The holiday season is obviously a time for joy and celebration. But with all the hustle and bustle, it can sometimes be pretty stressful, too. Family gatherings, crowded airports, office parties, etc., can overwhelm even the most “centered” yogi or yogini. For me, it’s very important (but not always possible) to keep up my yoga practice during the holidays. As I discussed last week, a short home practice can be a nice way to keep your yoga going, even if you can’t make it to your regular class.
But if practicing asanas on your own is not possible, there’s another option for capturing some of that Savasana bliss during this whirlwind holiday season: meditation.
A simple 15- or 20-minute meditation session can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul. My personal approach to meditation is something along the lines of Zazen. I sit in a simple cross-legged position, usually on a small yoga block or the edge of a pillow. Although a lot of Zen meditation folks will tell you to keep your gaze soft — i.e., eyes partially opened, but not exactly focused on anything — I meditate with my eyes completely closed. Once I have my foundation set, I just breathe.
Of course, my mind immediately wanders off and starts thinking about all sorts of things. To counteract this tendency of the mind, I count my breaths from 5 to 1, over and over. Eventually, I try to let go of the conscious counting, and just let the breath take over.
I sometimes hear people say that they “meditate on” something. This might make sense in certain meditation traditions, but I’ve found that meditating on something pretty much amounts to indulging the noise in one’s mind, instead of quieting the mind. For me, Zazen-style meditation is preferable, because it allows thoughts (and the attendant feelings) to dissipate. Sure, when the meditation session is over, those thoughts might very well start up all over again. But they probably won’t have the same grip as before.
The goal of this meditation, though, is not to turn yourself into an unthinking and unfeeling automaton. That would be madness! If anything, this sort of meditation actually helps us to think and feel more deeply, allowing us to be more engaged with the people and events immediately before us, rather than dwelling on thoughts about the future, or feelings about the past.
So, if you’re finding yourself a bit spun around or frazzled from all the holiday activities, try sitting. Just 15 or 20 minutes can be enough to hit the reset button, leaving you refreshed and ready to go.
- 45-Minute Self Practice (yogaisforlovers.wordpress.com)