Starting around mid-November, my stress has a way of whirling itself into a tornado of chaos. So many things to prepare, to remember, to DO – people to reach out to, family relationships to manage, presents to buy, food to cook, errands to run! Traffic increasing, long lines at the store, bank accounts letting out more than they’re taking in… The tumult of the next six weeks is supposed to culminate in a joy-filled holiday break of reflection and celebration, infused with the spirit of giving. So HOW exactly do I maintain my peace in the midst of the madness? By finding the place inside of me where everything is quiet and still instead of expecting to find it outside of me, by depending on my own mindfulness practice of gratitude in the present moment.

Focused on gratitude, I ALLOW myself to feel the peace and happiness that accompany it. Guru Ranjit always says that stress is resistance within my body and my mind, so by ‘flipping the switch’ of my focus towards thoughts and emotions that are easy to embrace, I remove resistance and find a path of positive forward motion. When feeling resistance to an activity, I focus on performing the activity with all of my awareness, intentionally guiding myself towards thoughts of gratitude. For instance, when I resist the logistical nightmares of lining up multiple family gatherings and preparing adequately for each one, I guide my thoughts towards how lucky I feel to have so many loved ones with whom I share the holidays and how grateful I am that I have the resources to give gifts, food and time to these people that I love.

By releasing resistance within my body, I engage more fully in whatever task is at hand. At meals I focus on eating mindfully; I worry less about calories and instead appreciate the love and energy that has gone into every bite. During cleaning, cooking and running errands, I am mindful of my breathing. Most importantly, though, during all of my interactions, I speak and listen mindfully. Tense conversations and friction at extended family functions are an opportunity to be grateful for those you love and a chance to choose silence and a smile instead of jumping into the fray.

I find that when my heart is full of gratitude, kindness comes much more easily to me. I interact with others, focusing on the hope that they are loved, healthy, happy and safe. Self-care is easier with a heart and mind full of gratitude, and by practicing kindness towards myself, I have more to offer others. As Guru likes to remind me, I can’t give to others what I don’t already have within. That’s why true charity starts at home.

So this holiday season, when the stress rises to a fever pitch, I know to turn my attention first to my breath and then to my gratitude. Resistance fades as I let the happiness and peace associated with gratefulness roll in. Then I can focus on what I need to do and truly enjoy the ride to that joy-filled holiday break of reflection and celebration.

~Ashley Moye~