by Carolyn McCarthy
In my favorite holiday movie, Home for the Holidays, single mother Claudia Larson (the fabulous Holly Hunter) is living the full catastrophe. In the span of 24 hours, she gets fired, kisses her (now former) boss, and comes down with a cold. She’s headed to visit her family for Thanksgiving, and her teenage daughter has ditched her in favor of her boyfriend. And, on top of it all, it’s freezing, and she has lost her coat. Directed by Jodie Foster and featuring a star-studded cast, it’s a hilarious portrayal of how difficult – and rewarding – the holidays can be.
During the holidays, everything can become more stressful: shopping, cooking, traveling; what to wear, say, bring. Being with our family can put it over the top. As spiritual teacher Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
Through all the challenges that Claudia faces, her daughter keeps her steady: “Just float, Mom.” She’s referring to a recent vacation, where the two of them found peace by snorkeling. By tapping into the connection with the water, her daughter, and the fish, Claudia remembers to breathe.
What does “just float” look like for you? How can we keep ourselves grounded, present, and breathing in times of holiday stress? Whether you’re off to an office party or a family gathering, in addition to food and gifts, why not pack a practice?
Choose Your Favorite
I invite you to give yourself a gift: choose your favorite practice and bring it everywhere. Maybe it’s Two Feet and a Breath. Maybe it’s R.A.I.N. or STOP. Check out our Practice page for a list of simple, accessible options. You don’t need them all. Just choose one -- and use it.
When Aunt Mary drops the turkey (oops), or you mom comments on your outfit (again), or the conversation turns to politics (eek!) – use your practice. Then notice how you feel.
Stressful times are a fantastic opportunity to see the benefits of regular practice. The more agitated we are, the more difficult it becomes to turn to these practices. But if we’ve been doing them all along, during calm and stress alike, we’re better able to draw on them when we need them most.
Take a Time Out
After subjecting your body to the indignities of holiday travel and countless mountainous meals, give it some nourishing attention with a guided Body Scan Meditation. MNW’s website offers guided Body Scans of varying lengths, from 10 – 40 minutes. You can access more MNW recordings, as well as myriad other guided meditations from practitioners all over the world, through the free Insight Timer app.
Of course, a sweet time out is easily had no matter where you are: Go outside! If you’ve attended one of MNW’s Days of Mindfulness or residential retreats, perhaps you’ve experienced a Sense & Savor walk. Allow yourself – wherever you are – to let your senses lead. Take in the sky. Visit a tree. Feel the air on your skin. Notice temperature, light, sensation. Walk slowly, listening to sounds, noticing the play of light on the sidewalk or the sound of the cars in the street. If you’re visiting your childhood home, this is a great time to see the place through those childhood eyes. Can you recapture some of that openness, and curiosity? What wonders can you find?
Keep It Simple
All these tools and techniques are great, but you don’t need them to be mindful. Simply tune in to whatever’s happening, right now, and offer it your kind attention. Choose your favorite anchor:
- · Soles of the feet
- · Palms of the hands
- · Feeling of breath in the body
- · Sounds and listening
- · A beautiful object in the room
Simply experience your anchor. You can touch in to it any time. It’s always there with you, whether you’re washing dishes, watching the game, or eating (another!) piece of pie.
Mindfulness is not just about relaxation or helping us feel calm. It’s also about being more authentic, connected, and alive. By using these practices over the holidays, you might find that you’re better able to engage in a challenging conversation, stand up for what you believe, really listen to your friends and family, or reveal more of who you are.
Watching Claudia Larson travel on crowded airplanes, sleep in her childhood bedroom, and navigate siblings, in-laws, old boyfriends, unusual aunts, dietary restrictions, and aging parents makes me marvel: How do we do it? Year after year? Are we crazy?!? Maybe a little. (Okay, maybe a lot.) But, like all the holiday classics, Home for the Holidays shows us that amidst the holiday slog, there are moments of light and wonder, those deep, sweet connections that keep us coming back.
All of us at Mindfulness Northwest wish you peace, ease, and joy!