You’ve developed a nice meditation practice — congratulations! You sit every day, you face the stresses and strains of daily life with calm and equanimity, and you feel that, finally, you’re beginning to get some kind of handle on your patterns.
Then… you go home for Christmas. Or Christmas comes home for you. Either way, now more than ever a budding meditation practice can fall apart. But this is actually the very best time to practice:
- First, the disruption in your daily routine will challenge your discipline. If you can keep your practice solid through this, it will be stronger than ever.
- Second, contact with your family will probably bring up a lot of old emotional skeletons: what a great opportunity to work with compassion and awareness!
Here are 10 tips to help you make the most of it:
1. Decide each night when and where you’re going to meditate the next day.
Then do it. Early in the morning is best, as holiday schedules are unpredictable — best to get to it sooner. Bonus: meditating in the morning will probably set you up for a calmer day.
2. During overnight visits, let your hosts/guests know you will take time out to meditate each day.
Be flexible — don’t compel your hosts to build their day around your meditation schedule. But let them know you will need that 30 minutes at some point each day.
3. If possible, take your meditation cushion with you.
Bringing it along supports your commitment as well as your seat.
4. Adopt a really obvious meditation posture, like sitting on the floor or facing a wall, when you sit in a non-private space while others might come around. That way, if Uncle Ralph wanders in while you’re meditating in the family room at 7am, he’ll (hopefully) know not to start chatting with you.
5. Off the cushion (and on!), practice deep listening.
This is especially helpful when visiting people who have a lot to say. Imagine that your whole body is an ear, and feel the vibrations of what they are saying moving into and through you. Listen to more than their words: hear their tone, their body language. Most important: include in your attention your own voice and inner responses.
6. Take a mindful walk every day.
Whether alone or accompanied, open your senses to everything that’s there: sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Give your walk your full attention.
7. When you get grumpy, use the opportunity to practice sending and taking.
Imagine you can take all the grumpiness in the world into you in one in-breath, leaving everyone else free of it. Then imagine putting all the nice things you enjoy into one out-breath, and give it all away to others.
8. Take one mindful breath.
When you think of it, whatever is happening, jump into the gap created by your awareness and take one mindful breath.
9. When you mess up, let go!
If you forget to meditate, or meditate “wrong”, or behave like a jerk, that’s your cue to just let go. You have no control over the past, and you can’t control the future: it’s what you do right now that counts. So don’t waste time beating yourself up or constructing stories about how bad/good/indifferent you are. Just carry on, take the next step forward.
10. Imagine every encounter will be your last.
The only thing we can really count on is impermanence: death can come to anyone at any time. Bearing this in mind can help you focus on what’s truly important.