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Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

1. Set a positive motivation each morning.

Everything we do depends upon the intentions that we set.  For example, if we set a strong determination before we go to bed at night to wake up early, maybe because we have to be somewhere important, then we will wake up early.  If our determination is only half-hearted, we won’t do it.
When it comes to reducing stress and staying peaceful, many people neglect the simple step of DECIDING to be peaceful.  If you wake up each morning and say to yourself:  “I will stay patient and relaxed today, no matter what happens,” and you really mean it when you say it, you will be far more likely to maintain a peaceful mind in the face of holiday stress.
Corresponding Buddhist teaching:  Seven Points of Training the Mind by Geshe Chekawa.
Read more:  Universal Compassion by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, section on the five forces.

2. Meditate.

Even if you’re not Buddhist, you’ve probably heard that meditation has immense benefits for the body and mind.  Researchers at places like UCLA and Harvard are adding scientific backing to what Buddhist practitioners have known for thousands of years:  Meditation is an important key to a peaceful mind.

After you set a positive motivation for the day, sit down to meditate for a few minutes before your day gets busy.  You don’t need to meditate for long; if you’re a beginner, try meditating for five or ten minutes.  One way to get started is to focus your mind on the sensation of the breath, letting go of all other thoughts.  Gradually, the turbulence of distractions will begin to settle and you will enjoy a natural feeling of peace coming from within.
For more information:  Try this guided meditation CD.

 

3. Get into giving.

Due to our consumer-driven society, a lot of people feel a little “Bah, humbug!” about gift giving during the holiday season.  They see shopping and buying gifts as unwelcome strains on their inner peace and their wallet.
From a Buddhist perspective, however, few minds are more precious than the generous mind of giving.  In fact, giving is the first of what’s called the “six perfections,” or actions that form the backbone of the Mahayana Buddhist way of life.
Therefore, this holiday season, focus on that happy mind that wants to give to others out of a generous heart.  Think of the joy of giving to your friends and family, and look for ways to give to those less fortunate than yourself.  If you focus on this, rather than focusing on the sense of obligation and stress of holiday shopping, you can turn gift giving into a true spiritual practice.
Corresponding Buddhist teaching:  The six perfections.
Read more:  Modern Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva.

4. Be patient with your friends and family.

It’s ok, you can admit it:  You love your friends and family, but after spending a few days with them over Thanksgiving or later in the holiday season, your patience with their idiosyncrasies begins to wear thin.  My friend, it’s time you embraced the third of the six perfections — patient acceptance.
When we have real patient acceptance, our mind is open, relaxed, and calm.  We let go of judgments and resentments, and we focus on accepting people and situations exactly as they are.  We often feel that the person or situation itself is the problem, but in fact it is our negative reaction, rather than the situation itself, that is the real cause of our unhappiness.  Therefore, instead of trying to change other people or control all external situations, we can focus on controlling our own mind.
As the great Indian Buddhist master Shantideva says in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

If something can be remedied,
Why be unhappy about it?
And if there is no remedy for it,
There is still no point in being unhappy.

In other words, if you can change a challenging situation, then change it — don’t waste your time getting stressed out and unhappy about it.  And if you can’t change it… don’t waste your time getting stressed out and unhappy about it.
Corresponding Buddhist teaching:  The six perfections.
Read more:  How to Solve Our Human Problems by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva.

5. Appreciate your good fortune and develop compassion for those less fortunate than yourself.

Image result for safe happy family
Thanksgiving is a time when we are supposed to remember gratitude, but often times all we really do is gorge ourselves and watch football!  However, it’s not too late in the holiday season to take the time to remember what good fortune you have and develop that beneficial attitude of gratitude.

For starters, think of all the people and animals in this world whose situation is much worse than your own — this is especially important if you tend to get the “holiday blues.”  Let go of focusing on your own feelings of unhappiness or stress, and instead generate a feeling of compassion for others.  Wish for them to be free from all their sufferings permanently.

 If you like, you can deepen this mind of compassion with the famous meditation called taking and giving.  First you imagine you take away all the suffering and unhappiness of others, then you imagine you give them perfect happiness.  Finally, you focus on a feeling of joy, imagining all living beings completely happy and free from suffering.

Then you can remember that your own holiday stress is relatively minor compared to what many people in this world are experiencing.

Corresponding Buddhist teaching:  Seven Points of Training the Mind by Geshe Chekawa.

For taking and giving meditation:  Try this meditation CD

 

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Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center

502 1/2 West 3rd Street., Davenport, IA 52801
Tel: (563) 322-1600 Email:

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A member of the New Kadampa Tradition - International Kadampa Buddhist Union.

Meditation classes in Iowa & Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress.