by Michael Kelberer
For many, the experience of the holiday season can be an intense mixture of the pleasant and unpleasant. Competing for our attention are the near constant jingle jangle of consumerism and the joy of gift-giving, the warmth and the complexity of family connection, the demands and the blessings of spiritual practices – it can be easy to feel disconnected and adrift. The practices of mindfulness and gratitude can reconnect us to what’s firm and real and enduring. They can bring us home.
With mindfulness, we can ground ourselves in our home in the moment. This moment. The only place where things are in fact real. And our present home is available anytime: two feet on the ground and a slow breath will bring us there. This is not to “escape from” the swirl of activity and emotions, but rather to not get carried too far away by them.
With mindfulness, we can avoid making the unpleasant things worse. We remember that while the noise and the demands are real, we can choose to not add additional suffering with stories about them. In the wisdom of our own home, we can choose not to throw the second (and third) dart.
With mindfulness, we can choose where to place our attention, we can return home to what nourishes us. Our breath. The friends and family members who support and love us. The things we are grateful for.
Gratitude helps us remember what's truly important to us and it turns out one of the most important things to humans is to connect. To connect with our best selves and to connect with others. Research has shown it helps with our mental health in ways similar to mindfulness but also helps us to relate to others with empathy, overcome our own past challenges and traumas, engage in self care more consistently, and even sleep better. An apt set of benefits for the holiday season!
Here are two ways to practice gratitude. One is creating a gratitude list and then referring to it whenever you need a nourishment break from the overwhelm. A second involves cultivating an attitude of gratitude. A willingness to meet and greet whatever shows up in our lives knowing, as Rumi puts it, that “each has been sent as a gift from beyond.” (See Mindful Poetry, below)
Gratitude advocate Br. David Steindl-Rast suggests that we can cultivate a deep attitude of gratefulness for everything in our lives. We've posted our favorite teaching of Br. David's put to music and images by the film maker Louie Schwartzberg HERE and Br. David's Gratefulness.org website is a cornucopia of resources.
The Greater Good Science Foundation has a wonderful section on gratitude science and practice, which they call a "key to well-being" and don't miss their wonderful lab of practices "Greater Good in Action"
Have a mindful, grateful holiday season everyone!