Bring joy to Christmas with mindfulness

It seems a long time ago, and yet just yesterday. It was 25 years of my life–the longest block of my working life. And then I retired.
But last Thursday, I went to the Prairie View retirees’ Christmas luncheon and the memories all came back.
The place was a-buzz as former co-workers reconnected. In fact, conversation was so animated that we hardly could hear each other across the narrow tables. What a heart-warming event!
A great addition to the luncheon was an inspirational Christmas meditation by psychologist Larry Hays.
I knew Larry well since his office was close to mine. But it turns out, not as well as I thought I did. His meditation on mindfulness and staying in the present matched my thinking exactly.
We even read the same books! And His thoughts were just what I needed to hear this first Christmas without my husband.
Larry reminded us of our tendency to become consumed with regrets about the past and worries about the future. He also spoke about the importance of focusing on the present.
Researchers say that present-centered awareness is good for the body and the soul. It results in increased empathy and compassion, increased self-awareness, enhanced educational achievement, and improvement in health and well-being.
It also decreases stress and anxiety.
What a list! In other words, living in the present is imperative if you want to live well!
Think about it. How much time do you spend grieving the past or regretting things you did or didn’t do? When you should be focusing on the important people in your life right now.
On the other hand, how much time do you spend worrying about the unknown future? Will your eyes get worse? Will you lose your spouse? Will you run out of money? Will violence hit your community?
The list goes on.
How foolish to make up problems–creating terrible scenarios to worry about instead of enjoying what you have.
According to Larry, the solution is mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
Tending our thoughts well leads to conscious living and mindful action. It is an art that must be cultivated.
Here’s the short mindfulness exercise Larry shared. Give it a try.
“Get comfortable in your chair, close your eyes, relax, and pay attention to your breathing, in and out, in and out.
“And as you find yourself trying to become present-centered, just notice the thoughts that come to mind; perhaps thoughts of joy anticipating Christmas with family and friends, or sadness about the loss of loved ones, or fear about the tragedies of terrorism.
“Just let those thoughts go, and pay attention to your breathing, in and out, in and out. And be aware of other thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing; as before, acknowledge those thoughts, let them go, and return to a focus on your breathing.
“And now open your eyes, stretch if you would like, and notice any changes in your experience.”
Don’t you feel better–more focused, less stressed!
So this Christmas, why not give yourself the gift of present-centered awareness. And as Larry ended his meditation, “May your mindful experience this Christmas be one of joy!”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net

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