The following blog post was written by Simple Habit expert Shundo David Haye.
The holiday season is celebrated as a time of joy, yet many of us spend the majority of this time feeling under pressure. We aim to slow down and focus on our family and loved ones, and still we often find ourselves doing more – shopping for gifts and holiday wardrobes and navigating jam-packed schedules.
What comes to the foreground is a mindset of convenience, and of acquisition. Our culture promotes material possessions as the criteria for success and happiness, encouraging us to spend more, to buy more, to feel that our lives are not complete unless we have some special new thing.
Meditation is a great way to help us refocus on what matters most during the holiday season. Cultivating gratitude can help us turn this mindset around – instead of looking externally to fill a sense of lack, we stop and appreciate what we already have, and look at the things we value the most – which perhaps are not things we can buy.
Mindfulness practice allows you to see more clearly how everything is connected to everything else; it’s not just about me, and what’s in it for me. When we can dwell with this sense of connection and interdependence, we find that we don’t have to be constantly struggling to shore up our ego with external validation. This gives us more room for kindness, compassion, and gratitude.
A friend of mine sends a gratitude text every evening to her daughter and her closest friends, and they in turn send a text to her expressing whatever it is they have been grateful for that day. They have all known tough times in their lives, and this is their way of reminding themselves, and each other, that things are never all bad. You can always find one thing in your day to be grateful for. Doing it as a group keeps them accountable – even if one of them doesn’t feel like doing it, the others expect to receive something. They also have a whole thread of gratitude to look back on whenever they need a little boost.
In time you can come to see that very few things in life are black and white, and that in the many shades of grey, you can find things to be thankful for right across the spectrum.
How about making a practice of writing down for yourself something you are grateful for today, in a gratitude journal, or sharing it with a friend in a text? If you stop and think about it, what are you grateful for today?
Ready to cultivate gratitude? Listen to Shundo’s Power of Gratitude series on Simple Habit.
Shundo David Haye is an ordained Zen priest. He came from England in 2000 to live at the San Francisco Zen Center, and spent fifteen years in residential training, including five years of monastic practice at Tassajara. He helped found and run the successful Young Urban Zen practice group at the Zen Center. Although he loves the robes and the formal rituals, he is interested in reaching people who will never set foot inside a Zen temple. He teaches at tech companies, schools and colleges, yoga studios, retreat centers, and the county jail, and leads regular mindful hikes around San Francisco, as well as a weekly outdoor meditation