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This time of year, with shorter days and longer to-do lists, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s the time of year where we indulge more, sleepless, run low on energy, rely on caffeine for a boost, and are less motivated to exercise.

It’s also the time of year when we go into overdrive. We think about the gifts we need to buy, the get-togethers to organise or attend, the kid’s school activities, etc. The thinking mind gets so loaded up with tasks and planning, and we forget to find moments of stillness that lies underneath our “To Do” list and our overactive thinking minds.

I had an experience just recently where I was in line at the store, an elderly woman in front of me who was arguing with the salesperson about a pair of gloves, a disgruntled man behind me complaining that he’d been standing in line too long (5 minutes had passed). I noticed, for a moment, my own tension rising. I remembered that this was a perfect moment to practice awareness.  I brought my attention to my breath (then took a deep one), then to my body (relaxed my shoulders). When it was my turn to pay for my items, I smiled at the saleslady. Her face softened, and then she smiled back. A perfect example of how awareness, even in the small moments, can make a big difference.

Many people feel that meditation is something they can barely fit in during their normal routine, and during the holidays???…forget about it!  I’m here to remind you that there is no better time to start than the holidays. Not only will you give your busy thinking mind a much-needed rest, but you will begin to notice your reactions to certain stressful situations start to soften.

How does it work? During our seated meditation we practice merely being aware. You can start by just practicing being mindful of your breath and your body…just noticing the movement of the breath in the body while sitting in meditation. When you find your mind has run away with a thought, just become aware of the mind thinking and gently, without judging, bring your awareness back to the natural rhythm of the breath in the body. I always recommend to my meditation students to start small. A ten-minute practice per day is a great start. Go for consistent, short daily practice, instead of, intense, more prolonged, once per week practice.

"So how in the world will this help me with staying calm in the crowds of people fighting for the sale items at the store?", you may ask. With consistent practice, you will notice that instead of reacting to someone else’s unconscious behavior, you may just see your own frustration with a situation. Instead of getting caught up in the frustration and frenzy of the moment, you might even be able to feel compassion for someone else’s frustration and perhaps even offer a smile. If it doesn’t work the first time around, be patient and keep practicing. Small steps.

Mindfulness meditation can help lessen the frustration of a lengthy to-do list and even help us, and others, to enjoy the holiday season more. Practicing being mindful during a busy holiday season is the best way we can give with compassion and joy.

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