I was planning on this being about ways of bringing mindfulness into the festive period through suggesting we really taste those mince pies and chocolate or having a go at a breath meditation to help with all that waiting at check outs. But it seems to me that Mindfulness is becoming incorporated into lots of things these days. I was doing some Christmas shopping and came across a shelf full of mindfulness books on a range of topics from mindful cooking to mindful walking and mindful knitting! I can?t help but think that Mindfulness is bigger than just Knitting or Mince pies. Don?t get me wrong that?s all great, I love that Mindfulness is now starting to become more available, more mainstream, but Mindfulness is not just about paying attention to what we?re doing as we?re doing it. That’s paying attention, it?s not Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of being, a way of living our lives. It?s been suggested that the word for Mindfulness is better translated into heartfulness or heart-mindfulness. I?m not sure that would catch on though, the message however is its not just attention, Mindfulness is about the attitudes we bring to our experience none more so than that of compassion.
What is compassion? Is it Caring? being kind? Compassion as I understand it is about recognising pain. Recognising that pain is universal to us all, we all struggle, we all get stressed. Christmas can be full of it, It can be a time when we have financial pressures, time pressures, pressures to get the right gift, to keep all the family happy. It can be a time when loneliness and loss are highlighted for us. Compassion is about responding to that pain with kindness, with empathy, with patience. Compassion isn’t an emotion, it?s not something we either have or haven’t got. It’s something we can cultivate, we can grow. We can recognise our pain and that of others and not retreat, not have layers of fear, blame, anger on top of that pain, not avoid or react habitually but respond to it skillfully. This is something we learn to do when we cultivate Mindfulness.
What?s this got to do with Christmas. Well, Christmas can be religious, it can be commercial, it can be about presents and reindeers and fat men in red suits. Is it not also the period of peace and goodwill?
I looked at the definition of Goodwill. Google told me its friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitudes and lists compassion as another word for it. So I think maybe having a mindful little Christmas is a Christmas where we incline our minds towards goodwill, towards compassion. Compassion for ourselves and those around us. We could try and go easy on ourselves. We could spend time with our friends and family really listening to them, We could look in on that neighbor we know is alone. Maybe that?s a mindful little Christmas?
By Alison Jones, Clinical Manager at Valleys Steps.