I’m a firm believer in the old adage “the more you give, the more you will receive” especially during the holidays when we focus our attention on spiritual reflection, family and close friends.
This adage has a different meaning for everyone but for me… it represents a time to focus on my family and loved ones.
Christmas is my favorite time of year because it’s a great time to reflect on where we find our strength and character. Everyone needs a strong foundation that can be built upon and mine gets reinforced every year at this time.
With the hustle and bustle of our busy and overly connected world, it’s very easy to get caught up on all those small things that don’t really matter. Especially when you compare them to what’s important in our lives.
One of my top Marines always said: “Sir, they’re too focused on the trees and are completely missing the forest.” The Corps is very good at getting a Marine back on track quickly. But unless you have a Sergeant at your ear every day, it’s not really an option for civilians.
But here’s an alternative method you can use to get back on track with a very simple method that has been gathering steam at companies like Google and has even been featured on 60 Minutes.
Despite our online connectivity through all sorts of gadgets and devices, we’re actually creating the opposite effect. People are becoming more disconnected from those around them and even from themselves.
Mindfulness has been a long-standing practice that teaches a person to be more focused on the present moment as opposed to getting wrapped up in thoughts about the past or concerns about the future. The practice has been gaining a lot of momentum recently as more and more scientific studies are released showing its positive impact on the brain.
I was somewhat skeptical until I read about Anderson Cooper and Congressman Tim Ryan’s experience at a mindfulness retreat they attended taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditation expert of 47 years. It boiled down to them taking a lot of time meditating, having silent meals and detaching themselves from their electronics.
Kabat-Zinn taught them that “the tendency to over-think is an occupational hazard of being human.” He goes on to say that “we are constantly creating narratives in our heads that lead to the sensation that we are not really present in a moment-to-moment way.”
The best analogy I heard was: “The mind is like an ocean, most of the time you are getting bounced around by the waves at the surface, but meditation, when practiced enough, lets you dip below the waves and not be at the mercy of the choppy surface agitations.”
Anderson Cooper went on to say: “You’re still kind of moved by the currents, but you’re not being slapped around by the waves.”
Both men reported extremely positive results that they were able to incorporate into their daily lives and have felt a difference. Congressman Ryan even felt compelled to write a book on his experiences on incorporating meditation into his hectic schedule at Congress called “A Mindful Nation.” And believe it or not, this is actually a bipartisan effort!
Ready, Start and Reset
If you’re still hesitant to “drink the Kool-Aid,” Harvard published a study last year linking “mind wandering” to grief and unhappiness. Lots of times people will cope with grief through eating, smoking, breathing, working-out and praying but it now seems that meditation has joined the list of effective coping mechanisms as well.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that all it takes to become “undistracted” is to put down your smartphone and turn off your computer but to truly become focused on what matters most in your life this Christmas, you might want to give “mindfulness” a test trial.
I’m going to hit the reset button so I can faithfully focus on my spirituality, family and friends. This coming year is going to be great because it’ll be built on a solid foundation.
I’ll leave you with this, if a U.S. Marine can figure out a way to meditate, so can you!
I wish you and your family the very best for the holidays and hope you’re able to find a peaceful place to spend quality time together focusing on what matters.
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