As the holiday hustle kicks into high gear, finding intermissions of stillness can be challenging. But these are the very moments that will help anchor us amid the chaos. The ability to soothe yourself is powerful, and one of the most effective tools for harnessing this power is ritual. Simple rituals can lead to sacred experiences.
In traditional Chinese medicine, balance is achieved when we live in harmony with nature, so we always look to our surroundings when crafting a ritual. Winter is the most yin of the seasons, with shorter days and cooler nights, which makes this month an ideal time to reflect, rest, and restore. Here's a five-step ritual to help you make that happen:
1. Build an altar.
Altars are like snowflakes: Each one is unique. We recommend incorporating seasonal elements from nature, like flowers and stones, as well as objects of meaning, like mementos from sacred events. The act of laying each piece with intention is in itself meditative and helps set the tone for the mindful experiences that will follow.
2. Engage your body.
After building an altar, it’s important to move your body with a few gentle yoga poses or stretches so that you’ll have greater success when it comes to sitting still later on. The more you move, the more space you’ll have to breathe, and the deeper you breathe, the more likely you’ll be to tap into the present moment.
3. Engage your mind.
Now that you’ve engaged your body, it’s time to give the brain a turn. A wonderful way to do this is by journaling. You can transcribe your stream-of-consciousness by putting your thoughts to paper, or, if you prefer to work with prompts, try writing a letter to your future self, detailing where you hope to be three, six, or nine months from now.
Now that you’ve worked your body and mind, you’re prepared to sit still. Find a comfortable seat and ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Focus on your breath, noticing the quality of your inhalation and exhalation. If your mind wanders, do your best to reserve judgment and simply return to your breath.
When your meditation comes to a close, gently invite yourself back by deepening the breath and blinking your eyes open. Take note of how you feel and of any shifts that may have occurred in your body, mind, or mood. Be sure to celebrate these shifts, regardless of how small they may seem, since this is a subtle practice.
Need more preparations for winter? Here's how to get your immune system ready.
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