12 Days of Relaxation this Christmas

Christmas, we are told, is a time for giving. But what are you giving to yourself? Generosity is most useful when it can be sustained, and being kind to yourself will help you be kind to others. Keeping some energy in reserve is not selfish, just sensible, enabling us to carry on without exhaustion.
Replenishing our energy, peace of mind and creativity is essential all year round but during winter we naturally turn inwards. It’s a reflective time, thinking about the months that have passed, the people surrounding us and our hopes for the coming year. Here are a few simple ways to keep your home fires burning this winter. Repeat and combine as you wish, taking your time.

1. Today, sit quietly for a moment and smile. A real smile that lights up your face. Smile at your heart and at your whole self, and feel thankful for all that your body does to sustain your life without you asking it to.

2. Today, wherever you happen to be, take a deep breath and follow it with your mind. Follow it through your nostrils, feel your ribcage expand, your abdomen rise and then fall gently as the breath flows out.

3. Light a candle and place it at eye level. Allow your eyes to rest on the flame and let it fill your mind for a minute. If thoughts, emotions or sensations arise, allow your visual and mental focus to return to the flame.

4. Instead of a candle let your eyes and mind rest on something growing or green – a simple houseplant or a sprig of holly will do. See its colours and travel its contours, letting it take all your attention.

5. Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms right up above your head with your palms skyward. Move slowly, letting the body lengthen. Feel the space opening up at your waist and solar plexus.

6. Using your fingertips, tap all over your head. Move on to the back of your neck, your face, shoulders (your fists may feel nice here) and on to wherever they take themselves. This is great for waking yourself up.

7. Place both hands on your stomach. Using the flat pads of your fingers make little circular movements spiralling outwards from your navel. Pay special attention to any little knots and bumps. Let dinner go down first!

8. Today try a sound meditation. Allow all sounds to be welcome, flowing through your mind. Morning birdsong is ideal, or try a relaxing CD and really hear every note. If a door slams it’s just another sound to hear.

9. At the end of the day pay some attention to your feet. While seated take one foot on your knee and give it a rub, move your toes, rotate your ankle and press/massage the whole foot. Then treat the other foot.

10. Trouble sleeping? Lie comfortably and visualise a golden lotus in the centre of your chest. As you breathe out allow one petal to close gently. Carry on in your own time, and next morning open up the flower.

11. Take a few minutes at the computer to explore the poems of Rumi (eg here) and Hafiz (eg here) or ask me to recommend an anthology for more comfortable reading at home, on the train, on your lunch break…

12. Create something. Write down a few words to describe something you have enjoyed, or make a sketch, or while you are cooking be aware of the magic that turns separate ingredients into a nutritious meal.

Enjoy your holidays.

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