Last weekend, I started my Christmas shopping. I was really excited and had this expectation that I was going to head up to the city, soak in the lights, get my whole list done and maybe even stop for a mince pie and some mulled wine.
I was wrong.
The signs of this ‘wrong’ were apparent on the drive in. The congestion of cars and lane crossers cutting others off was an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come. The streets and shops were no different. People were shoulder to shoulder, clothes that had once neatly been piled were strewn any which way, the queues were intimidating, and I was sweating. It was all too much. I couldn’t think. I had to take myself off to a café, sit down and breathe.
This breath– it was as simple as this breath that moves through me that gave me the opportunity to feel the ground beneath my feet and connected into the moment. I sat quietly with my cup of coffee, feeling the breath and sensing in to the heat of my drink- the crowds still moved around me, the noise was still incessant, but my breath had given me the space to collect myself, slow down and feel clarity. (I was Resting in The Midst of it All– a practice that we teach on our Mindfulness courses.
What came was that it was CLEAR that I could not brave the crowds. I could not have an effective shopping day with this amount of chaos all around me. So, I asked myself what could I brave? And the answer came quite quickly – order what you can online!
So, I pulled out my phone and found the EXACT Christmas stockings that I had been looking for on a specific shop’s website (they had been sold out, not surprisingly, in the actual shop), and started to do what I could online from the position of my coffee’d seat.
Rather than completely give up in the face of overwhelm, my breath gave me the space to choose something different. It gave me the space to work more skilfully with the state of mind that I was in. No, I didn’t have the experience of basking in the glowing lights and finishing off my list, whilst framed by mulled wine and mine pies- but I did get a lot done while keeping my balance.
What is more, I had purchased tickets for a friend and I to go see a post shopping Christmas play in my favourite theatre. However, when I was feeling the overwhelm and the panic of the crowds, I suggested to my friend that we forgo the play, and instead, retreat to my house for a quiet evening with a DVD. We were very tempted. However, because of this small pause with the breath, this resting in the midst of it all, we felt that maybe we could stay for the show after all.
We skipped past all of the shops and got to the theatre early; where indeed, there was mulled wine and mince pies. Once in the play, there was no where else to go and nothing else to do but enjoy the theatrics. The best part is that the production was magical, mystical, absurd and poignant- just as the season can be and we both walked out of that theatre feeling grateful.
So- this week’s challenge is for if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or over stimulated, can you practice focusing on the breath, whilst resting in the midst of it all? Can you rest your attention on the breath while allowing all of the sounds, smells and thoughts to swirl and to just be there? Can you create the space to recognize that actually there may be something you can do, rather than giving up all together?
For a Settling, Grounding, Resting with the Support of Breath practice, download out Mindfulness Based Living App for free on Google Play Store or the App store and click SGRS-Breath.