Meditation for Modern Life

Mindfulness skills from a well being expert

Holiday Meditation: Less Stress and More Happiness Anywhere

Simple steps to decrease holiday stress

With the holiday season in full force, many of us will be both excited and stressed: gift giving, gathering with friends and family, and wrapping up the year… the list of holiday to-do’s can overwhelm us. In this blog post, I’ll provide simple strategies to meditate during this busy time of year.

Location, Location, Location

Many of us will be crammed into stores and surrounded by friends and family. Does that mean that we can’t meditate? Do we need to meditate in a quiet place free from all distractions, or can we meditate anywhere, anytime, any place? I believe it’s possible to meditate even when there’s noise all around you.

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Many years ago I attended my wife’s high school reunion. I didn’t know many people from her high school because we’d grown up in different parts of the country. Meanwhile, she wanted to enjoy conversations with her friends. We were in a room with a band playing and many people talking and laughing.

I was sitting quietly, giving my wife the opportunity to socialize, and I decided to see if I could meditate even when surrounded by noise. I could clearly hear the the band and the conversations around me.

I kept my eyes open and I was able to go into a meditative state without anyone knowing. I managed to relax while she enjoyed herself. I pleasantly surprised myself because, up until that point, I had never been in an atmosphere like this.

My life normally is rather quiet, so I’ve never really had the opportunity to try meditating under circumstances such as a high school reunion. If I can do it, then anyone can. All it takes is practice, determination, and dedication.

Hear the Silence in the Noise

Many people live in large cities, have large families, or maybe live in a noisy house. You may wonder, “How do I meditate with all that activity going on around me?”

At home, I have an area set aside in the middle of my house to meditate. I never ask my family to be quiet. If the television is on or the music is playing, I don’t ask my family members to be quiet, I just meditate. How is that possible? The key is to listen to the silence amongst the noise. Allow me to explain.

Imagine that you were in a room. The room you’re in right now may have chairs, a television, and tables. Or if you’re in the car, there’s the steering wheel, the seats, and the console. In both of these places, while there are things around you, there is also space. I compare this space to silence. Find the silence among the noise. Find the silence in the noise. The background in which the noise is taking place is silence. Be present with that silence. Focus on the silence, be attentive, and be present with it.

If you live in a big city you may hear cars honking outside and people making noises as they walk by. But what about all the emptiness, all the space around you? Go to that emptiness, that silence, and space.

Noise Is a Bug Bite

When a mosquito bites us, we tend to scratch the bite right away because it itches. But scratching actually makes the bite grow bigger and more bothersome. On the other hand, if you ignore the itch, it eventually goes away. Similarly, I encourage you to ignore the noise around you. This doesn’t mean you push it away. Rather, you acknowledge that it’s there and then get back to your breath. Breathe deeply, breathe slowly, and when your mind notices to the noises around you, simply return to your breath, your mantra, or your prayer word.

Another little trick I use is headphones with music or a guided meditation. While you may still be able to hear the noises around you, your main focus will be on the music, your breath, or your guided meditation.

Keep in mind that your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Throughout the day, we listen to a conversation, move our attention to a noise, go back to a thought, or whatever the distraction may be. Meditation is about focusing on one thing and staying there, staying focused.

The Mall Is Your Meditation Hall

Wherever you are, you can transform it into a place to meditate. You don’t need to have the perfect surroundings. Just focus on your breath, your prayer word, or your mantra. When your mind’s distracted by external noises, just return to your breath. After all, even if you’re in a very quiet place, your mind can be just as loud as if you were in a loud room. Don’t fight your surroundings. Instead, acknowledge them and return to your breath. Concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, slowly and deeply.

With consistent practice, you’ll find that no matter where you are, no matter what circumstances are occurring in your life, you can still meditate each and every day. Remember you can meditate anywhere, anytime. As result of taking time to meditate even during the holiday rush, you may find yourself experiencing more peace of mind and less stress.

Robert Puff, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years.

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