Dear Lovely Health Warrior,
I have a special treat for you this month! No, sorry, I won’t be hand-delivering chocolate bon-bons to each of you (although I did post a lovely sweet recipe next door to this blog post in case you have a hankering for something sweet). No, my treat for you is WAY better – it’s a distilled, practical, easy-to-follow, guest blog post from my dear friend Catherine Carpenter, transformational coach and meditation instructor, about how to survive the holiday season (and life beyond the holidays) with your nerves and sanity intact.
It’s good stuff, and I’m so excited to share it with you.
For the record, Catherine and I have been friends for 20 years, and she actually married my husband and me! For anyone who wants to get started with meditation or deepen her practice, Catherine is your woman (check out her upcoming meditation series beginning in January).
Surviving the Holidays, Calm & Intact, by Dr. Catherine Carpenter
Even if you are not a consistent meditator there are small things you can do that will destress you and bring more calm and even joy into your life, both during the holiday season and beyond.
It seems the people we love the most are often the ones who can trigger us the easiest. How coincidental that we tend to spend more time with these people during the holiday season? And if the busyness of holiday social events weren’t enough, most of us are also working, buying gifts for the people on our list, preparing the food we’re responsible for, traveling, and oh! Did I mention it is also the time of year with the least amount of daylight? So we’re also tired and often pushed to our limits. It’s no wonder the holidays are filled with opportunities to stress out.
Breathe & Center Yourself
When you feel the stress beginning to mount, take a time out to breathe and center yourself. Find 5-10 minutes to sit quietly. Start with three soft belly breaths. The easiest way to breathe is to say to yourself, “soft” on the in-breath and “belly” on the out-breath. You should feel yourself expanding horizontally on the in-breath and contracting in your lower abs (bringing them in towards your spinal column) as you breath out. Go ahead, close your eyes and try this, nice and slow, three times, right now. I’ll wait. Taking a moment to do three, slow breaths brings you back to your center and calms you. Try this several times a day to stay centered.
Tune into the Felt Sensation of the Breath, Emotions, Thoughts, & Images
If you are ready for a little advanced practice, try tuning into the felt sensation of the breath, the emotion, the thoughts, and images. This is the way we liberate ourselves from our thoughts and feelings. Track the felt sensation — the quality, where it is in your body, and the strength. Just observe as it flows, changes, and then recedes. Notice how the emotions rise and fall like a wave. Similar to the breath, there is expansion and contraction. Ride the wave, neither suppressing it nor fanning it with your thoughts — just sit with it as it rises and falls.
Embrace the beauty of this season with gratitude. Offering gratitude starts an inner conversation of thanks and devotion for the good things in life. On the other side is the response, bringing you more good things to be grateful for. Look around you and notice things anew: The way the light reflects more magically, softly, almost mystically than other times of the year. A snowflake…a dried leaf…the shapes of trees reaching towards the light in all their glory. Notice and give gratitude—right now—for this gift of breath in this very moment.
I love this small gratitude practice by Deepak Chopra. Have in mind three things to be grateful for — people, events, or nature:
Visualize the first thing you are grateful for. You can say the words, thank you, if you feel comfortable starting that way but the real key is feeling. Let the gratitude come from your heart — it’s a warm gentle sensation that brings a smile. Now, imagine that what you are grateful for (person, moment, nature) is aware of your thanks. See it smiling back at you, shimmering with the same warm feeling. Thanks has been received and welcomed.
After a moment go to the second thing and give thanks for it and see it receive your thanks — then do the same with the third thing you are grateful for. You have successfully started the flow of grace. When it is alive and flowing it works like a feedback loop.
This is the goal: we become our meditation — peacefully, loving, in present moment awareness.
In love & service,
Catherine (& Claudine)
Catherine Carpenter, D.Min. is a coach and meditation instructor. She is offering a six week class beginning January 11, 2018 and also facilitates a once a week Drop In Meditation. For more information see www.catherinecarpenter.com.