“I should be basking in gratitude for my family and friends during this holiday season.  I should feel the joy of the loftier things in life.”  That’s what my rational mind tells me but right now I’m at the mall and I’m eyeing the other frantic shoppers, hoping they don’t get to the discounts before I do.  To heck with joyful and grateful.  My breathing is ragged, my heart is pounding; I am on the hunt for the Perfect Gifts and you’d better not get in my way. My spiritual practice has gone awry and I am totally caught up in a stress reaction.

A good idea hits me:  take a breath, lady.  Take a few breaths.  Settle down.  Relax.  Observe yourself like a movie. “I am ridiculously anxious.”  Let’s track this.  “I have to get the perfect gifts for everyone.  I gotta be a gift-giving Rockstar.”  Breathing in and out, the ah-ha’s start to hit me.  Time to remember my mindfulness tool kit.

1)  OK, just acknowledge that I am anxious because this is the holiday habit I have embraced over the years.  Now I can accept it, laugh a bit, and let it go.  (It might take more than one try!)

2)  There is a reason I am anxious.  Fear that I won’t provide the Best Holiday Ever?  Greed in wanting to get the bargain before other shoppers and show off as the Rockstar Gift Giver? Obligation to give others the perfect holiday? Yes, yes and yes.  Now I can let go of these attachments more easily.  Awareness rocks!

3)  Now that I know WHY I am anxious, it is time to accept my human nature.

4)  Expectations have ruled my holiday insanity since forever and are causing my stress.  See #1-3 above!

5)  I am projecting way ahead instead of just being HERE.  Will hubby like his new iPhone?  Will daughter approve of the color of her new scarf?  I remind myself to stay in the present and, by doing so, I will have clear, creative thinking (and shopping!)  By staying here and now, my worry about the future melts away and I start to enjoy my day.

I continue my shopping with deep breathing as my companion.  Staying in the present, I put less weight on choosing the “right” gifts or on creating the perfect holiday and more importance on taking care of myself right here, right now.   A new tradition?  I feel free.

–Kathy B