Finding Inner Peace
Any season is a good season to practice Mindfulness, but the season of winter is a natural time for going "inside" – both literally and figuratively – going inside and cultivating an inner awareness of Self. The darkness, the quiet, the long nights of the Winter season in the Northern hemisphere offer us time to reflect on our own ability to be still and find a sense of inner peace that pervades our being. As we cultivate that peace within, it begins to radiate outwards in our actions towards others as well.
This time of year also brings holidays for many people of many cultures. Celebrations, rituals and traditions, often shared with family that can bring a sense of joy for some and a sense of longing or sadness for others who may be experiencing loss or separation from loved ones – especially during the ever-changing nature of the pandemic we are living in. Many people – young and old - are experiencing anxiety, loneliness and depression. The tools of Yoga – which include mindfulness and meditation - can help us to not only get through these times, but to enjoy them, if we are willing to allow ourselves to rest in the present moment, accepting everything exactly as it is.
Practicing mindfulness is not a miracle cure, but rather a practice that helps you remember your connection to something bigger – whatever you want to call it….God/Goddess, Nature, Universe, Higher Self. For those willing to do the work over time, it can bring lasting peace. I’ve been using these tools for years to help with my own depression, and practicing the 8-limb path of yoga has definitely helped me to be able to be present and enjoy this moment right now without wishing it was something else.
When we stop putting the pressure of expectations on ourselves and we learn to be present with whatever is real right now, there is a peace that settles into your mind and your heart. Practicing gratitude and contentment can also help to facilitate this process.
If you are experiencing loneliness – separation from family or loss - One thing that can be helpful is to establish your own rituals. I enjoy making some alone time now over the holidays to take care of my Self – it may include lighting candles, walking in nature with my dog and sitting in quiet meditation when I’m not rushed to prepare a class for someone else. Sometimes, finding ease in the holiday season means letting go of our expectations of how things SHOULD be – or letting go of some of the things on our unrealistic and ever-increasing “To-Do” lists.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few moments to Pause and to take a few long, slow breaths. Check in with yourself and bring awareness to the activity you are engaged in, and the reason why you are doing it – Is it for you? For others? What if it doesn’t get done? Does it really matter? If it brings you joy, allow a sense of gratitude to guide you through it – creating a change in attitude – if it feels like a chore, perhaps re-evaluate its importance.
It’s also important to realize that it is okay to feel joy in the midst of it all. Some of us who have worked through a lot of pain and trauma in our lives may be hesitant to allow ourselves to be joyful. Don’t ever hold back your Joy. When we practice mindfulness, we know that both pain and joy may be temporary conditions, but whether or not we suffer by clinging to pleasure or trying to avoid pain is really up to us. Or, we can sit with things the way they are and know that this, too, is temporary.
Wishing you peace of mind and a joyful heart throughout the Season – whatever you celebrate.