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The Holiday Mindset

By Evanne Schmarder #65409

‘Tis the season to gather, give, receive and extend goodwill to man and beast. For some of us, it is a joyful occasion, rich with fun, food, friends and family. Having three seasonal celebrations in a row, clamoring for our time, attention and dollars, along with the day-to-day responsibilities of life, can have some of us feeling overwhelmed or even a little blue.

Whether you find this time of year exhilarating or exhausting, I suggest you take time to give yourself the perfect gift, something significant that will inspire and serve you for years to come: mindfulness and meditation.

Stop—before you write this off as new-age gobbledygook and turn the page, let me make one thing clear: This is not some mystical, religious or cult concept. It’s a tool to help you amplify that for which you are grateful, reduce stress and support good health and enhance your relationships. You don’t need to find room for it in your closet, it doesn’t have an expiration date, and, best of all, you can reap its benefits anywhere and at any time. You can take a few minutes at a highway rest stop, outside the RV on a beautiful day or in the privacy of your RV.

Many people use the terms mindfulness and meditation interchangeably. In reality, they are both separate, important notions, each with their own unique advantages.

Mindfulness can be described as being present in the moment. For example, have you ever found yourself in a discussion and suddenly realized that you weren’t sure what was just said? Have you arrived at a destination unsure of the route you took? Did you eat dinner but not really taste it? You might describe this as being preoccupied.

Certainly, it’s important to reflect on the past or plan for the future, but there’s also a time to give your undivided attention to someone or something. Think back on your most cherished holiday moments, meaningful conversations and memorable meals. Chances are, you weren’t thinking about a cryptic text, mentally reviewing a checklist or formulating a witty reply. Instead, you really paid attention to the moment; you were thoughtful; words and actions resonated within you, and a deeper understanding or connection was formed. That’s living in the moment.

The many benefits of mindfulness include stress reduction, improved relationships, greater ability to focus, a sense of meaning and fully experiencing life through all five of our senses.

Meditation is a time-out and a time to look within. It’s restful and calming. During meditation, we can let go of the rat race, whatever that looks like to us as individuals, and take a few minutes to simply be.

However, that’s easier said than done. Most meditations ask that you close your eyes, focus on a word or your breath or listen to guidance from an instructor, letting the outside world fall away. Then comes “monkey-mind,” the millions of little thoughts that pop into your head: Are we expecting winds; should I tie down the awning? What time is tomorrow’s pickleball lesson? Where is the signup sheet for the holiday dinner and, hmmm, what should I bring?

This is completely normal. One of the goals of meditation is to quiet the mind, but you’ll never silence it. Instead, look at these thoughts like passing clouds in a beautiful blue sky. We are to notice them, acknowledge them and let them float by.

The benefits of meditation are numerous and are proven, including increased cardiovascular and immune health, heightened creativity, a sharper mind, enhanced well being and more energy.
Start Now
There’s no question, the holidays can be hectic. If you are wondering about the best time to start a mindfulness or meditation practice during the holiday season or anytime throughout the year, here are a few scenarios for your consideration:

• You’re getting ready to prepare the holiday Meal of Plenty. Start a mindfulness practice right now, today.
• You scored your perfect seasonal site in your favorite park. Start a gratitude meditation today.
• You misjudged the traffic conditions and are wound tight as an awning spring. Start a mindfulness practice right away and a calming meditation later this evening. That’s right, there’s no time like the present. Surely you can carve out five, 10 or 20 minutes and start today.

You can go about these practices in several ways. Work toward mindfulness by pledging to be present during a meal, a conversation, a project or a drive. Concentrate on the task at hand—look, listen, taste, smell, touch; don’t judge or question, and gently bring yourself back to the present when your mind drifts (and it will).

When it comes to meditation, I opt for a guided program, with a teacher offering instructions and prompts, to help me keep my monkey-mind focused as best I can. More advanced students may choose sound or time-based practices.

Recognize this type of self-care takes time and, like life, it won’t be perfect.

Living a full-time RV lifestyle takes many of us to great locations for short-to-moderate amounts of time. Finding a meditation practitioner whose style clicks with your needs, and with whom you can develop a regular practice, can be challenging. That’s why I am a huge fan of smartphone apps, many of which are free or have numerous free sessions. These apps allow you to choose a theme such as gratitude, deep sleep, stress reduction, morning rituals and more. Try a variety of teachers to find a few that resonate with you.

A Rewarding Gift
Everyone can greatly benefit from mindfulness and meditation. While I won’t say it’s fast and easy, I will say it’s worth the time and effort. In fact, for some, it may be challenging at first.

However, if you are anything like me, you’ll come to love it and look forward to your daily practice, making this one of the most rewarding holiday gifts you’ve ever given yourself or received.

Evanne Schmarder is sure she got the wanderlust bug from her grandparents. In 2000, she and her husband, Ray, set off on their own adventure, in search of a sunny place to settle down. Seventeen-plus years later, they’re still roaming the country, sharing interesting destinations and cooking up delicious RV kitchen recipes in their popular RV TV series, RVCookingShow.com.

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