I witnessed my first seasonal road rage yesterday. 2 cars. Much swearing and many hand gestures. Nothing seemed to be resolved and everyone drove off steaming and unhappy
How did I know it was seasonal road rage, not just the garden variety kind?
One of the cars (and believe me I wish I was making this up) had an enormous Christmas tree strapped to its roof racks.
Last week, school bells rang out around the country for the last time in 2012. Desperate parents have started to scour internet lists for cheap ways to entertain kids that don’t involve killing animated characters or dancing like Madonna on an off day.
Shopping centres have started to fill up and have taken on a slightly desperate feel as if someone was pumping some kind of chemical though the air conditioners.
People are wandering around muttering things like “haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet…” and “please God, don’t make me spend Christmas Day again with Great Uncle Joe. ….”
None of it’s new and, despite what Great Uncle Joe says, it’s probably not much worse than it was in 1956.
This year, though, I am bringing with me a new tool to my festive season.
“Really?” I can hear you say. “Not gin?”
Mindfulness is an ancient, non religious form of meditation that had its beginnings in the teachings of the Buddha more than 2000 years ago (but don’t let that put you off).
It just means making a decision to bring awareness to right now. The here and now. Or as someone once described it to me “being here on purpose.”
Wouldn’t that be the best possible use of your time during this festive season?
It means focusing only on what you are doing right now. Whether it be the feel of the warm soapy water on your hands as you wash up the dishes or the taste of the piece of chocolate as you slowly eat it. It doesn’t mean pretending everything is perfect but accepting “what is” with kindness and non-judgement.
I’ve come to the mindfulness party a bit late. You know how some toys suddenly seem to appear as if from nowhere at Christmas time and completely dominate the festive landscape? People queue for hours to get them, many sometimes without even really understanding exactly what they do or why they might need them.
One year it might be Talking Elmo, the next Ben 10. Apparently this year it’s Fidget Friends.
Suddenly everyone’s talking about it.
Mindfulness is kind of like the Talking Elmo of the meditation world (except it is an ancient practice and not made of plastic but work with me here).
Study after study has shown that people who regularly practice mindfulness meditation are happier with their lives than those who don’t. And they survive the school holidays better as well (actually I made that up, but it seems to follow don’t you think?)
Happier people, live longer , have better relationships and are less likely to suffer from such afflictions as anxiety and depression.
One of the modern pioneers of mindfulness studies is Jon Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts Meditation School and defines it as:
“the complete “owning” of each moment of your experience, good, bad or ugly.”
Now, like you, I do actually live in the real world and I know that just telling yourself to focus on the being here right now won’t help for more than 15 seconds and may well make you feel worse.
Dr Russ Harris, author of the international bestseller The Happiness Trap and the Confidence Gap (who has kindly given permission to use one of his mindfulness meditations), is confident that these skills can be learned with practice.
Regular, consistent practice.
Just like the gym, or running, or parenting or just about anything that is worthwhile really.
It doesn’t have to take you all day – just 10 minutes each day can make a huge difference.
So give your kids the remote for 10 minutes and click here for this week’s meditation straight from one of Australia’s leading experts.
You’ll all be glad you did.
And remember for the 5 weeks, in the lead up to Christmas throughout the holidays we’ll continue to post articles about meditation. Our aim is to bust some myths and give our readers some great tools to great 2013 with serenity and calm.
Click here for a guided mindfulness meditation.