BY DAVID SIMON, M.D., Chopra Center co-founder
The holiday season is often a swirl of nonstop activity that can, if you let it, sweep you into a state of imbalance that leaves you feeling exhausted and susceptible to seasonal colds and flu. If you want to truly enjoy this special time of year, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is caring for yourself. Here are a few ways to nourish your mind-body balance this month—and throughout the coming year.
1.) Do one thing at a time. Rather than cooking with a phone in one hand and the TV blaring in the background, give yourself the gift of focused attention. Let yourself experience the aromas, textures, colors, tastes, and sensory pleasures of preparing and eating your special holiday meals.
2.) Communicate consciously. To prevent emotional strain at family gatherings, try the Buddhist practice of “right speech.” Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions: Is what I am about to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If the answer to any of these questions is no, remain quiet. You may find yourself spending a lot more time in silence it’s OK, give yourself that moment to reflect and be present with those around you.
3.) Commit to less. Don’t succumb to the collective hallucination that would have you scrambling to find thoughtful gifts for everyone from your third cousin to your mail carrier, creating reindeer topiary for the lawn, and making dozens of cookies from scratch—all before arriving at your company party in the perfect holiday outfit. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you.
4.) Rest and meditate. When you feel you are pushing yourself or overdoing any activity, rest. Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation. When you meditate, your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. You go beyond the mind’s noisy internal dialogue and experience an oasis of inner silence and stillness.
5.) Exhale your stress.
In stressful situations, we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Kapalabhati or “shining breath” is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the body:
• Sit comfortably in an upright posture and rest your hands on your lower belly.
• Draw your navel to your spine in a quick motion, forcefully expelling all the air from your lung. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
• Allow your lungs to fill naturally, with no effort.
• Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat the cycle three or four times. *Note: Do not practice kapalabhati if you are pregnant.
6.) Use soothing aromatherapy and essential oils. Scents such as orange, lavender, neroli, sandalwood, vanilla, basil or clove in your home, workplace, and your car can bring some relaxation to your space.
7.) Take time for reflection. Sit in your favorite spot and take a gratitude inventory of the gifts you’ve been given this year. Consider the people, experiences, lessons, and things you’ve received, and allow your heart to fill with appreciation for the changes you’ve undergone. Let go of your past wounds or perceived trespasses so they are not encumbering you as you enter into the new year.
The holiday season can be both beautiful and challenging. Set your intention to flow, be patient with yourself and others, and experience the blessings of peace, harmony, laughter and love.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF MEDITATION
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing offers instruction Primordial Sound Meditation, an easy-to-learn mantra-based meditation practice with immediate and long-term benefits. You can receive instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation and your personal mantra at any Chopra Center signature event, or go to www.choprateachers.com to find a certified teacher near you.