20 Dec

Mindfulness & The Holidays: A Vintage Christmas Tree Meditation

vintage christmas treeMy husband loves vintage decorative items. If you walked into our house, you might think you had been transported back to the early 60s. Our vintage Christmas tree is a rotating silver aluminum model from 1959, complete with spinning color wheel. I miss the smell of evergreen pine, but I do love the mesmerizing sparkle of the shiny needles, and the simplicity of the solid red balls that hang from select branches.

I read that the ornaments are supposed to symbolize the planets – whether that is true or not I cannot say, but spherical ornaments on a rotating tree could easily support this point! There is a meditation game I like to play with the shiny spheres as they orbit their lacquered trunk.

I pick a single ornament, just as it appears over the horizon, and see how long I can keep my attention on it without losing focus. Just like any other mindfulness practice, the victory is when you catch yourself in a distraction, and not about punishing yourself for being distracted.

Just as we watch our breath coming go, or listen to sound without interpreting the noise, the aim of this practice is to really see the ornament arise, sustain and fade away. I train my mind to focus on it, and I bring it back when I lose sight.

Maybe this sounds silly, but I love doing it! There is something about using mindfulness of sight with a very simple object that allows me to get to know my patterns of habitual thinking a little better. Sometimes I couple this practice with labeling, saying silently to myself “thinking,” or “worrying,” or “daydreaming,” when I catch myself. Sometimes I count the number of times I catch myself looking away from the ball. Whether I keep an accurate count or not isn’t the point – it is just a reminder to myself that I need to recommit my focus.

Vintage Christmas TreeIf your household Christmas tradition doesn’t include renditions of holiday classics performed by instrumental surf music bands or starburst clocks as seen on the Brady Bunch, you are in luck! This practice can be modified for any type of Christmas tree. If your tree has Christmas lights, see how long you can keep your attention on one single bulb. Or try counting a slow blinking light.  It might go something like this:

1…2…3…4… I haven’t bought mom her present yet. I don’t even know what room she’s going to sleep in when she gets here, and I need to clean the guest bathroom… but when?…. Oh well … 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8… I think I’ll make potpie tonight…. And so on! Remember, no matter what Christmas tree meditation you practice, and no matter how often you get distracted, just by trying to stay focused for a short period of time will help build “mindfulness muscles” and help you cope with holiday stress while cultivating patience, peace and equanimity.

Heather Stang

Heather Stang is a mindfulness speaker, author of the grief book on Mindfulness & Grief,and founder of the Frederick Meditation Center. She lives in Maryland. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherstangma and Google +
Heather Stang is a mindfulness speaker, author of the grief book on Mindfulness & Grief, and founder of the Frederick Meditation Center. She lives in Maryland. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherstangma and Google +