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How to stay mindful, this holiday season!

I remember when I was little, living in Tehran, our lives as children were simple and empty of most gift giving, toys and stuff in general. I think it was like that in most places but specially in that decade when there was war between my country and a next door country, we were considered lucky if we got our bottle of milk every morning! Let alone luxury of having stuff. When it was our New Year celebration, once a year, on the first day of spring equinox, we would receive money that was carefully placed in-between pages of an old Hafez or Rumi book for months and blessed by our grandparents. Once you were lucky enough to receive this precious, blessed abundance you were then told to save it for future education!! I am not saying that was right or wrong, trust me, it made many of us want materialistic stuff we could not have then...I do believe there must a balance.

Now that I am 37, living in a consumerist western country, I can not help but reflect back on what it means to celebrate a holiday focused on consumerism?! If we think about it and reflect on Christmas, Hunnukka or any other holiday you will be celebrating this season, you will soon realize that your ancestors were not celebrating to give or get stuff!! Meaningless stuff that was made by another's suffering and which will most likely end up in the landfill!! They were celebrating for joy, for connection to others to their family members, they were celebrating light in the dark of winter...and they gave presents that were meaningful, maybe handmade by them or others the knew! How beautiful!

We can definitely do this as well if we choose to. If we choose to look outside of the box our society and the big corporations want us to stay in. There are plenty of ways to do this but there is a great movement of great people who care, they care about Mother Earth, and about their communities. Look for Christmas markets, local shops and handcrafted artists.I was just speaking to my barista at the coffee shop I always go to in Caledon and she was just telling me how she is creating clay bowels and useful clay art for everyone this Christmas! Incredible!

At Modo Yoga Brampton we are committed to source every product we sell, from local made, sustainable and small companies from the most natural material based yoga mats to bamboo based clothing made in California or B.C and not china!

Additionally, we want to give you a few tips on how to stay grounded and mindful this holiday season while you shop or visit family!!

Engage in Gratitude

The holiday season can bring out the best or worst in people. Family and friend Samskaras (past incidents) can bring memories up that are not all too pleasant. Rather than engaging in the all-too-familiar holiday stressors, take a step back from the situation. Remember what this time of year is all about. We aren’t gathered together to spit political disagreements or petty remarks (you can save that for a random Tuesday). It can be hard, but allowing yourself to look at the situation from a place of love and gratitude will recenter your mind.

Count your blessings, too. It’s likely the person you’re feuding with is one of your blessings. Practice being consciously grateful by writing down each morning five things you are grateful for. It can be a person, your health, pet, home, whatever and then, end the day by writing five things you are grateful for. This is a great mindfulness technique for pausing the mind, reflecting and giving thanks.

Eat mindfully

Mindfulness extends to different bodily functions. It’s easy to fall into the excess/guilt trap during the holidays when there’s absolutely no need to. Instead of perusing on your phone, looking at what everyone else is doing, put it down and savor every moment of your meal. Practice the 5 S’s next time you eat, which are:

  • Sit Down

  • Slowly Chew

  • Savor

  • Simplify

  • Smile

You’ll be amazed at how much you notice every flavor, seasoning and texture you eat, and you may even enjoy your food that much more. Plus, this process can allow you to focus on conversations with loved ones. This is also called eating meditation. You can also tag your food with your energy, as my teacher Dr.Svoboda recommends, this will ensure that the food is absorbs into the right tissues and helps us gain more circulation. Say something like: "May the Earth be blessed that bore this food And may they prosper who grew it. May the hands be blessed that cooked this meal, May all grow strong who eat it. May the hearts and wills of humankind be moved, To feed the hungry of the world, And may all come to eat the Bread of Life".

Retun to rituals

Return to Rituals

Having our schedules disrupted during the holiday season can weaken our sense of internal structure. Ritual can help contain and guide us back to ourselves.

  • Movement, especially in the morning, starts your day on an energized note. Walk around the block, stretch (even in your bed), practice some gentle yoga. Twelve minutes is all it takes to bathe your brain with mood-elevating endorphins, lasting you until sundown.

  • Write. When the blues begin their winter wail, I pull out my journal or a notebook I have decorated. Just five minutes of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) allow my thoughts and feelings to be heard. The energy moving from my body onto the page transforms my mood.

  • Meditate: Meditation does not need to be elaborate or timely, just make sure you are taking the time to connect to yourself and your breath...mediate on the breath, on the present moment or on the mountains. mediate while you go outside for a walk or right in your bed.

A Holiday meditation

Sit somewhere comfortable. Spine tall, neck above spine. Watch your breath as it moves in and moves out, like the waves of the ocean. Breathing in as the wave comes towards you and breathing out as it moves away. repeat this for a few rounds of breath.

With mindfulness we take a step back and away from being inside our spiral of emotions, actions or thoughts. Notice what ever is going on for you right now and then come back to your breath. When you feel stress, relax everything else. For a moment let it all be!

Without judgement or expectation just notice it all and then come back to the breath.Now take a moment to notice what comes to mind when you picture the holiday season?! How does your body feel?! Tight or restless?! Nauseated or exhausting...Notice that and then come back again to your next breath. What emotions arise? Maybe there is some mix of excitement and joy and dread and tiredness. Where do your thoughts go? Perhaps there’s a conflicting swirl of pictures of what might be, stress over what seems possible, or ruminative planning over parties, and presents, and travel.

Right now, there’s nothing to do, no one to be, nowhere to go. In this moment, sitting, this is all there is. Some other time might be for acting or thinking. Right now, take care of anything emergent, but otherwise let go of fixing and moving, and focus on the next breath again.

This is a time of stress, perhaps. Wish yourself whatever you did for your family: ease, or peace, or happiness. Take a moment to be grateful for whatever comes to mind.

That picture of the meal, or that snub, or a storm derailing your plan—they’re all just thoughts. Notice craving and the hungry ghost who always wants more. Label it all, if you like, thought. Don’t wrestle with it, and don’t engage with it quite as much. Note: thought, and then come back to… Breathing in, and breathing out.

Allow the holidays to happen. Take care to do whatever keeps you grounded, like sleep and exercise. Enjoy it, plan what needs planning, and let go of the rest. Focus instead on whatever you value and find most sustaining this time of year. Happy Holidays!

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© 2021 by Paras Moghtader.