A great sage, Swami Prabhavananda, once said, “If the body is thought of as a busy and noisy city, then we can imagine that, in the middle of this city, there is a little shrine. And that, within the shrine our real nature is present. No matter what is going on in the streets outside, we can always enter the shrine and worship. It is always open.” For some of us that shrine looks a cathedral, for others a temple, synagogue, or mosque. For some it will be a sweet place in nature or a labyrinth with a sacred center.
As the holy-day season is rapidly upon us, it is a great opportunity to remember to look for the holy in each other and in ourselves. As the saying goes, “Think globally, act locally.” While we pray for world peace, and send holiday blessings to friends and family, let’s practice internal peace.
Below are some tips and reminders for finding peace in a hectic season. See if you can find a moment or two every day to reflect, reconnect, give thanks and enter the shrine within. In truth, this is the greatest holiday gift you can give yourself, and others. Peace, joy, love, and compassion are contagious!
Take a moment, several times a day, to simply stop and become self-aware. Whenever you feel uneasy or “off center,” take a moment to step back and remember yourself to be a spiritual being; realign your thoughts, feelings, and actions with your Highest Self.
As you send your holiday cards and gifts, take a moment to “enter the shrine” and as you lick the stamp, say a prayer that the person at the destination receives far more than the package being sent.
Practice conscious acts of kindness and compassion: Let someone turn left in traffic, allow someone else the good parking spot at the mall, give “cuts” to the person behind you in line who only a few items in their cart. Notice how you feel as you show kindness to others.
Notice what you say to yourself. Your thoughts are incredibly powerful and are fully responsible for how you feel. When you change what you are thinking and saying about yourself, you will change how you feel. When you change what you are thinking and saying about others, you will change how they feel about you.
Take a moment to offer thanks not just for the immediate food set before you, but for everyone who contributed to that food—the fisherman, the farmer, the truck driver, the cook, etc. When you receive a gift, consider everyone who has had a part in that item beyond even the person who gave it—the people who envisioned it, the people who manufactured it, the people who delivered it…. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmingly blessed by the hundreds of people who participated in your blessing.
Allow time for silence. We tend to surround ourselves with constant sound—sometimes pleasant, sometimes just “background noise”—whether it is music, television, or mindless banter. Make time for silence every day. Most of us require silence in order to hear the answer to life’s questions, the whispers of our own wisdom, the voice of God and our intuition.
Ritualize your daily activities. Shift your consciousness to make all of your daily activities rituals to honor God and your spiritual path. “Pretend” when stuck in traffic that you are on a pilgrimage. Remember when cooking food that you are serving the divine within the people you are feeding. The tasks don’t change, but the enjoyment of them does.
Bring forth your sense of humor. The holidays are supposed to be fun and joyful. Taking it too seriously can easily kill the joy. Laughter is a part of our holy nature and moments of laughter with loved ones are often our most treasured memories.
Take time to experience peace daily—not just to pray for it, wish for it, visualize it or judge yourself or others for not having it. Experience it in the moment, now. Sit in silence and simply observe your breathing. Slow it down, make each breath conscious. Then whenever you think of it, stop, breathe, observe yourself, let go, breathe, return to heart, return to calm, return to peace. When each of us knows how to find peace within, we stand a chance of creating peace in the world. What a beautiful Holy-Day Present.