my own personal nest, safe from external distractions.
Once you are settled, close your eyes and begin to bring your focus inward. Notice what sensations your body is experiencing without identifying with those sensations. For example, if you are feeling jittery and anxious, lovingly say to yourself “I am experiencing anxiety.” By framing anxiety as an experience rather than a part of your identity (i.e. “I have anxiety,”) you acknowledge that it is not permanent, but simply your body’s response to over-stimulation.
After you have scanned your body and taken non-judgmental notice of what it is experiencing, draw your attention to your breath. Observe its quality and length. Gradually begin to regulate your breathing to inhale for a count of 5, hold briefly, and exhale for a count of 8. Don’t get too caught up in counting seconds, but focus on tapping into a healing, relaxing breath in which your exhale is slightly longer than your inhale.
The Mantra: After several rounds of in for 5, out for 8, begin to incorporate the following mantra: (inhale) “I am at peace,” (exhale) “I am love.” Repeat this pattern with each inhale and exhale for 3-10 minutes. If your mind wanders away from the mantra, lovingly guide it back without judgment or frustration. Know that simply by training your mind to gently return to your breath and mantra, you are giving it a deeply appreciated rest and reset. When you are finished, open your eyes. Rejoice. You have returned to the seat of your soul, eternally serene, soft, and loving. Remember this feeling as you go about the rest of your day, and take comfort knowing that it is always available to you.
Other meditation tips:
*To time my meditations, I use my Apple Watch. I make sure it is on Do Not Disturb before I begin so that I’m not distracted by incoming messages. Then, I set my timer for 10 minutes.
*Try not to get too hung up on the length of your meditation. Maybe you start with three minutes a day. You may find that after a few days or weeks, you are ready to increase to five minutes. Maybe eventually it becomes ten, twenty, even thirty. Go slow. Where you are right now is perfect.
*I want to reiterate the deliciousness of wrapping yourself up in a blanket while you meditate. I find it so comforting to be in a space that’s entirely my own. I relish the feeling of being at home with myself.
*While these meditations are designed to be applicable at anytime during your day, I want to quickly address my personal timeline for daily meditation in case you aren’t sure what the “right” time is to meditate. The “right” time to meditate is whenever you feel you need it. Many people prefer to meditate first thing when they wake up, but I personally prefer to shake myself awake before meditating. I like to get up, brush my teeth, make a coffee or tea, and maybe do a few yoga stretches before I come to stillness. I find that getting out of my sleep-mind brings me greater receptivity to the insights that can come through in meditation. I also enjoy mid-day meditations, as they help me reset any negative thinking or stress that may have been building up throughout the morning and early afternoon.
*Don’t get too caught up in the details. What I’m offering here are not rules, but guidelines. If anything doesn’t resonate, leave it out. If a different mantra naturally comes to you in your meditation, follow where it leads you. Doing these meditations “correctly” is not nearly as important as the mere fact that you have taken the time out of your day to reconnect, care for yourself, and align.
*I like to journal after my meditations. Even if it’s just jotting down 1-2 sentences, I find that this is a helpful way to consolidate my experience. If fresh perspectives or new insights came through, document them. If you noticed something new about your breathing or your mind’s tendencies, take note. By tying up your experience in writing, you will return to your day focused and refreshed.
*Enjoy. Give thanks for the precious moments you spend with yourself and your breath. Do not underestimate the power of giving yourself this time. Your soul is rejoicing.
Stay tuned for Meditation #2, coming next week! Love to you, beautiful soul.