Serve Yourself a Bowl of Compassion This Holiday Season

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EmptyBowlAs we officially enter the holiday season beginning tomorrow, I want to encourage us to have compassion.  Some might say it’s the easiest time of year to practice having compassion, and that may be true if we’re talking about compassion for others.  This is typically a season that involves thinking of others, acts of kindness, and all around lifted spirits.  The holidays are also marked by extended time with family, expectations, and the stress of a long to-do list.  In all of this “doing” for others, it’s possible to lose yourself in the flurry of tinsel.

Self compassion can be a challenge.  If we learn to be a little kinder to ourselves, though, it can actually have this amazing way of making things better not only for us but for those around us as well.  So often when we are focused on the illusion of perfection, we make ourselves miserable.  Our intention might be to create the “perfect” party for our family, but we end up missing all the truly important moments along the way.  It is difficult, maybe impossible, to be kind to yourself when everything is sped up.  That is why mindfulness practice can help us slow down and more fully experience and enjoy the holidays.  This can be accomplished in many different ways beyond traditional sitting meditation practice.

In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” he suggests taking any repetitive activity you do around the house and using it as an opportunity to be in the present moment.  He uses the example of going up and down the stairs in his home.  Other examples could be doing the dishes, taking out the trash, answering the phone, even going to the bathroom can provide a welcomed moment of quiet to practice mindfulness.  Kabat-Zinn describes taking one step, literally, at a time reminding himself “that there is really no place I have to go and nothing I have to get that can’t wait another moment for the sake of being fully in this one.”

This holiday season, try talking to yourself the way you would talk to a close friend.  It won’t work if you’re the sort of person who is mean to your friends, but most of us are much harsher on ourselves than we would ever think of being toward a friend.  Let’s try having a bit more compassion for ourselves for the holidays and all of our days.

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