HMC Day 18: When holidays cause chaos

Meditation Challenge Day 18.pngThe holidays can wreak havoc on any routine — especially a new one.

Maybe you’re traveling to see family or going on vacation. The kids are off school. There’s tons of shopping and cooking and prepping and packing and organizing and coordinating to do. Old family conflicts resurface. Grief about lost loved ones can feel sharper this time of year. Even holidays filled with true merriment and joy can create stress just in the mere fact that they turn our day-to-day routines upside down.

Add all this together and you may watch your new meditation habit spin down the drain right when you need it the most.

While I’ve been sticking with my own meditation routine pretty well, I did notice that I missed a few days of posting for the Meditation Challenge this week as my own life began to feel hectic. Many of my clients are not scheduling therapy sessions for the next week or two because there’s so much going on. All of this prompted me to reflect on why the holidays invite such chaos and whether it’s possible to counter that even in small ways — to hang onto the promises we make to ourselves even in times of stress and upended routines.

In my own meditation, I’ve been opting for silence, and have gone with an open awareness approach: watching the thoughts churn through my mind, noticing the spaces in between, returning attention to my breath when I notice myself getting too caught up in worries or narratives. I’ve worked together with my husband to problem-solve some logistical challenges so that I can meditate each morning, as that’s the time of day that feels best for me to practice. I’m showing up every day whether I feel like it or not, since I know that it’s never any one meditation session that makes a difference but the string of practices put together that lead to a calmer, more grounded life.

This practice is an anchor for me. But in order to make it happen, it has to be a priority, and I have to be the one to give it priority status. It has to become integrated into my day in a reliable way. Otherwise it gets put on the back burner, and since it doesn’t have a direct benefit to anyone else in my life on any given day, I am prone to set it aside if I don’t have a plan. This is especially true over the holidays.

I urge you to take a look at your meditation practice and ask what you can do to give it priority status — even, especially, in the coming weeks as Christmas & New Year’s festivities pile up. What needs to happen so that you can’t NOT do it? Consider shortening your practice, waking up 15 minutes earlier, meditating in the bathroom where no one will bother you. Whatever you do to make it workable may mean that the practice is far from ideal, but who cares? The key here is to find a way to meditate at the frequency and for the duration that you want to, and not allowing external circumstances to sway you from what could become an anchor in times of stress.

Ask yourself what you need today. Five minutes of meditation? Ten? Twenty? Go with what your intuition says. Set your timer. Sit down and practice, regardless of what’s going on in your midst. Everyone around you will survive your absence, and you may find an increased capacity to be present with whatever complex experience the holidays bring if you make this practice a priority.