Char Wilkins, TCME Board Member, offers some lovely tips as we prepare for the holidays…
My hairdresser has a slogan that's both humorous and practical which he pulls out when disappointment rears it's head: When all else fails, lower your expectations! I always laugh at myself when I bring this one to mind as I feel irritation flare up with someone, or frustration with yet another piece of technology that decides to do something I've never seen before just because my cat walked across it. Considering that I think of her as my teacher/Buddha it should work better, not freeze up.
So here we are tumbling into the holidays when tensions and emotions run the gamut, and expectations soar to "how it was" or "how it should be" or "how I'm going to make it be this year." If we become un-mindful of these conditioned patterns of rememberance and fantasy we set ourselves up for indigestion, to say the least. So lowering our expectations of ourselves and others can help us take better care of ourselves under stress. Perhaps "lowering" is just getting real about what's possible around mounds of food and people and history.
Let's not pretend to set New Year's resolutions over how much you won't eat 24 hours from now. Instead, be plan-ful about how you'll take care of yourself in small ways, starting now. First, sit down and take time to bring to mind the beliefs and thought patterns that trigger over-eating. Say them out loud so you can hear them clearly. Historically that might sound like scarcity, "If I don't take some of that/plenty now, I may not get any later." It may sound like people pleasing, "I have to take a piece, otherwise Aunt Jane's feelings will be hurt," or, in the anxiety of the day and mix of people, continually eating may numb the nervous feelings, soothe the physical sensations and suppress the words . . . at least for a minute or two. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Invite your body to the annual event this year.
-Plan to take a short walk before the guests arrive or before entering the family or in-law's house. Between dinner and dessert, say you need to stretch your legs or walk off the sleepiness, and go get a breath of fresh air -- by yourself if you can. Be present to the feel of your feet on the pavement or in your shoes. Appreciate the act of walking. Look around as you walk and notice what November looks like where you are at in this moment, and breath deeply.
-Take your shoes off under the dinning room table so that you can really feel your feet on the floor when the tensions rise or an awkward silence descends.
-Start right now checking in with your Stomach Hunger, don't wait till tomorrow. What's your level of hunger from zero-no interest in food to 10-unbelievably hunger? What level is comfortably full for you?
-Then check in with Heart Hunger and see if you can determine what you really need. How does 'satisfied' express itself in your body and mind?
-Don't forget that Eye Hunger will be scanning the sideboards and bouncing off the platters and bowls, and Mouth Hunger has only a one note tune: "More, more, more!"
-Use Alternate Practice at the table to slow yourself down. When you eat, just eat. Then, put your fork down to converse. When you talk, just talk. Although by not talking while eating you're taking care of yourself, this is really a very respectful of others as well. When you put your fork down to listen and respond to someone, they feel as though you care about what they are saying, they feel "heard," and everyone appreciates that. It's also less noticeable than trying to chew 50 times!
-On first go around (and definitely give yourself permission to have seconds if you do this) either put only those items on your plate that are your mos-test favorites or take smaller portions of multiple foods, reminding yourself you have permission to have more.
-Sit where you can view the day's antics and interactions as though you were watching a video: you're behind the camera, and everyone else is acting out their role in each scene, they know their part by heart, the script is very familiar, in fact you could probably prompt them if they forgot a line! "Roll it! Enter stage left. Take 10!"
-And definitely don't forget to have a sense of kindly humor handy. Nothing tastes better on the lips than a laugh!