To be honorable in thoughts, sincere in words, good in deeds is to have the heart of a Buddha.
There are several qualities of Buddha that many people, even those who are not Buddhist or who are quite secular, admire and aspire to emulate. As we approach the holidays, it may be a good time to consider weaving a few such traits into your everyday life. The following qualities, for example, may ease much of the stress that seems to come our way this time of year: Centeredness; Non-Attachment; Presence; Compassion.
Centeredness—Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. You find yourself having to do extra work during the rush of the season, kids are hyper, friends and spouses are under as much stress as you are. How do you cope? Your breath is your friend. It is always there, ready to assist you to arrive at that place of peace and calm at the center of your being. Whenever the chaos seems to overwhelm or you feel yourself sliding into an overly emotional reaction take five deep breaths. See if you can breathe from your belly. Feel it swell as you draw a deep breath down through your lungs to the very center of your body and feel it contract as you exhale. Try to make each exhale a real emptying of breath; make it last longer than the inhale, thus making more room for the next in-breath. I guarantee that you will feel more centered, grounded and at peace, as though in the eye of the storm. From this place your actions will flow much more easily and effectively whatever the situation.
Non-Attachment—The contented person, who moves amongst sense objects free from attachment or loathing, gain or loss, wins eternal Peace. We have so many expectations around the holidays; we especially expect a great deal of ourselves. If we have even the tiniest tendency towards perfectionism it usually reveals itself this time of year. Some people get caught up in wanted to get the perfect present for each person, be the perfect host, cook the perfect meal. The fact is that there is much that is beyond our conscious control. Events and people will be what they will be and we need to realize that wanting to control everything and expecting perfect outcomes is a way of creating our own stress. Could you allow yourself to just enjoy all of the tasks that may be called for this season without worrying about outcomes? Could you try just enjoying the process, without thinking about the end goal? That would surely make for a less stressful time.
Presence—Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment. Many of us are faced with family or friendship dramas around this time of year. Some may get caught in what happened last year or years ago which resulted in lingering feelings of animosity, jealousy, upset, or other strong emotions. See if you can approach each person in a new way this year. Just imagine that you have no history with Uncle John or Grandma Jane or the friend you argued with last week; you might even imagine that you just met them for the first time. Be with them in each present moment and be open to discovering who they are without your perspective being colored by the past. Angst about the future can also drag us out of the present moment. See if you can eliminate or minimize worry or expectations around the future, both short and long term. Just be as present as possible in each moment and see how much more enjoyable people and events can be.
Compassion—Lovingkindness as Thought is Tranquility. Lovingkindness as Speech is Softness. Lovingkindess as Activity is Altruism. Lovingkindness as Practice is Peace. You may notice that Uncle John is still a bore or Grandma Jane is still hypercritical or you still find it hard to tolerate your friend’s husband in the present moment. This is the time to practice not only presence, but also compassion. It may be that the very function of difficult people is to give us the opportunity to practice compassion! Try saying silently to yourself: “Just like me these people are doing the best they can, given their personalities and the circumstances of their lives. Just like me each person seeks love and understanding. Just like me each person is a child of the universe. Just like me each person is learning lessons. I wish all people to be blessed with safety, happiness, comfort, and love.” Also try having a lot of compassion for yourself this year! You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
Above all, whatever challenges this time of year may bring, always remember that they are transient. Nothing is permanent. It helps us greatly in our efforts to become everyday Buddhas to know that the nature of this world is change and each moment is a new moment in which to be as centered, non-attached, present and compassionate as we can.