5 Ways to Continue Sharing the Present of Your Holiday Presence

By Phyllis Smith

Being “Present” During the Holidays

It would be easier to write a blog on five ways to be busy during the holidays, but it is January now so it would not get many views and also being busy isn’t difficult. In fact, when we are in the midst of the past few weeks, we expect to be stressed and crazy. Instead, I want to share with you the ways I changed my holiday season by stepping into Mindfulness practices. My approach to the time between November 21 and January 2 was set up during a relaxing yet motivating call with Lrobinspires Women Inspiring Women network. The guest speaker was a wonderful teacher, guide and generally lovely person named Terri Hamilton from Apparent Connection. She titled her talk “Being Present this Holiday Season” but it was much more broad-reaching in its scope and advice.

Terri shared her ideas of how to stay grounded and generate joy with the holiday time in mind—a time of busyness, maybe forced obligations, and an overall level of uncomfortable stress—but in fact we can look at them as ways we can live our lives all year.

5. You have a choice of how you spend your time.

It sounds simple: Aunt Mary invited you to her ugly sweater party the Saturday before Christmas, but. you are tired from work, don’t own an ugly sweater and there will be a bunch of people there you don’t know. In short, you don’t want to go. OK, so say you can’t go. Yikes! But she is expecting you to go. The truth is you can decline or limit your time there or however you approach the situation, you can make the decision that this year’s ugly sweater party is not on your calendar.  You can spend your weekend resting and have lunch with Aunt Mary later on in the month or in the new year. The key to knowing you have a choice is being able to speak up, make a choice and have the confidence to see it through. You always have a choice. Terri said look at obligations as opportunities and the key to any opportunity is what you make of it. You decide how you want to spend your time. Once I understood this and owned it, I gained awareness of my choices during the holidays. This has carried over into January. I have been more focused on selfcare and resting as I return to work.

When I took time off during the holidays, my days felt longer even though it got dark at 3PM here in the Northeast. Other times of the year, hours slip by as I work in front if my computer without me being aware of them passing. My January schedule now includes something I started over the holidays—setting aside time for myself. Terri suggested this as a daily practice to gain presence during the holidays but I’m finding it so helpful even now. I get up early and have a quiet half hour with my coffee and my cats. I think about what I am going to do during the day but also think about what I want to feel and be like in my body. It sets the mood and the tone for the day. 

4. Use awareness to ground yourself and connect with your world.

Terri asked us all to share our feelings about the holidays. We shared words like blessed, peaceful, calm, joyful and energized. She used this content to transition us into a more generalized awareness of our feelings. How do I feel right now? Focusing on how I feel in my body gets me out of my head. There is always a next thing to do, but if you focus on how you feel you can slow down and get to that next thing with mindfulness. Terri shared she likes to make her To Do list a Ta Da list. 

She shared a wonderful meditation with us, which can also be a journaling prompt: Write 3 things you hear, taste, feel, see and smell. For hearing, we all shared our favorite Christmas song. Terri reminded us that Christmas music is special as it can make us feel a particular way. She suggested if you are feeling down, play an upbeat song. And maybe do some dancing!

Our final moments of the call were spent in a group meditation. I have continued to do this meditation into January. It is a simple but effective method to get grounded and can be done pretty much anywhere. Put your feet on the floor and breathe. Focus on your breath. Where in my body do I feel my breath moving? Breathe for 5 to 10 breaths. Such a modest yet achievable amount! Focus on the sensations in my body as I breathe. Don’t tell stories about the feelings just breathe and be aware.

3. Pay attention to gratitude

One side effect of the constant movement and busyness that we experience during the holidays is that we often don’t pause. We just go from one thing to another. What happens then in our bodies and in our brains is that we become focused on the doing. Terri reminded us that a way to survive the holidays, and in fact to thrive during the rest of the year, is to focus on being rather than doing. She stressed her philosophy of questioning any activity with the query: What if this could be easy? What if you could find connection with Aunt Mary rather than feeling guilty about not attending her party? What if you could be grateful for family even if you limit the time you spend with them over the holidays? As part of my end of the year wrap up and intention setting for the new year, I look over all of my gratitude lists. I often see a theme or notice repeat entries. These are the things for me which make my life easier. Being grateful for things and recognizing them during each day brings a sense of calm and joy as I take a moment to appreciate what I am seeing or feeling.

2. Break mindfulness time into small chunks

Terri made the great suggestion that during your daily life, while you brush your teeth in the morning or make your first cup of coffee, you can reach for the mindfulness practice that calls to you. Look up from the coffee cup and notice the snow falling outside the window. Breathe deeply as you walk to your car for your commute. Relax your shoulders as you wait for the greenlight at a stoplight. Most people can’t meditate like a yogi, sitting in lotus position for hours, but we all can be in our bodies for a few moments and press pause on the mind reminding us of all the things we need to do. I like listening to Yoga Nidra meditations before I go to bed. The combination of the guided relaxation and the body scan sets up a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep. I also get to spend time with my horses who remain true to the present moment. When I pause and share what they are feeling, I am transported out of my head and into right now. 

1. Find joy in the present moment

I saved my favorite part of Terri’s talk for last! I want to share with you my number one way to enjoy your holiday presence. She closed the talk with the phrase, “May I be with you in your joy.”

Sometimes life can be difficult, sometimes easy and sometimes tedious. I’ve been trying since December to find joy in the present moment. I miss people I’ve lost during the holidays, but as I decorated my tree this year, I remembered with joy and gratitude all the Christmas’s past spent with them. As I made new memories with my friends and family, I was so thankful for their love and support. Each fleeting moment slowed down briefly as I recognized the gift of presence.

Thank you, Terri for such a profound change. I have made it my intention for 2024 to build and share joy. Happy New Year to all. Looking forward to more great encouragement from Women Inspiring Women.

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