“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
We spend a lot of time looking at things, don’t we—our laptops, our phones, our tablets, our work, our televisions? In so many instances, we’re spending a lot of time looking down at our devices and absorbed in these things rather than looking up and seeing the world that is right in front of our eyes.
This is so cool—who knew that today is an unofficial holiday called Look Up at the Sky Day?! I recently saw a cartoon in which a simply drawn character is lying on his back looking up at the sky. A second character asks what he is doing, and he responds that he is using his device: the sky. He goes on to say that his device comes with many apps, including the sun, the moon, clouds, birds, and stars. When the other character asks if his device needs to be recharged, the answer is, “No, my device recharges me.”
This is just the best! I love this cartoon because it is truly an example for all of us that often it’s simple things in life, the things that are right in front of us, like gazing up at the sky and feeling the sun on our skin, that can truly recharge us.
The simple act of looking up can shift our whole perspective in an instant. It can move us from sad and lonely to joyful and expansive. It is a reminder that all the electronic devices we use are impermanent, material items. Of course, they are certainly very useful, but let’s be aware of when they are taking too much of our attention away from life and we end up depleting our own personal batteries.
So, aside from sitting on top of a hill gazing into the sky, how do we recharge? I sit, close my eyes, and plug in to me first thing in the morning before looking at my phone, tablet, or computer. It is in this “sitting with myself,” collecting myself and my thoughts, that gives me a chance to look within to actually see and ask myself, What is it I want to focus on throughout the day? What do I want to “look” at?
Then, when I go out into the world having this awareness, I feel prepared to meet the day knowing who I am and what I want. When I start to feel stressed or off balance during the day, I can recharge, take a few deep breaths, and maybe even go outside and look up at the beautiful sky!
What is your routine for recharging your batteries? I would love to hear your stories.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Do you find yourself stressing out and getting anxious when you think about all the shopping you still need to do to get holiday gifts for everyone on your list? If so, this is an excellent opportunity to stop and breathe. Sit with yourself for a moment and ask, “What about this is distressing me?”
Your answer might be something like “I don’t have the time to shop,” or “The mall is so crowded and everyone’s rushing around,” or “I have no idea what to buy this person” or “I have to find the perfect gift for everyone, and it is so difficult!”
Wow! These are some stressful thoughts! Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? We really don’t have to live this way. We all have a choice. So right now, make the decision to practice letting go of these overwhelming feelings and bring yourself back to the moment—to the spirit of your holiday.
- Think about your reasons for giving and receiving.
In your moment of quiet, think about your reasons for giving and/or exchanging gifts with others. Tap into the place inside you that gives, not because something is expected of you (or because you expect something of yourself), but because the spirit of giving is your thoughtfulness and generosity expressing itself. This is the love behind the gift. We connect with this great truth of giving by sitting in silence with ourselves and connecting within during meditation.
- Nourish yourself.
Let’s be honest: stress is a given in life and it is especially amped up during the holidays! So make this time of year count in a way that nourishes your mind, body, and spirit. Before embarking on your shopping adventures, spend a few minutes sitting with yourself, just breathing and allowing your stressful thoughts to float through your mind without giving them any attention. Literally practice letting them come in and go out.
- Set a peaceful intention
Set the intention to have a peaceful shopping experience, knowing that it is not what you give that counts, but as Mother Teresa said, what you “put into giving.” After a few minutes of sitting, your stress levels will decrease and you will be in a much clearer mind and space. You’ll likely find that your shopping adventure is more efficient, the crowds don’t seem to bother you as much, and you will be clearer on the gift ideas on your list. Know that the “perfect” gift is the thoughtfulness and love you put behind your choices. Be in the moment with your whole heart.
For many of us, December is a busy month. From gift shopping and the kids’ winter break to holiday gatherings, party planning, family celebrations, travel arrangements, and end-of-year deadlines—so much of what we do this month feels out of the ordinary for our usual routines. And everyday routines are often very busy to begin with! As joyous as the holidays are, the truth is, they do add more stress into our December days. So here are my 10 tips for keeping your holiday stress more manageable and our days more memorable and happy.
- Keep a gratitude journal this month.
Either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, write down one thing you are grateful for this holiday season. When you consciously take note of what you are grateful for, your blessings have a way of balancing those stressful feelings.
- Begin your day in silence.
When you “wake up and stop” first thing in the morning by sitting in silence for 5 minutes, you give yourself the chance to connect with the spirit of the holiday—your peace, power, goodwill, and calm within. When the day starts getting hectic or stressful, breathe deeply and remember this connection.
- Create a to-do list.
Make a to-do list for the day in order of priority, including all of the extra tasks and events expected of you. Are you trying to do too much? If so, go ahead and cross off the last thing on your list. If it is at the end, it is low priority and can wait. This gives you a little breathing room to do something relaxing for yourself to counteract the stress of all the hustle and bustle.
- Stay present.
As you transition from one event or moment in your day to the next, instead of letting your mind get carried away with worrying about what needs to get done, bring your mind back to the present moment by focusing on your breath. With all the extra demands on your time during the holidays, your mind will have your thoughts on overdrive if you don’t take the reins and remind yourself, “All is well; just breathe.”
- Give up the need to be perfect.
Give yourself a break and give up the idea of perfection: You don’t have to be the perfect weight, have the prettiest holiday party dress, throw the best party, or give the greatest gifts to feel good about yourself. Embrace who you are, imperfections and all, by being the “perfect” expression of yourself. You can do this by giving every moment your personal best and not comparing yourself to others.
- Say no to things you really don’t want to do.
Do you have to accept every request or invitation you receive during the holidays? Give yourself permission to say no. Really think about what is being asked of you, and if it doesn’t serve your plan for the day or your greatest good in the grander scheme, politely decline. This is like crossing off the last thing on your to-do list. When it comes to invitations and requests for your time, you really do not have “to-do” anything you don’t want to do.
- Choose some time not to multitask.
We generally multitask all the time, but with our hectic holiday schedules, multitasking seems like the only way to get everything done. However, this tends to drain our energy at an even quicker speed: that’s just the opposite of what we want! Instead, identify one area of your life where you can do just one thing, like having a meal. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, and stay off the computer. Notice how much energy you gain from this one-pointed activity—energy for tackling whatever is next on your list.
- Make a list and stick to it.
Especially during the holiday season, it is super important to make a list of what you need at the supermarket and shopping malls so that you can do your shopping efficiently. Efficient shopping equals some downtime for you later. So, as important as having a list is sticking to your list. Too often, we get caught up browsing the aisles, which uses up precious energy and time for the other things we need to do. Keep your mind focused. If you start to wander, take a few breaths and bring yourself back to the moment and back to your list.
- Make mealtime family time.
There’s no better time for you to be mindful than to make your mealtimes family time. The holidays are reminders to be present for each other, so this is an extra reason to sit down together for your meals, no matter what else is going on in everyone’s lives. When you make being together a priority, you set the tone for what is most important in life. This is your opportunity to be there for one another with love and strength. This time sets the tone for the season and is the perfect way to manage the stresses of the day.
- End your day in peace.
Just before bed, unplug from technology and spend a few minutes reading something uplifting and inspirational, perhaps a holiday classic. Think about authors and stories that inspire you and keep a few of these books at your bedside. After you have read for a few minutes, place the book aside and set the intention to end your day in peace. Let go of all worries and fears. The day is over. Nothing can be changed. Giving your mind a rest from thinking about your worries, fears, and plans helps you to have a well-nourished, restful sleep. Starting the new day without past stresses, you find yourself ready to take on any holiday “challenges” in a new light with a fresh mind.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”
Today is Veteran’s Day. This is the day the United States has set aside to specifically focus our attention on the service of others to our country, to express our appreciation, and to participate in activities “designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
The foregoing statement was made in a congressional resolution written on June 4, 1926—the day the U.S. Congress officially recognized the end of World War I by passing the resolution. What a beautiful sentiment: “to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding”! I think this resonates, in a deeply profound way, with all of us who are dedicated to peace.
November 11 eventually became a legal national holiday, as it is in other countries throughout the world where it is known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Regardless of what we choose to call this day, the day is calling upon us to be grateful to our servicemen and women, past and present, and to be mindful of our ability to perpetuate peace through our actions, both on a personal level and as a nation.
This idea that we can perpetuate peace through our actions is why I founded the nonprofit organization Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, whose mission is to support and promote peaceful dialogue and action. It is also why I developed and share The Practice, a daily guide for cultivating inner peace. I had the honor of attending a weeklong retreat with the Dalai Lama, and his message, regardless of the words he chooses to express it, is always the same: “World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.”
I ask you on this day of remembrance, no matter which country you live in, let us celebrate and commemorate the bravery and sacrifices of all people who serve and have served our countries. I believe so deeply that outer peace begins with inner peace, so let us begin today taking the steps necessary to cultivate peace in our own lives.