Inertia: the tendency of objects to stay in their current state unless acted on by an outside force. So objects in motion remain moving, and those at rest stay that way.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about physics today.  But this time of year always reminds me of that scientific definition, because it seems people have two speeds around the holidays: super fast, or a dead stop.

Those of us who operate in high-speed tend to fill the calendar.  Parties, outings, shopping, there is something booked every weekend.  Then when there is finally down time, it feels uncomfortable to sit still.  If this is your tendency, maybe you’ve noticed your mind racing, checking off your to-do list and trying to fit in one more thing before you absolutely have to go to sleep.  This can make for a stressful holiday season!

On the other side of the coin are those of us that hibernate.  The short days keep us indoors and we have to force ourselves to get out of bed in the morning.  We may avoid social gatherings, and procrastinate on doing the shopping because we just don’t have the energy.  If you are slow in the winter months, you may notice it is hard to work up the motivation to participate this time of year.  The holidays can feel overwhelming!

In order to restore balance, we need to listen to what the body actually needs, rather than what the mind is telling us.  When we are stuck in high or low gear, it’s comfortable to stay there.  We may even deliberately choose foods or activities that maintain the imbalance because the mind wants to stick with what it knows.  So start by observing your tendency.  Then choose to counteract it in a healthy way.

If you are rushing through December, balance motion with periods of rest.  Stick to a regular meditation practice to quiet the mind and calm the body.  Before agreeing to one more activity, take a deep breath and check in.  A racing heart, scattered mind and shallow breathing mean it’s time to say no so you can enjoy the important things this holiday.

If you can’t get moving, balance rest with activity.  Stick to a routine bedtime and wake time, and avoid hitting the snooze button.  Start your morning with Sun Salutations or another gentle exercise to wake the body.  Commit to a few events that sound interesting, and ask someone to attend with you so you’re less likely to cancel.

Whatever your tendency, the best way to maintain balance is to practice staying connected with the present moment.  Look at the lights, taste the food, smell the air, listen to the music and feel the embrace of a loved one.  Breathe in and out.  Reconnect with the space between breaths any time you need to find balance.  It’s always right there.

Welcome What Arises

Thoughts affect our emotions, of that there is no doubt.  Many therapeutic interventions are based on this premise.  In cognitive therapy, we are trained to monitor our thoughts and evaluate their validity.  Then we deliberately question the negative or toxic thinking that can lead to a low mood.  Positive psychology asks that we focus our attention on the good things, trying to remain more optimistic and grateful.  These techniques are powerful and effective.  But we are still going to have negative thoughts and sometimes we are still going to feel bad.

We can choose what thoughts get our attention, but we can’t choose what thoughts pop into our minds.  Sometimes negative, judgmental and mean thoughts will arise.  We also can’t control everything that happens in life.  Sometimes bad stuff will happen to us or someone we love, and we will feel bad.  These things are beyond our control.  Even though most of us understand these facts on a rational level, we may still desperately wish things were different.  We push and shove against reality, trying to control our experience.  Or we hide, stuffing down the thoughts and emotions that we have decided are bad.  Neither approach changes the circumstances, but both will eventually create problems for us.

What if we took a different approach?  Mindfulness and iRest Yoga Nidra teach us that the present moment is all there is.  What if we just accept whatever arises during this moment?  Feeling sad?  Welcome the sadness.  Sit with it and feel it.  Ask it why it’s present in this moment, and what it needs you to do.  In this way, the feeling is acknowledged.  We can learn from and eventually move past it.   A regular meditation practice reveals that thoughts are transient.  They come into the mind, and if we don’t attach to them or hide from them, they will eventually move on.  The same is true with feelings and emotions.  They aren’t fixed states, and they don’t define or control us.  When we have received their message, eventually they will also move on.  What a revelation! There is no longer a need to sort out and decide what is acceptable.  Simply welcome it all into this moment, and know that it will pass.  But by then we will be busy living in that moment, welcoming and learning what it has to offer before it passes.  Life is a series of moments.  Welcome each one.