This morning, my family and I went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the holidays, and the line to check out stretched from literally one end of the store to the other. As I listened to the people around me complain about the wait, my mind wanted to chime right in. After all, I had a LOT of other things I needed to get done, including writing this blog, and this unexpected (and ridiculously long) line was going to cost me precious time. Yet, I knew that if I let my mind run the show, I would spin into a haze of unnecessary holiday stress and drama, so I decided to use this opportunity to practice mindfulness instead.
In case you’ve got gifts or groceries of your own to buy today, here are a few of my favorite ways to stay calm in crowds and lines:
- Focus on your breath. There are a lot of different breathing techniques that will not only calm your mind but also relax your nervous system, taking you out of fight-or-flight mode and making you less likely to lose your cool when the item that you need is out of stock. One of my favorites is Sama Vritti, also known as Equal Breathing, in which we balance the breath in order to balance the mind and body. This technique is great because it doesn’t require you to make any strange sounds or sit in a certain position. You can practice it absolutely anywhere, without anyone even knowing. Simply inhale through your nose for a count of four, and then exhale through your nose for a count of four. If a count of four feels too fast, you can practice lengthening your breath to a count of six or eight. All that matters is that your inhale and exhale stay the same length.
- Recite a mantra. This can be any affirmation that brings you peace of mind and spirit. It could even be a line from your favorite holiday song, like "All is Calm. All is Bright," or a quote from your favorite holiday movie, like Susan Walker's mantra in Miracle on 34th Street: "I believe. I believe. I believe." Or take a page from Tiny Tim’s book: “God bless us, everyone.”
- Connect with someone. Having a genuine conversation with a stranger in line or checkout clerk will remind you that you’re not alone and that the items in your cart are not that important, in the grand scheme of things. The holidays aren’t about things, after all. The holidays are about coming together in the spirit of love, joy, peace and kindness.
If you’re energy sensitive or identify as an empath (someone who feels what other people are feeling), then being out in crowds, in general, can feel overwhelming…especially when a lot of the people in those crowds are feeling frazzled or frantic. It’s really important that you take a few moments to ground and shield your energy, so that you’re not taking on other people’s holiday stress as your own. It’s best if you do this before you leave your house, but if you’re already out in public, you can always lock yourself in an empty dressing room or bathroom stall and do it there. Here’s a quick and easy meditation to ground yourself and shield your energy:
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. With each exhale, let go of any stress or tension that you’ve been holding, any stagnant energy or emotions that need to be released. Feel your feet on the earth. Feel the rise and fall of your chest with each breath. Feel the beat of your own heart and take a moment to check in with how you're feeling. Now, bring your awareness to the base of your spine, the location of your root chakra (your energetic center of security, stability, grounding). Imagine dropping a cord out of your tailbone and down into the earth. In your mind's eye, watch as this cord drops down, down, down, through layers of dirt and rock and sediment, until it reaches the golden core of the earth, where it anchors itself. With each inhale, imagine drawing this golden energy up from the core of the earth and into your body, filling yourself up completely with this golden, healing light. With each exhale, feel yourself soften, relax, and settle onto the earth.
Now, imagine this golden light flowing up from the core of the earth, up through that grounding cord, into your tailbone, and all the way up your spine, until it shoots out of the crown of your head in a fountain of liquid gold. As this golden healing light streams down around you, it cleanses your energetic field of any emotional or psychic debris. You feel all of your energy returning to your body--any energy that's been taken or given away--and a feeling of peace and wholeness washes over you. When your field is totally clear, this golden light begins to form a shield around you, sealing in your personal power and protecting you from any thoughts, emotions or energy that is not your own. Take a few more deep breaths, sending golden light up through your body and out into this shield and feeling its energy expand out with each breath. When you feel ready, slowly bring your awareness back into your body. Notice the sensation of the air on your skin, the sounds around you, the taste in your mouth. Wiggle your fingers and your toes, and gently turn your head from side to side before opening your eyes.
Another simple way to help clear and recharge your energy, before you head home or face holiday traffic, is to take a lap around the parking lot to get some fresh air before you get in your car. Then, as you reach for your door handle, set an intention to leave any stress, negativity or energy that isn’t yours behind; there’s no need to take it home with you. I also like to keep a stash of essential oil in my cars and breathe in a boost of chamomile or peppermint before I turn my keys in the ignition. (It's also great to have on hand when you find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic and need a dose of calm. Aura Cacia even sells an essential oil diffuser that you can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car.)
Whether you're shopping, driving, sitting at home or doing something else entirely, I wish you a calm and happy day of being.