Christmas

  • Christmas Presence: The Gift of Mindfulness

    “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

    Make a pledge to put down your phone this Christmas and be fully present with those you love. Look at them in the eyes; listen with intent; abandon your expectations; stay curious and give conversations your unwavering awareness as they unfold.

    Observe what this approach does to your experience moment-by-moment -- you may find that it expands and deepens your connections, as well as your sense of the memory after the moment passes. You’ll likely discover that presence is one of the most precious gifts we can give at this (and every) point in the year, and adds far more value to our lives than any material object can.

    Most of us would like to think that we are present in our daily lives, but the truth is that so many of us live a far distance from ourselves and from our experiences. We often operate on autopilot patterns of feeling and behaviour not just in the midst of our daily lives, but in the face of those who matter most to us, our loved ones.

    As a season of unity and connection, Christmas lays the ground for interaction and gives us an opportunity to put our mindfulness in motion. With the simple and repeated practice of awareness, we can give presence to everything the season brings -- from warmth and joy, to difficulty and tension -- without needing to change or fix anything. We may find that being better connected to the moment in this way, a better connection to our self and to our family and friends begins to grow and flourish.

    Mindfulness is not just a gift for us individually, but collectively too. In these turbulent times of division and discord, mindfulness has the power to reinforce the shared humanity that holds us all together. The individual is reflected in the collective, and when we bring awareness to the way that we relate to ourselves individually -- that is, when we develop a deeper understanding of and more compassionate connection with our self -- this is mirrored in our interactions with those around us in the collective.

    Mindfulness begins individually, on our own terms, but if you like the idea of giving it as a present, you can browse our shop here for a selection of electronic gift cards for training -- workshops and courses, as well as books. Whether you want to help a friend or family member cope better with stress and anxiety, introduce them to ideas of self-care and compassion, or more broadly, live a life that is fuller and freer -- mindfulness gives us skills that last a lifetime.

    For more mindfulness tips and ideas to inspire calm and presence over the festive season, head over to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels!

  • Top Tips for Mindful Communication at Christmas

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    A season for family, friends and festivities, Christmas brings our relationships and interactions with others into the spotlight. It’s often said that our closest relationships present us with our greatest challenges in life, so it’s little wonder that family gatherings over the festive season can be fertile ground for tension and conflict. Bringing mindfulness to our interactions can help us to navigate our way through this period and cultivate positive connections. Read our top tips and find out how…

    Listen With Intent

    Connecting with others is important to our happiness and wellbeing -- when we are disconnected, we can feel stressed and revert back to reactive patterns of communication. We can bring mindful presence to our conversations by staying open and curious, and listening with patience and acceptance. We don't necessarily have to agree with what a relative or friend is saying, but we can still be open to different points of view and listen with the intent to understand, not to judge. In this way, the person communicating has the experience of feeling respected and valued.

    Make Space For Emotion

    The festive season can bring with it a full spectrum of emotion -- from warmth and celebration, to bitterness and frustration caused by quarrels, or sadness and loneliness triggered by memories of lost loved ones. We can use mindfulness to make space for all of our emotions by observing whatever arises, and knowing that we don’t have to act or react to it, but to simply let it pass through our awareness with acceptance and non-judgement.

    Abandon Expectations

    Around this time of the year, we can find ourselves bombarded with images of Christmas ideals of unity, harmony and joy, but the reality can be different and far more complex, especially when it comes to close relationships. We can lay the ground for a more enjoyable experience at Christmas by choosing to not have any expectations, and by staying mindfully present with our social interactions as they unfold moment-by-moment.

    See Good In Others

    Dealing with difficult relatives can be one of the greatest challenges over Christmas. This year, see if you can transform a testing interaction with a relative by looking for the good in their character. It’s always possible to find qualities that you appreciate in someone, such as kindness, generosity, humour or even just positive intentions. When we make the choice to stay open and consciously look for these traits, we may find our interactions are transformed.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • 'Tis the Season... to be Mindful

    Mindfulness at ChristmasThe Christmas season can be stressful, especially if you are trying to stay healthy. Between catching up with friends and family, and attending work parties, you will likely be offered countless mince pies, cakes and chocolates, not to mention plenty of drinks. It is hard to resist overindulging around this time, which we might justify with our plans to make up for it in January. Yet we could instead use a little mindfulness this month, so we can enjoy all the tasty treats without feeling so guilty and groggy afterwards.

    The key to mindful eating (and drinking) is to slow down and fully engage all the senses, and what better time to do this than at Christmas! The smell of mulled wine, the taste of spiced fruit, the spritz of clementines and that sound of lifting the lid off of a box of chocolates are all comforting reminders of the season. By mindfully savouring these treats we will not only enjoy them more fully, but we will also be less likely to overindulge and make ourselves sick.

    The other aspect of mindfulness that can be particularly helpful around this time is self-compassion. Say we do eat too many Christmas biscuits or have too much holiday punch, it does not help to beat ourselves up and feel guilty about it. Instead try being kind to yourself and acknowledging that you are only human and doing the best you can under tempting circumstances. At the same time, bring awareness and a sense of care to your body and acknowledge that it might be taxed this time of year as well. Taking this stance can remind us to listen to our physical cues and honour them with our decisions, which might come easier next time.

    For now, do not be afraid of the mince pies and bubbly; just remember your mindfulness and savour the precious moments with friends and family.

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Every Encounter is a Once in a Lifetime Occasion

    photo-1449885164684-02f9f7f1caa5 (2)

    ‘Ichi-go ichi-e’ is a Japanese idiom which roughly translates as ‘one time, one meeting’. It is used as a reminder that each encounter we have with a person or group of people will never be repeated. Even if we meet with those people regularly, that one particular encounter with them is unique.

    According to the Japanese Tea Culture Glossary, the expression has been traced back to a 16th century Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyū. The concept was later elaborated on in the 19th century by Ii Naosuke: “Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day's gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.”

    Indeed, it’s interesting to reflect on how our experiences with family and friends over the holidays, or even with our co-workers when we return to our routines, might take on a deeper significance if we were to view each encounter in this way.

    We might sometimes feel that life is rather monotonous: we may see the same people, and do the same things every year. But if we can bring more mindfulness to these occasions we may find that life actually presents us with many new and unique moments, if we just adjust our perspective a little.

    Experiment with applying the ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ concept as you engage with people over the holidays, and notice how it changes your experience of them. We’d love to hear your findings in the comments below!

    MEDITATIONS:

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • Putting Down Our Cameras to Make Mindful Memories

    CameraMobile technology makes it easier than ever before to document special moments in photographs or videos. However, how many of these moments are we actually experiencing mindfully, rather than simply viewing through a screen? Whilst it’s wonderful to be able to capture these sights or occasions so that we can remember them later on, we may sometimes find ourselves simply pointing and clicking in lieu of really looking and letting the moment sink into our minds.

    Mindfulness encourages us to slow down, and even to completely stop sometimes in order to notice or savour what we are currently experiencing. Rather than rushing from moment to moment, trying to see or do as much as possible, we can instead start taking the time to use our senses as a kind of camera, capturing the moment in a deeper way. By mindfully looking, listening, feeling, tasting or smelling, we can create a full sensory memory of the moment, so that in the future when we look back we’ll have more than just a snapshot on our phone. Although of course we can still take a photo or video as well!

    Next time you’re at a party or get-together with friends or family, or next time you see something beautiful or interesting, pause and take a moment to let the scene sink into your mind first. Really feel into the emotions it brings, whether it’s happiness, gratitude, love, awe or fascination, let it permeate your whole being. It may be helpful to think of it as a way of honouring the moment with your full presence. Take a mental snapshot before you take one on your camera, and then notice how it changes the quality of the memory when you look back on it later on.

  • This is the Season to be Jolly… But What If You Aren’t?

    goatFor some of us Christmas is the most enjoyable time of the year. However, for others it might be a more difficult or painful time. When we’re caught up in our excitement, we may sometimes find ourselves pressuring others to feel the same way as us; reacting with judgement or criticism (either directly or passively) when someone tells us that they won’t be sending Christmas cards, or that they’d rather spend Christmas Day alone with a meal for one. This reaction, whilst understandable (we might fear losing our own joy) and socially acceptable, actually flies in the face of what most of us consider to be the true spirit of the season: love.

    There are many valid reasons for people to not enjoy this time of year. It may mark the anniversary of the loss of a loved one, it might remind us of a painful childhood, or the sights, sounds and expectations of Christmas might simply just be too overwhelming for the senses. And just because it’s Christmas time doesn’t mean that normal life stops; couples still get divorced, people become ill, lose their jobs, or suffer with depression.

    The most compassionate thing that we can do is to say, ‘It’s okay’ to our friends or family members who aren’t feeling jolly this Christmas, or to ourselves if we’re the one feeling that way. We can use mindfulness to help us make space for those feelings to just be as they are, without trying to enforce cheer upon ourselves or others. If you’re excited and happy for Christmas, that’s okay! Enjoy it! But if you’re not feeling so great, that’s okay too. Just bring awareness to whatever is arising right now, whether festive or not, and try to meet that experience with openness and presence.

    MEDITATION:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Eat, Drink and Be Merry (Mindfully)!

    smell
    If you’re trying to stay healthy, the Christmas season can bring some stress. When we’re catching up with friends and family, and attending work parties, we’ll likely be offered countless mince pies, cakes and chocolates, plus plenty of glasses of alcohol. Usually we might eat and drink too much in December and then try to make up for it in January with a strict diet. Yet we could instead use a little mindfulness this season so that we can enjoy all the tasty things without feeling guilty, bloated and groggy afterwards.

    Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the food and drink after all. The smell of mulled wine, the taste of spiced fruit, and that sound of lifting the lid off of a box of chocolates are nostalgic elements of the season. We probably have many warm memories of these things, and so we should feel free to enjoy them! By mindfully savouring these treats we’ll not only enjoy them more fully, but we’ll also be less likely to overindulge and make ourselves sick.

    The key to mindful eating (and drinking) is to slow down and fully engage all the senses, and what better time to do this than at Christmas! When we eat a slice of Christmas cake we can savour the smell of mixed spices, and take a moment to think of the time it took to soak the fruit in the alcohol, then to mix it with the cake batter, and then to decorate it, all so that we can enjoy eating it in this moment. Even if we’re out drinking, we can apply the same attention, savouring the warmth of our mulled wine or the bubbles in our champagne; we can mindfully enjoy getting a little light-headed and merry, and of course we can also savour the company of our friends and loved ones.

    It’s usually only when we do these things mindlessly that we end up regretting them; we knock back too much wine or overeat without noticing, and are then left with all the bad feelings that come after, like a hangover or a stomach ache. But by being present while we eat and drink, we can monitor our feelings as we go and will know when we’ve had enough.

    So this Christmas don’t be afraid of mince pies and bubbly; be present and make precious memories of sharing them with friends!

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Eating Awareness Training Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • We Don’t Have to Wait until January for a Fresh Start

    stoneChristmas is fast approaching, with the promise of New Year’s resolutions hot on its tail. We collectively buy into the idea that January 1st marks the time for fresh starts, however we don’t really have to wait until after Christmas to start anew. Each and every moment gives us that opportunity. Including this one right now!

    Change rarely happens in one fell swoop. Lasting changes are made up of lots of little choices; lots of little moments that when added up together become powerful. By postponing change, or imagining that somehow the start of a new year will mean the start of a new personality in which we’ll have more willpower and drive, we often set ourselves up for failure. It’s all too big; too much to tackle all at once.

    Instead, let’s remember that in each moment we have the chance to make a different choice. Becoming more present and grounded in our day-to-day lives makes us more able to choose not to have that cigarette right now, to have the healthy option for dinner, or to go out for a run – because we feel like it, not because we’ve trapped ourselves in a big commitment. And then we can just take each moment as it comes. Maybe the next time we want to binge on junk food, we might just eat a little less or more slowly. Maybe we won’t exercise every day, but if we’re present enough to enjoy the feeling it gives us afterwards we’ll want to do it more often. If we’re in our heads, dreaming of an ideal version of ourselves that we hope will miraculously occur come the new year, then we aren’t being present in all of those little moments that really matter. For it’s in those moments, these moments happening right now, that we make more conscious choices. This way, we can change in an organic way that suits our current abilities. And we’re far less likely to feel like ‘failures’ in February!

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Tips for Mindful Baking

    Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/40413

    Baking is a perfect way to practice mindfulness. To successfully bake a cake, some biscuits or a loaf of bread, we need to pay close attention to the recipe. If we measure out too much flour or don’t include enough butter, if we don’t mix the ingredients in the correct order or don’t knead the dough for long enough, we’ll end up with poor results. This need for focus can help quieten our internal chatter, and can therefore be very therapeutic.

    A Party for the Senses

    We can involve all of our senses in the process of baking. Paying close attention to how the ingredients look, smell, taste, feel, and even how they sound, can provide a wonderful self-soothing affect. Next time you bake, why not take some time to really look at the ingredients as you measure them out and add them to the mixing bowl. Notice the texture of the sugar: is it fine and white, or coarse and golden brown? How does it fall as you sprinkle it into the mixture? Notice the colour of the butter, and the texture as you cut through it. Take time to smell the individual ingredients, and then notice how they smell as they become combined. If you’re mixing anything by hand, notice how it feels on your skin. You can even notice how the mixture sounds as you stir it or whisk it. The sounds of cake batter or bread dough as it is kneaded might bring back warm memories and comforting sensations from our childhood.

    Gratitude

    Paying more attention to the process of baking also gives us the opportunity to feel gratitude. When we slow down, and stop doing things on auto-pilot, we become more aware of how special things are. We can take a moment to feel grateful for the ingredients we have, for the farmers and workers which have grown and produced them so that we are able to use them in our baking. We can feel grateful for our senses, and for our ability to bake. If we’re self-taught bakers, we can feel gratitude for the recipe books we have read, or perhaps our school teachers, parents, grandparents, friends or spouses taught us how to bake, and so we can feel grateful for their presence in our lives. There’s really no limit to what we can feel grateful for, and appreciating the act of baking can make our final products even tastier than if we take everything for granted.

    Mindful Eating

    Once we’ve measured, mixed, and baked, we can then finish our mindful baking experience with some mindful eating. After all, if we’ve taken the time to bake with mindfulness, it would be a shame to just wolf down what we have created!

    Just as with baking, we can make use of all of our senses when we eat. Noticing how our food looks, smells, feels and sounds before we take a bite helps our minds focus less on our mental chatter and more on our present experience. Fully enjoying how our baking tastes can give us an enriching feeling of accomplishment. What might have once just been seen as a simple slice of cake can now provide a full and rich sensory experience, which helps ground us firmly in the sweet present moment.

    To learn more about mindful eating, why not sign up for our online Introduction to Mindful Eating workshop on Tuesday 12th May!

  • 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.

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2