Mindfulness in Giving and Receiving

Written by Wendy Strgar.

Applying the mindfulness that you practice on your yoga mat to the acts of giving and receiving this holiday season will both enlarge your connection in your most meaningful relationships and reduce the stress often associated with the gift giving process. Keep in mind that the most memorable moments of the holiday season are rarely attached to anything we purchase. Indeed, often even a few months later we can't remember the gift we gave or received, but never lose the intimacy that is cultivated when someone we love takes the time to listen to us with their full attention. This explains to why most people cannot distinguish between the experience of being deeply loved and being deeply listened to. This truth also explains why coming back to our own yoga practice is so deeply healing, because we are listening with our full attention to our body.

love letter

By and large most of us are better givers than we are receivers. But just as our yoga practice teaches us how to embrace the subtle shifts of energy, being mindful at the holidays can also inform our ability to open in gratitude. Not only does growing our ability to receive provide the foundation of a grateful life but it also acts as a primary mechanism of fully embracing the present moment. It begins with a practice that is deceptively simple yet also remarkably challenging: Letting go of how we think things should be. Learning to release our expectations and judgments allows us to be in the moment and to embrace reality as it is. These are the golden spaces where the quietest voice within us can be heard and we can glimpse the love that surrounds us.

Instead of worrying about finding the right presents this year, focus your attention on bringing your full presence to all the moments you are blessed to share with people you love. One simple way to practice this is to slow down the holiday bustling by scheduling in time for fun and enjoyment. Many recent studies confirm that by celebrating the successes and fun in your loving relationships, you actually create more lasting intimate connections than just showing up for the hard times. Many of our most important relationships suffer from the shrinking time spent together without digital distractions or the pressure of accomplishment. Let go of getting things done and find ways to laugh together, experience nature, or eat something new. Experience the moment with as many of your senses as possible and you will also be turning it into a treasured memory.

Use this holiday gift giving and receiving to focus in on your heart center. When you receive a compliment or a token of someone's affection for you consciously feel the back of you heart. The love we extend can be viscerally sensed through our front body, and the love we receive comes in through our the back side of our heart center which explains why many people experience serious tightness and blockages in their thoraxic vertebrae. Next time you are on the receiving end of a generous act, a loving gesture or a sweet compliment, pause and breathe into the back of your heart and notice the softening that happens. Allow the tenderness of the offering to sink in and close your eyes to imagine it entering you on a cellular level. Whether the gifts are small compliments or deep gestures of generosity, learning to let the experience of being loved into our physical bodies is worthy of our holiday attention.

Expand your visceral experience of gratitude this holiday season by practicing the core skills of receiving - surrendering to what is and listening to the gentle, still voice inside. Instead of focusing as we often do, on how life's offerings don't match our expectations, turn towards the goodness that is in the moment exactly as it is. Use mindfulness to catch the moments when you refuse the love coming towards you because it doesn't look like what you wanted. When you open a gift this season, focus on the intention of love that lives inside of the wrapping paper. Practice releasing your preconceived ideas when you open a gift and listen for what might be deeply hidden in the gift in front of you. Like wise, in choosing gifts, let your intentions of love lead you in your selection.

A powerful way to quiet the mind and bring your self into the moment is to rely on your senses. Sensuality, which is the cornerstone of a healthy libido response as well as a passionate connection to life requires focusing your attention on connecting to all of your senses deeply. It is in the smallest of sensations that this practice comes alive. Consider and appreciate the myriad ways that your sense of smell whether it is an open bloom of a paperwhite lily or the aroma of hot chocolate brings you into your body. Likewise, savor the flavors of the season whether in a candy cane or an elegant main course. Don't eat and run, eat and taste. Breathe and taste. Let the experience of touch transform your holiday experience. Feel the sensations on your skin whether a new cozy sweater or the embrace of a hug. Be awake to the visceral experience of living in your body and celebrate it.

This attention will amaze you, especially when it comes to the bedroom, feel the different textures of skin on your partner's body or feel the weight of their hands on your lower abdomen, run your fingers through their hair, trace their face with your lips. Giving these moments are full attention speaks love and will create some of the warmest memories of the season. The truth is that intimacy begets intimacy. Studies support the strong correlation between a happy relationship and the frequency of sex. Sexual intimacy acts as the glue in long-term relationships, like pouring cement into a foundation inspiring a deep union that paves the way for more emotional closeness and richer communication. Applying the practice of mindfulness to our intimate experiences is healing, not only because we commit ourselves to being fully present but also because we do so with non-judgmental eyes and a gentle heart. Often, the lack of connection we have to our own natural sexual libido comes as a result of the over-thinking that our unspoken sexual insecurities and fears create in the bedroom. For the holidays, let go of those too.

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