Practicing Presence in the Season of Presents

Let’s face it, there is a lot of noise at Christmas!

Go into a store, and you will hear the noise. The bells ringing outside remind you to donate money. Christmas carols blaring keep you cheery so you will buy more gifts, and the voice of children and adults rattle off their Christmas lists. But that’s just the external noise.

The louder noise plays out in our hearts and minds, the noise of past pain, perhsps the loss of loved one or Christmas wishes that never came true. Past pain tells you“there isn’t hope,” “you can’t get over it,” or “I will always feel sad”…noise.

Then there is the noise of expectation, that little voice in your heads that compares your Christmas to the Christmas of those around you. This voice whispers lies like, “Their family is happier than mine.” “They bought their kids better presents than I did.” This voice, drives you toward whatever you think is ideal, but leaves you feeling deflated when you aren’t able to keep up with Jones’.

And there is also the noise of busyness. “I have to go to the holiday party.” “I have to wrap all the presents.” “I have to decorate the house.” The list goes on. The noise of busyness fills our minds with a long list of “to dos” that keep up distracted, tired, and numb.

With all this external and internal noise, it is difficult be present in the moment during the Christmas season. Past pain, expectations, and busyness pull you out of the present and keep you disengaged from the moment.

When you are listening to all this noise, you don’t truly connect with God, yourself or others, and it is easy to become stressed and depressed by the Christmas season.

The truth is that Christmas is not about noise. Christmas is about the silence of a manager, where baby Jesus lay wrapped in swaddling clothes, destined to save the world. We need to quiet the noise in our lives and minds to embrace the joy of this silence.

This Christmas season, I want you to do three things to practice presence and connect to God, yourself, and others.

First, stop moving and practice silence. Sit down for five minutes each day and focus on your breath. Breathe in and imagine the Spirit of God filling you and as you exhale, imagining the noise and stress leaving your body.

Next, use your five senses to engage in the moment – wherever you are. Literally, stop and smell the coffee. Listen to the sound as you take a sip, tasting the coffee on your tongue, feeling the warmth of the cup in your hands and looking at the swirl of the coffee and cream as you stir them together. You can do this anywhere or anytime to help you connect with the moment.

Last, turn your thoughts in a new direction. When the noise of past pain, expectations, or busyness creeps into your mind, tell yourself stop, take a breath and turn your mind toward Christ. Quote a verse, or tell yourself the story of Christmas to focus your mind and heart on the beautiful gift we have all been given in Jesus. Nothing silences the noise in our minds like Jesus.

Doing these simple things can help you fully engage in each moment this Christmas and create peace in your heart and mind. Whereever you are, whatever your story, don’t let the noise drown out the peace of practicing presence this year.

Stay tuned for our last holiday blog, The Greatest Gift coming soon.

 

Melissa Lawver, MA, LPC-S

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