Each morning when I practice I choose one of Pema Chodron’s compassion cards, which accompany her book ‘Start where you are’ (both excellent additions to any Christmas list). I select a card at random and then read the relevant section of the book, which is often just a couple of paragraphs. I take this as my teaching for the day and it is astonishing how pertinent they are! More recently I have taken to bringing the teaching of the day to mind each time my daily life mindfulness bell sounds on my phone. I use the Spotlightsix Mindfulness Bell on my iphone.
A recent card is ‘Don’t be so predictable’. It means to not follow our usual habitual pattern in the face of familiar situations. Generally, we are completely predictable in the way we react, especially in the face of unpleasant or unwanted situations.
I have found this advice particularly useful. At one point I was following a very familiar thinking pattern of not being good enough, but then the bell rang, and I awoke from this train of thought and realised that I didn’t have to buy into it. I became present and then some thoughts arose in my mind of some of my good qualities that help me in my life and consequently I felt a lot happier. This is an example of how refraining from our usual habitual pattern creates the space for something else to arise, in my experience something else more skilful and in tune with my intentions.
It is eternally fascinating to me how what we are thinking about creates our reality, which seems so real and solid, until we think of something else, or come in to the present. Then the previous reality often fades and it is as if it has never been……. Then I buy into the next habitual thinking pattern and on it goes!
Another example was a conversation, during which my bell rang, and I opened to mindfully listening to what my friend was saying, asking questions to explore their situation, rather than taking the first opportunity to turn the conversation around to me and my woes.
These are just two examples of how this phrase has been quite a powerful support in daily life: a reminder bell and a reminder to not be so predictable and to allow something different to emerge.
Then it struck me – what an awesome way to navigate the Christmas period with its many rituals, expectations and assumptions. Bells are Christmassy too! How would it be to hear the Christmas bell, tune into any habitual patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour and then perhaps to refrain and see what emerges. Or, we can take the opportunity to choose to do something different. Something more in accordance with our values and with our intentions for how we want to be in the world. Maybe kinder, more joyful, more courageous. Something different might be a loving kindness phrase to ourselves or others, a smile, a self-compassion break or a three minute breathing space – perhaps following our free Mindfulness Based Living app.
Anyway, I hope that you each have some happy time connecting with loved ones this festive season, that you include opportunities for walking in nature, for singing and dancing, as well as some quiet reflective time for practice and to rest as the year draws to a close.
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