If your life is anything like mine, the month of December is intensely busy with activities, to-lists, gift lists and holiday events. Peace and tranquility is what we all want, yet for many, this holiday season is far from peaceful.
Yet, I believe in my capacity (and yours) to cultivate peace this month and and anytime.
A daily yoga practice is key for me. Make your yoga practice count this month. Get to yoga class. If you can’t, unroll your mat or place your cushion, set the time and give yourself 15 minutes of asana, meditation, savasana or all of the above. You will be amazed at how far even 15 minutes will go toward keeping you in a peaceful state. (Want a guided home practice? Click here.)
Practice yoga asana and meditation to calm your nerves, release agitation, and soothe an over-stimulated mind/body. Practice yoga to steep in the sweet serenity of your deepest core. This is shanti, peace surcharged with ecstasy. Commit to your practices so that field of shanti, felt on the inside becomes more and more a quality of your daily functioning: your thoughts, spoken words and actions. Commit to your practices and good habits so that you can stay in the space of open-hearted-ness toward yourself, toward those you love most, toward those who you may find difficult, and toward all beings.
We usually spend more time with family and friends during the holiday season, and thus, the season is an opportunity to cultivate our positive connections with others and spread goodwill. This isn't necessarily easy. Especially in the times we are living in.
To cultivate goodwill, we have to focus on the intrinsic web of unity that binds us together so that our common humanity and common divinity are active in our awareness.
Here is one of my key holiday practices to do this:
To help me keep stay in a spirit of goodwill during the holidays, I focus on the Brahma Viharas, literally the "heavenly abodes", a list of four qualities or mindsets that are embraced by yogis and Buddhists alike as a means for the cultivation of peace inside and out.
The Brahma Viharas are:
Maitri – friendliness and loving-kindness, the wish that all sentient beings be happy.
How to practice this: Take care of your own happiness first! To express goodwill toward others, you have to fill up your own happiness cup first. Be friendly and kind to yourself first and you will activate your natural capacity to be kind to others.
Karuna – compassion, the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.
How to practice this: Cultivate the attitude of interacting with others on the basis of your shared humanity. Compassion is to see someone eye to eye even when it’s uncomfortable. Be willing to lean into conversations and practice deep listening.
Mudhita – empathetic joy, the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of others.
How to practice this: Emotions are contagious. Happiness is contagious. Brain studies are proving this with the study of mirror neurons. Surround yourself with positive and happy people. This will increase your odds of being happy.
Upeksha – over-looking, equanimity, literally “over-looking”, to look high rather than low, to focus on the highest in ourselves and in others, to stay broad-minded and in a state of equanimity with regard to ourselves and others.
How to practice this: Watch your nagging, especially with the people you live with! Instead, practice seeing these people in their highest, and helping them succeed. (This is particularly good advice for parents and spouses!)
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
May there be peace. May there be peace. May there be peace.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.