Beyond all the holiday cheer, this is the time of the year when we are often assaulted on so many levels and in so many ways. There are television commercials after television commercials selling uncountable products. Then there is that stack of holiday catalogues that fill up the poor mailperson’s mailbag, your mailbox and then the wastebasket for recycling. And walking into any mall or down any commercial street, the store windows scream out steep discounts (this writer remembers when discounts happened only AFTER Christmas)- 50%, 70% and even more the displays read!
As martial artists in the Greater Bay Area, this might feel like we are dealing with an advertising randori. There is so much coming in. It doesn’t stop but continues no matter where we are and what we are doing. Even social media won’t let us escape this barrage. It is not just the advertising but also this “friend” or that “friend” promoting something whether we are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Of course, this doesn’t begin to mention the emails from all the mail order companies saying you have only days left and enticing you with free shipping, not to mention the steep discounts.
In the midst of this flurry what can our martial arts training teach us and give to us to help us not only survive but enjoy the good things that this season can offer? You will probably also recognize these as the very techniques you use on the mat when training so this shouldn’t be a big leap for anyone.
First, remember to breath. It is not just all that is coming into our lives, for many there are parties to plan, family gatherings to shop for and prepare food for, and perhaps driving long distances are involved. So take a few moments during the day and just stop. Sit down where are and practice a relaxed breathing for a minute or two. Feel that wonderful tingling sensation that happens when you do this. It’s your body (and spirit) telling you it’s happy.
Second, remember to reclaim or find and check in with your center. The breathing exercise above will help. Your center is there is help you and remind you who are no matter what external stimuli might be around you. Your center can also be a great sounding board: Simply ask a question and wait a few seconds and see what response is there. “Should I buy this?” “Should I go in this store?” “Do I buy another gift, or not?” Something will happen. You’ll have a sensation, a funny feeling, something that will indicate this is something you should do, or not.
Third, look at the bigger picture. It is so easy to get sucked into and wrapped up in the “holiday spirit.” The bigger picture includes being aware that there are others who might need a hand, or a small donation, or food. It is also includes remembering that what you spend now if you charge items you purchase the bills will arrive in January. The bigger picture also includes an awareness of events outside our Bay Area: The events with the Middle Eastern refugees from Syria; the terrorist victims in Paris and in other countries; and, countless other horrors occurring during what is suppose to be a time of peace and joy in the world celebrated by many faiths and in my traditions. Even a small token of awareness such as lighting a candle to remember those in need for food, comfort, shelter or a helping hand will shine light in the darkness.
Fourth, remember to smile. The holidays can unfortunately become too serious with so much happening. There are schedules and office parties and shopping and friends stopping by and so much more. All this can become more like a task. With all of the above, remembering to breath, to find and stay connected with your center, to look at the bigger picture, also remember to smile. A smile can be a true holiday gift for someone. It you need a mantra for the holidays, above all, this writer would suggest remembering to smile.
May all of you have a safe and joyful season.