The Gift of Mindfulness

Now that visions of ghoulish, ghostly & fantastical creatures, witches, warlocks, Superman and Wonder Woman are behind us for another year, you’ve likely begun thinking about the holidays that consume our attention for the remainder of the year.

As the end-of-year holiday season approaches, how do you feel? For many, the holidays are a stressful time of the year with shopping for gifts, food, planning get-togethers, attending parties and so on . . . taking up much of our already limited time. But what if you could meet all of it with a more relaxed attitude? Can you even imagine that?

Since Thanksgiving is top of mind as our next major holiday, it might be worthwhile to take a glimpse behind all the festivities, the preparations, the football and the food and explore for a moment what it is that makes this holiday one of the most meaningful to so many.

In a word, Thanksgiving represents unity. Turkeys and tummy aches aside, Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends come together from far and near, to celebrate the special place we hold in each other’s hearts. Thanksgiving can, for many, also represent a time of reconciliation; of letting bygones be bygones and embracing each other in spite of our differences.

Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity, ultimately, to express gratitude for our relationships, for the abundance that surrounds us, for all that we have and all that we share.

Given that gratitude is such a wonderful feeling; one that we feel throughout our entire body, what if you could always experience the kind of warmth that comes with feeling grateful? Do you think that is even possible? Whether you realize it now or not, it is and you can!

Thanks to a meditation practice called Mindfulness, we can live in a state of gratitude in every moment of our lives. Even if we’re not feeling particularly grateful in a given moment, Mindfulness allows us to notice that, too. It allows us to notice, and accept without judgment, whatever it is we’re feeling in any given moment. And when we notice; when we take a moment to truly notice what we’re feeling, we can decide to continue feeling it or to change it.

The operative words in the above paragraph are ‘without judgment.’ Living as we do in a culture where we have learned to judge everything as either positive or negative, dependent solely on our individual perspective and previous experience, the idea of not judging may seem pretty radical.

Consider this: if you didn’t have to think or worry about being judged, how would your life be different? Or this: if you didn’t have to think about judging others but could simply be in acceptance of who and how they are, how do you think that would feel? I know. . . talk about radical!

But seriously, if you could simply meet your experiences with a quality of openness, how would that change your life? When teaching Mindfulness, I use the acronym COAL to remind participants of how we can meet each moment as a new, fresh, never-before-experienced moment. From the Buddhist perspective, when we can do that, we are experiencing ‘Beginner’s Mind.’ When we can meet each moment as it is, with Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love (COAL) without wishing or demanding that it be any different, life becomes richer, more alive.

If this sounds compelling or, at the least, interesting, you might want to learn more about Mindfulness through classes with a qualified teacher or facilitator. I’ll be starting a new 8-week Mindfulness series in mid-January as well as a special request series: Mindfulness for Weight Loss. I plan to offer these series both online and off-line. If you would like to know more about either program, please send me an email @ linalandess@gmail.com or PM me on Facebook @ Truly Healthy You.

In the meantime, begin by simply noticing your breath and your steps. Notice the food on your plate and savor it. As Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, offer gratitude for all the elements that brought that food to your plate; the sun, the rain, the soil, the farmer who planted it, those who harvested it, for all the hands because of which you may now enjoy and be nourished by it.

Perhaps you can bring this element of gratitude to your Thanksgiving feast! Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Friendsgiving, everyone!

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