Presence, Kindness and the Joy of the Season
by Kathleen Cannon
The holidays are a season of wonder and giving. When we recognize that every moment is a gift, everything becomes illuminated with wonder. Maintaining this wonder in the face of uncertainty in the world—whether from natural disasters, humanitarian crises, political issues or family drama—can transform our experience of life.
Take a moment to be still, savoring the place you are in and letting it fill the senses. This sort of mindful awareness has been espoused for centuries and runs as a common thread in many spiritual and mindfulness practices. Presence is so simple, yet our complex human selves have difficulty mastering this way of ease, choosing instead a more skeptical approach as a protective mechanism.
This month, treat yourself to something else. The next time you’re at a holiday party, going for a winter stroll, whipping up something tasty in the kitchen or any other enjoyable activity, try the exercise below without any kind of associated judgment:
- Recognize that you are in a state of enjoyment. Become aware of this.
- Take a moment and be fully present. This may mean excusing yourself to the bathroom, standing in a calm place or sitting down.
- Take a deep inhale and let it out, letting the eyes softly shut. Relax the shoulders, jaw, and neck. Release the stress you are carrying, for this moment.
- Then move through each sense—smell, touch, taste, hearing and finally, sight—slowly, and as relevant, letting each one fill you up.
- Savor this time, taking in all the senses with gratitude.
- Finish with another deep inhale and exhale.
- When ready, return to your activity. You may notice that something has shifted —you have shifted to a higher state through presence.
In this season of giving, we perform defined gestures of kindness, such as donating to hurricane relief efforts, buying a phone card for a soldier or playing secret Santa for a family in need. Perhaps even more powerful is how we “be”—how we act, respond and perceive—in our daily lives and routines.
Who are we being when we stand in the line at the grocery, or while waiting for our coffee to be prepared? Our mood and energy impacts those around us, something we don’t often delineate but that is nevertheless constant. Every interaction we have influences countless other interactions through the ubiquitous ripple effect. Bringing kindness to interactions—choosing to see the brighter side of the situation, person or issue—elevates us and others.
It can be a challenge to practice this—we’re wired for survival—so it’s natural for our minds to run around stressing, judging and being skeptical. This holiday season, try the following: Choose a day, an hour, or an errand wherein you can practice kindness skills. Offer a smile, easy compliments and cheerful chatter to those you encounter. When you feel stress or judgement creeping in, simply become aware of it. Breathe. Then move your mind back into kindness.
Researcher, author and motivational trainer Brendon Burchard says that he uses doorways as a simple reminder to uplift those around him. When he passes through a doorway, he says to himself, “I bring the joy,” and enters through in that mind space. When we reframe our thoughts this way, we choose kindness not only for others but also for ourselves. And in doing so, we uplift our own “be”ingness, too.
The simple things are what comprise our lives, and often times, the simple things are the most powerful. Step into your power through kindness, awareness and wonder.
Kathleen Cannon, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Connecticut and practices at The Cannon Clinic at the Country Doc Wellness Center, in North Stonington, CT. For more information, visit TheCannonClinic.com.