Even during the best of times, the holidays can be trying for many of us. It’s easy to let ourselves be overwhelmed with preparations for get-togethers with family and friends, or perhaps it’s memories of holidays past and loved ones who are no longer with us. But in between thawing the turkey or going through the security check at the airport, what if we take ten minutes to reset our thoughts and emotions and find a respite of calm?
One that will see us through today and be there for us again tomorrow.
I think I’ve talked to you before about an App you can download onto your phone called Calm. In particular, I love their guided, ten-minute mindfulness meditations by Canadian author and mindfulness instructor, Tamara Levitt. Several times a week, I try and shut out the world and listen to her soothing voice. Some days I’m more successful than others at shutting off my thoughts, but even if they jump from subject to subject like a group of howler monkeys, swinging from tree to tree, at the end of the meditation, I walk away more centered and relaxed.
Better able to tackle the day ahead of me.
If you’ve ever been in a dense jungle like the ones in Mexico and Guatemala, then you know a chorus of wild monkeys chatter and scream and can even sound like a pride of angry prehistoric lions. Just like the alarming cacophony we hear in the jungle, the thoughts we find ourselves fixating on can be equally as disturbing.
One of the things I like most about Tamara Levitt’s guided meditations is she never scolds us for letting our monkey minds take over. Instead, she reminds us that it’s easy to start over and stop listening to it. That’s what meditation is: stilling the mind and focusing on something else.
Here is part of Tamara Levitt’s guided meditation I listened to earlier this week. I hope it speaks to you.
“It’s common to get caught in the habit of rumination. As thoughts swirl around our mind, each feels important and all-consuming, but when we take a closer look, it’s usually the same thoughts and worries being recycled. The truth is, our mind is like a radio station that plays the same five songs on repeat.
We ruminate on the same narrow set of concerns, fears, and fantasies over and over every day. But once we notice that one of our songs is playing again, we can pause and pull ourselves out of its loop. We can even respond with some humor, acknowledging, “Ah, there’s that song again,” and we can choose to change the station, breaking free from the cycle of rumination. The tricky part is noticing when we are lost in our thoughts, which takes practice.
When we sit in meditation, we bring our mind back to the present each time we catch ourselves in thought. As we do this, we’re strengthening the skill of concentration. It’s understandable to feel frustrated when we keep drifting off into the same old songs, but every time we catch ourselves, we should view the very act of noticing as a victory.
As Joseph Goldstein said, “Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind.” So as you move through the day, pay attention to the playlist of your mind. When you notice yourself in a familiar thought, give yourself a little smile, acknowledging, “There’s that song again,” and come back to the present moment.”
It’s so important to have a ‘gap’ in the day where we stop everything and meditate or do deep breathing. Books by Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist monk) about mindful living and also books by Pema Chodron have helped me a lot I also listen to Tara Brach’s guided meditations. I will listen to Tamara Levitt’s guided meditations today. Brenda, thanks for sharing.
They both have been important teachers in my life.
Hi Debra, Teachers like Thich What Hanh and Pema Chodron are some of the ones we find when we search for the right path. And if you are searching, then you are on the right path. Blessings, Brenda
Yvonne, The teachings of Thich What Hanh are profound and thought-provoking. A gap in our day… I like that image… One where we surrender our monkey mind to stillness and go within and listen to God or the voice of our consciousness is vitally important. Without this time where we connect with our innermost self and pray, if you believe in God, the daily happenings in the world will strip us of all hope. That gap in our day is a time for us to put on our armor against the world and know that all things are possible. Thank you, Brenda
Yes – mindfulness is good. It helps when you are in a cycle of overwhelm, anxiety, or grief.
Hello Gray! You’re right about that. I’ve also found that even on the best days, a mindfulness/meditation practice expands the good and hope I’m feeling. Thank you for reading and leaving me a comment. xoxox, Brenda
I like Yvonne’s comment that we need “to have a gap in the day where we stop everything and meditate or do deep breathing.” My problem is I forget to do this and then wonder why I can’t stop thinking about something troubling. I think I’ll put up some Post It notes in different rooms to remind myself. Thanks for this Brenda.
Post It Notes! What a great idea, Carrie Ann. I think we could all benefit from some reminders to stop what we’re doing and thinking and worrying about. Forgetting to meditate and take time to reflect is part of the overactive monkey mind and sometimes we need to coax it into stillness. xoxox, Brenda
Life has started stacking up on me and I need to find a way to stop worrying even for a little while. I haven’t heard about Calm so thank you Brenda. I live in New Zealand and your blog is the only one I like to follow. You always give me something to think about.
Thank you for that Jolie. That’s why I write this blog. I hope I give you something to think about or that makes you smile and laugh. Life is kind of like a Jenga game where different aspects pile up and one little change can cause it all to come down around us. Keep Calm and Carry On in New Zealand. xoxox, Brenda
This week I’m having a house full of people for Thanksgiving. It’s the first time since before Covid, and I’m a little nervous about this many people and making sure all the food is just right. Downloading the Calm app now. I may have to go in a closet upstairs to listen to it but that’s okay. It’s either that or one too many glasses of wine and I don’t want to do that. Happy Holidays Brenda!
Hello Martha! Brava! Yes, take ten minutes for yourself. The Calm app is great for helping us reset to zero. And when those ten minutes are over, things won’t seem as overwhelming. You will take that calm with you. And remember, a lot of us have the same feelings so we’re grateful for the hostess who brought us together because we understand how much work you’ve put into the day. Don’t worry about the food. It’s the love and camaraderie of being together that will stay with us. xoxox, Brenda
My doctor recommended the Calm app but I’ve resisted. You have me rethinking my refusal to meditate. Perhaps it will give me better sleeps.
Hi Joanna, You have nothing to lose so give it a try. Consistency is the key though. Learning to still the mind and let go is a process you can use when you turn out the lights to go to sleep. Focus on your breathing and count each inhale and when you find yourself thinking again, just start counting all over again. Sleep doesn’t come easy for many of us. I imagine you’re aware that alcohol, sweets, especially chocolate, and the blue light from the screens of your electronic devices are all things that contribute to not being able to sleep. Another thing is drinking too much water after 7 pm. A trip to the bathroom can also make it difficult to go back to sleep. xoxox, Brenda
Thankyou Brenda your narrative on Radio Stations and dislodging those thoughts that keep reacuring by acknowledging and then moving on is brilliant and just what I need at this time.
So much happening, so many life changes, decisions and consequences , thoughts swirling in my overloaded mind.
I think especially as we age these thoughts and plans can overtake us.making us anxious.
I am not anxious but could hav3 become so, a timely reminder . Thankyou
Hi Jo, I’ve been so busy I haven’t been on Instagram, so I’m not sure what’s happening with you at the moment. I hope you’re having the beginning of a great holiday. You’re a wise woman and you’ve had to cope with a lot, especially during Covid… a prisoner if you will. A mindfulness practice teaches us to let go of worries and anxieties.
I’ve taken up meditation several times… Maybe I should say “tried it” but I don’t stick with it so I’ve never gotten what it can do for me. I think I get it now. Thank you. And such the right time of year to try again. Xo,
I think most of us could say that about meditation, Barbara. It’s a practice that doesn’t come easily and you’d think it would. Breathing… How hard is that, but it’s focusing on our breathing to the exclusion of everything else. I’ve often wondered if meditation gurus have it mastered to that degree. My instincts say that while they’re way better at it than most of us, they too get off track. Perhaps we should all try Carrie Ann’s suggestion in her comment. Put up Post It Notes to remind us to take time to listen to Tamara Levitt and the Calm App. Hope all is well with you. xoxox, Brenda
Just when I start to think that God no longer walks beside me, I am amazed. Thank you for this most timely post.
Connie, Hello sweet lady! God is always with us, and His spirit indwells in us. All you have to do is call His name and ask for help. Prayer is the ultimate mindfulness tool. Blessings. XOXOX, Brenda
Do it all the TIME‼️
Elizabeth, With all you’ve been dealing with over the past six years or so, you’d have to be practicing mindfulness. XOXOX, B
I love Calm, too. I prefer the Daily Trip with Jeff Warren. I also have used the sleep stories many times. They almost always work for my insomnia. They are likely to have a yearly special in December which gives you a lifetime membership. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of it.
Catherine, I tried Daily Trip just once, but stopped after a few seconds. I really wanted to hear Tamara Levitt’s voice, but I’ll try him again. My favorite Sleep stories on the Calm app are Idris Elba’s Kingdom of the Sky and Matthew McConaughey’s Wonder. Their voices are like liquid comfort. Thanks for the info about their lifetime membership. I’ll look into it. xoxox, Brenda
To be honest I have the app and haven’t used it. But now you’ve given me a path. I didn’t know where to begin. Thanks. You’ll be my leader.