Monthly Archives: December 2014

  • Have yourself a mindful and merry christmas!

    Mindfulness is all about getting out of our heads and into the present moment and the best way to do that is by connecting with our senses. Why? Because we can't smell tomorrow, or feel yesterday! That's why Christmas is such an amazing opportunity to practice mindfulness.

    Practise Coming to Your Senses this Holiday Season

    Whether you're out shopping for gifts or taking a Sunday stroll, be sure to really tune into the sights, sounds and smells of the season. Feel the winter wind on your cheeks, observe how the Christmas songs can take you back and give you a certain feeling inside, take in the smells of mulled wine and pine needles in the air. Be present for these things -- this is the real essence of the season.

    Wooden reindeer in snow

    Savour the Flavours without Going Overboard

    Mindfulness not only helps with truly savouring all the treats that Christmas brings, it also helps limit the overconsumption that often accompanies holiday parties and family meals. We tend to end up consuming more food and drinks than we'd like, however this holiday party season is the perfect time to practice using mindfulness to help us determine when we've had enough. By really savouring our food and drinks more slowly, we can naturally notice when we've had our fill. We can use mindfulness to check in with our bodies and follow the signals that it sends about fullness. So rather than acting when our mind says: "I want another cookie!" we can listen to what our belly says. If you notice that you are comfortably full or maybe that your belly is already bursting then thank your mind for that thought and try to leave the cookies in the jar -- or simply close your eyes and smell the cookie. Sometimes savouring with the nose is just as amazing as savouring with the tongue. Try it out!

    Don't be too Hard on Yourself

    A big part of mindfulness is not only compassion for others, but also for ourselves. Therefore, have the intention to be kind to yourself! We spend so much time leading up to the holidays thinking about everyone else: shopping for gifts, planning around others' schedules, and trying to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone. It's important that we have a little self-compassion as well. Make a point of just noticing how you might be putting too much pressure on yourself, or beating yourself up when things don't go as planned, or feeling like you ate too much. In those moments just remember to take a few deep breaths. And like you would tell a good friend: don't be so hard on yourself -- that's just part of the holiday experience as well.

    It's Just the End of the Year, Not the End of the World

    In the frantic run up to Christmas, we might see the holidays as like a drop-dead date and we forget that -- as beautiful as Christmas can be -- it's just another day that will come and go. Bring awareness to the expectations you might be holding for the day. Every time you notice your mind racing ahead to any sort of inflated or unrealistic expectations, just take a few breaths and come back to the present moment. The same applies to the good old expectation of a family drama. Ruminating about what could happen over Christmas dinner won't help. It only makes you more and more tense during the lead up to Christmas. Let go of any expectations and greet the day when it's at the door step.

  • A Mindful Movie Experience: MANAKAMANA

    Written by Alexa Frey

    The last time I went to the cinema was to watch the movie MANAKAMANA. Having read that this movie was about slowing down, I expected an interesting documentary showing beautiful landscapes and interviews with exotic people from a foreign land teaching us stressed out Westerners how to slow down.

    I can't tell you what actually happened in this 120 minute film, simply because I don't want to give away all of its content. But there are a few things about the movie I would like to reveal.

    The movie indeed is about slowing down. In fact, the audience is forced to slow down because at a first glance not much happens in the movie. In fact, the first ten minutes or so the audience watches an old man and a young boy simply sitting on a moving means of transportation - doing nothing. I am sure I wasn't the only person in the audience getting a bit impatient and then even a bit irritated.

    Immediately the experience reminded me of the first time a mindfulness teacher told me to close my eyes and watch my breath. Immediately my mind thought: “Oh great, how boring! That's what meditation is about? Get me outta here please!”

    The movie went on. After a while the audience was introduced to more characters and to my relief, some of them actually spoke. That immediately gave me hope – maybe the pace of the movie would now pick up and I'd finally be entertained! I couldn't wait!

    However, to my disappointment, the conversations and images on the screen remained scarce and redundant throughout the whole movie. Soon I again noticed irritation and then at times even anger arising. I have to admit that at one point, I even thought about tearing out of the cinema! The thought of my to-do-list evoked more calm in my body than having to watch another minute of this boring movie!

    And then, as if a miracle had happened, something in me suddenly changed! The moment I had realised that I was actually free to leave, I suddenly wanted to stay and I relaxed into my seat and finally opened myself up to the movie.

    This experience is so similar to when a mindfulness meditator, having reluctantly sat for a while, suddenly notices her surrendering to the moment. When moving from the doing to the being mode and in that, letting go of all expectations and just noticing what is there – in a friendly and non-judgemental way.

    As soon as I had surrendered to the movie, I noticed how I finally started opening myself up to the movie and the characters in it. Instead of expecting them to be a certain way, to say certain things and most of all, to entertain me, I simply started observing them. The old lady eating her ice cream and the American tourist speaking nervously to her new friend. The more I opened up to the characters, the more they became real human beings instead of two dimensional characters on a screen. My agitation had turned into deep interest and empathy for the movie characters.

    Luckily I still had another 60 minutes of the movie ahead of me, which I was grateful for and have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.

    MANAKAMANA is in UK cinemas from December 12. Visit www.manakamanafilm.co.uk to find a screening.