How to Survive the Holidays With Meditation: Lessons from an Amateur Yogi

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The Holidays are here and the stress of being around family, kids screaming and whining, copious booze, and not to mention the excessive food, makes for particularly testy people generally. So if you want to decrease the odds of saying something out of anger, perhaps you should take up meditation, or just learn about some of the coping techniques here.

The journey of meditation is one of the most enjoyable things one can partake in, yet one of the less obviously valuable things one can pursue. Think about a time when you were working on a problem, any problem, and a new simplistic piece of information changed the way you saw that problem. That is what meditation is like for life in general. But the question of what consciousness is like is more consequential than anything because you can re-frame any worldly woe through a meditative lens. Taking from the stoics, all of your problems reside not in the problem in itself, but in how you react to it.

Using Sam Harris’s meditation app, or any other guided meditation app, helps find the goals of meditation. You begin to recognize that consciousness is the only space in which things arise. This may seem obvious and useless at first, but once you realize that every sensation and emotion appears in the same space — consciousness — and can be recognized by the attention in the same way.

First, this practice can help you become more social. When meditating one can find themselves looking in, to find nothing there but the world. A sensation of heedlessness, a sensation of not being inside a head. Getting out of your head and into a social environment lets you notice things about people and situations you would have never noticed. The feeling of being a mirror for a person which is like the meditative experience of “headlessness” is quite cathartic. Reflecting the energy of one person and returning it in a way that is mutually enjoyable lets you appreciate even boring conversations. Certainly you will find yourself this holiday doing something you don’t want to do. But If you just take a moment to observe another person and the things they are saying, you can really get through anything, even if you are complaining together and laughing at the unfortunate situation.

Just Notice it

Imagine touching a silk piece of cloth. It has a distinct quality that you can examine and recognize with your attention. The same can be done with any sensation or thought you could imagine. Nervous about texting someone you like? Worried you might get laid off? Or even worrying about you or a loved one’s impending death? These feelings, if you don’t notice them can ruin your day, and if this is the last holiday you will spend with someone, you do not want to be distracted during it. You keep coming back to past conversations, and replaying them. Even exciting thoughts can derail your efforts in the moment of enjoying family members’ presence. But if you take a second to inventory the quality of them, they begin to disintegrate.

All emotions, thoughts, desires, pains, sorrows, fears, and love, appear in the same place and have one thing in common: they are like a cloud that soon will pass. The hot red spike of anxiety shooting into your heart at talking to a new person, the sinking dread that resides in your stomach from worrying about death, the sweaty joy of holding someone’s hand. All are a fleeting vibration that appears to you in one instance, and will be gone in the next. And even though you might be talking to an in-law in a few moments, and then your racist grandpa in the next, both will pass and they are both human and can be connected with in a real way, hopefully without alcohol

Skeptics out there may have just rolled their eyes audibly, but it really is a fact about the mind that noticing an emotion fully is the dissolution of that emotion. What I mean by attention is full awareness of the sensation of the emotion appearing in consciousness. Minor pain can even dissipate if you bring your attention to bear upon it.

So when someone in your family says something that agitates you, just recognize that you are angry and inspect the quality of it to head it off before you speak.

In the end, we are all similar pieces of the universe experiencing itself; we all just have this one moment to become enthralled with, so why do it alone and lost in thought? The Earth will soon become all of our graves and will careen through the dark universe endlessly like a sightless blue eye, never to be experienced again by anything, so enjoy while you can; your personal corner of the universe is interesting if you just notice it.

Writes about science, politics, philosophy, and the spaces that separates us as as species — and occasionally in story form.

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